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Councilwoman Blasts DDC Commissioner Over 'Vicious Cycle' of Project Delays

By Katie Honan | March 2, 2016 6:21pm
 The project to renovate and expand the East Elmhurst library on Astoria Boulevard was funded in 2009 but has faced delays and budget changes. 
The project to renovate and expand the East Elmhurst library on Astoria Boulevard was funded in 2009 but has faced delays and budget changes. 
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

EAST ELMHURST — City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland slammed the Department of Design and Construction at a budget hearing Tuesday for frequent delays for a renovation project of her neighborhood library.

The DDC's Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora was on the hot seat, explaining upcoming projects and work completed within this fiscal year, including the new NYPD academy.

The first questions from Ferreras-Copeland, the chair of the finance committee, was about a planned expansion for the East Elmhurst library at 95-06 Astoria Blvd. — which was fully-funded in 2009 but now needs more money, officials said. 

"This is something that has been an issue maybe since the creation of DDC in 1997," she said, referring to project delays, specifically with those funded by the City Council. "It seems, what's getting prioritized is the administration's priority and not the council's priorities."

She provided $1.21 million renovation for the library in 2009, and the Queens Library budgeted an additional $6 million for the project, which will renovate and expand the space. 

Renderings for the new library in East Elmhurst, which has been plagued by delays. (Garrison Architects)

But the project's been delayed at least three times and the DDC hasn't even hired a company to build it, officials said. 

It will be designed by Garrison Architects and is one of the city's Design Excellence projects, a program launched by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004. 

The program was meant to created city buildings with a focus on design and innovation, but it has led to major delays and budget increases through the years.

Two other libraries in the program, Hunters Point and Kew Gardens Hills, have gone way over budget — 50 percent and 210 percent, respectively, records show. 

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Peña-Mora said his agency doesn't prioritize one project over the other and said the delays are attributed to budget challenges and even changes within the market.

With some projects, "the scope and the budget don't necessarily match," he said.

Ferreras-Copeland shot back, saying that the projects require more money because of extensive delays on the part of DDC.

"In East Elmhurst, you've asked the client — Queens Library — you're saying you guys are short. But it's only short because of the re-estimate," she said. "I fully funded that. So now you turn around and say, 'well it's gonna cost us more money,' for the third time mind you.

"It's this horrible vicious cycle of 'it's never going to be enough.'"

Ferreras-Copeland also said it's "discouraging" for council members to provide funds for capital projects since "it often doesn't even happen within our term of being elected."

"I think we need to get an accurate picture of how many [projects] we have in this vicious cycle of [inefficiency] and then we can figure out how we're going to approach this," she said.

A spokeswoman for the DDC said the agency is "working closely with the Queens Library, our elected officials and community stakeholders for the East Elmhurst Library." The project is still in the construction procurement phase, she added.

A spokeswoman for the Queens Library said they don't have a final cost for the project, and they expect it to exceed what's already been budgeted.