GREENPOINT — Brooklyn residents near the Kosciuszko Bridge said designs for the new, $770 million project looked "beautiful," but concerns about how construction would play over the next five years dominated a community meeting Wednesday.
The state Department of Transportation awarded a $555 million contract for the first phase — the largest contract in the state's history — to build a new Kosciuszko Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek.
The current bridge is unsafe and structurally unsound for the long term, DOT representative Robert Adams said at the meeting.
But with a new bridge in the works, locals said they are worried that officials will abandon the old one, which will continue to be used until its planned demolition in 2017.
Carol Szumski, who lives on Apollo Street, said the existing bridge makes her house vibrate when large trucks pass.
Over the years, the bridge has been fixed periodically to stop the vibrations, but she said she's felt them again since the winter.
"They have to maintain it to a certain extent," Szumski said.
Others residents, noting the current vibrations, challenged officials' claim that construction work would not cause their homes to shake.
"It's very pretty. It's very nice," another female neighbor said. "In the meantime, we're going over a bridge that is treacherous."
Adams said that the bridge is currently structurally sound, but he admitted that it won't be for long. Potholes are still being fixed from the winter, which was particularly rough on the bridge, he said.
"This bridge has a lifetime of maybe three more years," he said. "It's an ongoing challenge."
Residents also raised concerns about the construction process, questioning how toxic dirt would be transported, noise pollution and whether residents would be paid for any home damage related to construction.
Officials said hiring a full-time community liaison, Christine Holowacz, is part of the proactive effort to make sure that all residents are aware of construction details.
"We know there will be impact," said Peo Halvarsson, one of the contractors. "But in the end, we will have a better structure."
Despite assurances, Rosalie Washack, who's lived in the area for more than 60 years, has had poor experiences with government construction in the past and is wary of promises that officials make.
She warned her neighbors and local elected officials to watch the process carefully.
"They say one thing," she said, "and they do another."
Residents seeking more information can call 347-988-4412 and email firstname.lastname@example.org. The number and email address can be used 24 hours a day in case of emergency, once construction starts later this year.