Investigations

Bridge remains closed after construction

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The bridge that crosses the railroad tracks in Flushing, Queens on 149th Street between Roosevelt and 41st Avenues is still not open to the public.

It's a brand new bridge rebuilt for $4 million.

It was set to re-open in May 2012, nearly a year later, but 11 months later, not a single car has driven over it.

"I don't understand why it takes so much time and what the big secret is," said Peter Condiles, a resident.

Eyewitness News has been trying to find out.

Back in February Eyewitness News reached out to the City Department of Transportation asking whether any ''defects were found during the (bridge's) inspection."

Stone-walled by DOT, Eyewitness News filed a Freedom of Information request and still there are no answers.

"It's almost like a cover-up is going on," State Sen. Tony Avello said.

Queens State Senator Tony Avello ran into the same wall of silence.

"This contract was done by a city agency with public dollars, we should know what's happening," Avello said.

The secrecy surrounding the closed $4 million bridge spurred us to dig deeper.

Documents Eyewitness News obtained reveal that the builder is "Unicorn Construction Enterprises" which has been contracted to refurbish many bridges throughout the city.

Eyewitness News found Unicorn workers on the job at this bridge in Flushing.

Discovering how many contracts Unicorn has had with the city, more than 20 since 2008, Eyewitness News decided to go right to the top with our questions.

:What did inspectors find when they inspected this bridge?"Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"There were issues with the concrete and we're not going to open a bridge until its safe," said Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC DOT Commissioner.

Sure enough, a closer look at the bridge shows cracks running the entire length of its new concrete span and the DOT installed sensors to monitor the cracks.

Eyewitness News asked the Commissioner why her DOT inspectors failed to discover the defective concrete sooner.

But it didn't open until after the refurbishment project was done and the money was spent.

"I can't really say anything else because we're looking at legal action right now. The bridge will remain closed until it is safe to the travelling public," Sadik-Khan said.

"We've been trying for weeks to get the inspection reports on the bridge. It is a public document. Will you release that to Channel 7?" Hoffer asked.

"I'll have to get back to you, I don't know what the status of that is," Sadik-Khan said.

And just as tight-lipped about the botched bridge project was the Chief Engineer of Unicorn Construction.

"To be honest with you I couldn't tell you anything," said Sudesh Dhawan, Unicorn Construction.

"You haven't heard anything?" Hoffer asked.

"I've heard some problems other than that I couldn't tell you," Dhawan said.

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jamaica, queens, investigations, jim hoffer
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