RBB Construction Mayhem Wreaks Havoc


For the entire summer, now leading up to the fall, local businesses in a one-mile stretch on Rockaway Beach Boulevard can’t seem to catch a break. First it was the Department of Transportation (DOT) setting up a bus stop for temporary Far Rockaway bound A-train shuttle buses on Beach 87th Street; then it was the beach closings, which according to owners, drastically affected their sales; not to mention, nine plus weekends of rain; and now — the horrendous construction taking place obliquely in front from Beach 73rd to Beach 88th Streets. These business owners agree, Mother Nature’s plans can’t be averted, but what about the city and state agencies'?

The construction is part of a DOT/DDC capital project aimed to improve sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and to create medians along the busy thoroughfare. However, in the interim, these businesses are finding it difficult to conduct their day-to-day business activities due to eliminated parking, and the overall mayhem happening on the boulevard. The eastbound lane was entirely eliminated, and the westbound lane was made into a two-way thoroughfare. Business owners and people living, working and shopping in the area are complaining about the stench and mosquitoes swarming from the stagnant water and debris settling in the dug up sewers and water mains, power outages from manhole fires, and the difficulty to not just park, but drive on the already busy boulevard. Folks are fed up, and desperately reached out to Community Board 14, local pols, civic leaders and The Rockaway Times for help.

Tracy Obolsky, owner of Rockaway Beach Bakery, is beyond mad and is beginning to feel seriously neglected.

“My sales have been drastically reduced, especially during the week. My customers can’t come in. Besides the eliminated parking, they are getting splashed from the stagnant water filling the streets. Some of them even take the risk to park their cars in the Dayton Plaza in front of Key Food, and return to find out they are being towed. My customers that run in quickly find $115 tickets on their cars. And forget about deliveries, its impossible! There were four manhole fires. The Popeye’s fast food restaurant lost power for two days. I could go on and on. This really hurts, not just me, but my neighbors. We need help!” Obolsky ranted.

Dave Khamaraj of Dave’s Liquor said, “My sales are down more than 30 percent. Ninety-five percent of the business is now foot traffic, and people are even reluctant to cross the Boulevard because of all the confusion, not to mention the smell coming up from the sewers. Also, the asphalt on the street is sinking, making it even more dangerous to cross. Every morning, when I come in, I have to boost the fuse because we have no power. This is madness!”

And to add insult to injury, construction has halted, yet the barbed wire fencing is still up, shielding sewer trenches, though the water is still exposed, stagnant and filled with debris.

Last month, a public meeting was held at Peninsula Library with affected business owners and civic leaders to inform the NYS Department of Design and Construction (DDC) representatives and an agency contractor on how the construction has become a nightmare for everyone. At the meeting, DDC reps admitted that the hold up is because they are waiting for permit approvals from the state to continue and finally finish the construction.

Phil Cicia, proprietor of Beer House Beverages, said, “At the meeting, these reps were very honest. A project manager just came in yesterday, questioning what our complaints were. He said, ‘The hold up is because we are waiting for the state to approve payment for all the contractors doing the work’. Listen, I agree. It’s not the workers fault. They are just doing their job, but they can’t continue until they get paid. The police officers have been more lenient with dispersing tickets. They get it. Everyone gets it. All the equipment is there, just waiting to be put in. The state has to finally do its job, and pay these people.

“When you think about the bureaucracy between the city and state agencies, it’s mind-boggling. I complained about the stagnant water, not just because of the smell, but because of the mosquitoes swarming. I’ve had to put bug repellants in my store for Christ’s sake. I know the work is going to be done. But we’re just waiting for something to finally come through!”

The Rockaway Times continuously reached out to the DDC, which released this statement:

“This is an important project representing an $18 million investment in the community. When complete, the neighborhood will have new, upgraded infrastructure and a street that is fully rebuilt from sidewalk to sidewalk.

“DDC understands and tries to minimize the effects of construction on the community. To manage the needs of residents and businesses, DDC has a full-time community construction liaison assigned to the project. Erich De Suza is at the site every day and is available to the public in person, by phone or by email. Anyone with concerns or special requests can contact him at 347-771-5846 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Following the inquiry by The Rockaway Times, Mr. De Suza visited the businesses The Times referred to in order to check on their concerns and remind them that DDC has an outreach system in place to help and respond to them quickly. Regarding the alleged odor, DDC has inspected the site repeatedly, including this week, and found that there is no sewage infiltration into the construction area. “We will continue to monitor for odors and if they’re identified we’ll seek out the source and a remedy,” the DDC said.

The DDC says that it has tried to create ways to bring relief to businesses, like ensuring the nearby businesses continue to get deliveries. According to the DDC, an area near the corner of Beach 87th Street has been converted to temporary parking for delivery trucks loading and unloading, and other arrangements have been made for deliveries to be made on side streets.

In response to the power outages, DDC pointed fingers at PSEG, which they say carried out work near the site recently.

The project is extensive, as it includes new water mains; new catch basins; new fire hydrants; full street reconstruction including sidewalks; new bus stops with reinforced concrete pads; a new traffic island near the Hammel Houses; new street lighting; and new trees. The nearby businesses may be going through hardship right now, but when all is said and done, there are hopes that the much-needed improvements will benefit the area. It is expected to be complete by summer 2020.

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