Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Luis Mendes addresses the crowd at a Thursday, Jan. 26 BCCA meeting. Photo by Anna SpivakBroad Channel residents have raised several concerns about the lack of raised houses and restoration work they’re seeing through Build It Back’s slackening and drawn out program.
A meeting of the Broad Channel Civic Association on Thursday, Jan. 26 was held in the hopes that the agency’s new Deputy Commissioner, Luis Mendes, could provide residents with some long overdue answers as to when they can expect to be back inside their homes, or, for work to begin on their homes.
Only two months into his role with the Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) Build it Back program, Mendes was met with a standingroom only crowd at the VFW Hall on Shad Creek Road.
“[We’ve come prepared] with some problems and complaints that we’ve asked this gentleman to address,” Broad Channel Civic President Dan Mundy Jr. said in regards to Mendes. “We’ve hammered over and over again about the lack of progress. We’ve hammered over and over again about the people that are out of their homes. We’re trying to make the case to get this thing going. We need an on-site representative that would have a set of eyes in town and can put together a master plan for Broad Channel.”
According to Mendes, an on-site representative/community liaison is exactly what Broad Channel will get under his leadership.
“We have a huge, complex system that is just stopping these homes from being built,” Mendes said. “We need to streamline the construction of these houses. Just starting a job is taking two months, and in the months that I’ve been here, I’ve [experienced] the frustration of seeing a house take so long to start, to be built and to finish. We need [someone] on the field and to set up a trailer here in Broad Channel. In order to have boots on the ground, we’ll ask consultants, architects, to be in these trailers.”
Residents in attendance were receptive to Mendes, and, were especially curious about his program’s timeline.
According to Mendes, the program is going into construction on 64 homes – where people have already moved out – from now until March. Those homes, Mendes says, should be completed by summer, toward the end of July. In May and June, construction will begin on the homes of people who have yet to be displaced. Those homes, Mendes told the crowd, “should be done by September or October.
“In order to get houses done faster, you’ve got to stop a lot of the bureaucracies that are involved,” said Mendes. “There is a lot of commitment on my part to get this thing done, and, unfortunately I cannot solve all of the problems you guys have. But, little by little, we’ll be getting houses into construction. We’re starting to get the wheel moving.”
“This is going to make it or break it,” said Mundy Jr. “I have a lot of confidence in Luis coming in here and being a game changer. ”