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Cost of Controversial Beach Shacks Increases by $8.5M

By Katie Honan | March 4, 2014 7:08am
 The beachside comfort stations have had $8.5 million added to their construction contract, according to the Office of City Comptroller.
The beachside comfort stations have had $8.5 million added to their construction contract, according to the Office of City Comptroller.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ROCKAWAY BEACH — The city has tacked on an additional $8.5 million to the bill for the pricey beachside bathrooms and lifeguard structures installed after Hurricane Sandy — saying it needs the cash to cover "unanticipated subsurface conditions" at the beach, plus other issues.

The cost of the controversial shacks, some of which rusted soon after installation and others of which have still not been installed, has risen to $113.5 million, up from $105 million, according to the city comptroller's office.

The extra cash paid for crews to "transport the modular lifeguard and comfort stations to the beach via barge, rather than by truck as originally planned," said Joe Soldevere, a spokesman for the city's Department of Design and Construction, which is overseeing the project.

The shacks, built in Pennsylvania, were too heavy to be driven on area highways, a Parks Department official explained in May.

The extra money was also needed based on "unanticipated subsurface conditions" at the beach and other unspecified contingent expenses, Soldevere said. The agency plans to seek a full reimbursement from the federal government, he added.

"While the contract is for $105 million, the original approved budget for the project includes additional funds to cover these contingencies," Soldevere wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York.  "Budgeting for contingencies is standard practice in construction projects."

Asked if the additional money included the cost of 24-hour security at the two sites where four uninstalled structures are being stored, Soldevere said "our statement explains what contingencies were covered" and added that "installation of the remaining modular structures is included in the original contract."

The city has refused to reveal how much it is paying for round-the-clock security in Rockaway Beach and Brighton Beach, and denied a Freedom of Information Law request by DNAinfo New York, saying it doesn't have the information yet.

The 35 elevated structures, used as both public restrooms and as headquarters for Parks Department lifeguards, were approved without community input and delivered last spring.

DNAinfo New York reported on the conditions of the bathrooms and lifeguard stations in August, which appeared to be rusting just weeks after installation. Residents were upset the shacks were installed before the boardwalk was repaired or other protective measures were put in place.

Railings were held together with duct tape, and the stainless steel exterior, which was speckled with dirt and a rust-like substance, had to be scrubbed at the end of the beach season.

A spokesman for the Parks Department, which oversees the beaches, said the agency is trying to obtain construction permits to place the uninstalled shacks along the beach. The city is seeking reimbursement for the construction project through FEMA as part of its Sandy recovery and resilience programs. The delayed rebuilding of the Rockaway Beach boardwalk will also be partially paid for with FEMA dollars, officials said.

Some of the area's local elected officials said the city should refocus where it spends its money, particularly as the high-profile recovery program for homeowners, Build It Back, has yet to begin construction on any of the thousands of single-family homes damaged or destroyed by the October 2012 hurricane. (That program is being funded by a large grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.)

"We must stop investing in these bad decisions of the previous mayoral administration," said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, from Far Rockaway.

"There are a lot of projects and families desperately in need of funding, and we shouldn't be wasting money on this."