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Forum attendees say they need sewers in area

An upcoming construction project in Holliswood and Jamaica will not focus on what the community really needs — sewers — but disrupt businesses that rely on pedestrian traffic and available parking to survive, residents told city officials Monday.

The 20 or so residents who attended the two-hour hearing at Hillcrest High School vehemently criticized the city’s Hillside Avenue reconstruction project, slated to begin in mid-May and end in the fall of 2011. The hearing was held by the officials from the city Department of Design and Construction, who said the project will enhance the neighborhood.

Project construction will occur on Hillside Avenue between the Van Wyck Expressway service road and 191st Street and will include the replacement of curbs, sidewalks and pedestrian ramps; the installation of street lights, catch basins and hydrant replacements; the resurfacing of roadways; and tree plantings.

“We need sewers, and none of this should be being done without the sewers,” Community Board 8 member Mark Lefkof said. “It’s useless. It’s a waste of time and taxpayer money because it’s all going to have to be done again once they come and put in the sewers.”

CB 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said Hillside Avenue is in desperate need of new sewers and that the area is routinely flooded when any rain comes.

“Hillside Avenue has always had flooding,” said CB 12 member Thomas Greenaway. “Today, for example, the merchants were out pushing water from the sidewalk at 6:30 p.m. and the rain wasn’t even that bad.”

There are no upcoming plans to install a new sewer system, but Adam-Ovide said she and board members hope such a project will happen within the next several years.

“The community doesn’t want this,” Adam-Ovide said of the current project. “They wants the sewers and in a few years they’ll have to come and dig up what they’re doing now to put in the sewers.”

Tony Collado, owner of Elre Restaurant at 148th Street and Hillside Avenue, said he is concerned the construction will drive away customers.

“I depend on people who walk by and can park in front,” Collado said. “What will happen when this construction starts?”

City officials assured residents they would work with business owners to generate revenue during the project.

“We offer assistance to impacted businesses,” said Eric Parker, deputy director of the business outreach team at the city’s Small Business Services. “That could mean helping to institute additional marketing to generate revenue.”

Maria Centeno, director of community outreach and notification at the DDC, said city officials plan to work closely with residents, business owners and other institutions, such as schools, to mitigate the impact of the project.

“We’re going to coordinate with schools when the best time is to perform construction,” Centeno said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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