Kingston City Hall, Monday night in a crowded Finance and Audit Committee special meeting, Conference Room 1. The moment is now.
Time to openly vote on moving the sinkhole project ahead, finishing it off, once and for all. What does Brad Will do? Chair Mary Ann Mills calls for “Yes”; our 3rd Ward Alderman says nothing. The vote is called for “No”, the room goes silent. Only when the report is passed for signatures do we get an indication of Mr. Will’s intent. Quietly, he adds a column, “Abstain”, and makes his mark. At some point, before the meeting is adjourned, and without comment, he covers up his abstention, and makes his vote “NO”.
Late that night, he posts on his facebook, “…Why I Voted No”. It rings hollow. Frankly, I am mystified.
I would vote YES.
My Alderman voted no, he writes, because he “was not confident that the best – and most cost effective – alternative was put forward.”
My Alderman voted no, he writes, because he wants “a short pause of a week or two.”
I have been at the public meetings, the committee meetings, and spent much time with neighbors of the sinkhole, and people that are affected by this every day. I am one of those people. Each person I talk to wants the same thing. Fix it. Fix it right, fix it now, fix it forever. Do you know of one person that wouldn’t say they’d spend the million more than a half-measure, incomplete, risky Option B to fix it if they never had to deal with it again? No. And I’d vote YES.
August 13 last year, the two engineering firms, GEA Engineering and Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers submitted a report to the City, outlining the history, problems, and four proposals to fix the problems of our Washington Avenue Sinkhole. I asked for that report and permission to distribute it to 3rd Ward neighbors, and I did in early October. Those 44 page reports were handed out at the October 21 meeting, where speakers from those firms laid out four options, A through D, and explained in fairly clear terms how effective, how expensive, and how comprehensive those choices might be.
Recommended by the firms that built the World Trade Center Towers and Memorial: Option A. Shown as our best “home run” chance for a permanent end to the Sinkhole Nightmare, by the foundation designers of New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field: Option A. Offered as our “safest option” by the team that built the ConEd tunnel under the Harlem River: Option A.
Option A is 7′ thick supporting sides, a 15′ thick roof, and 150′ long, all anchored to bedrock, protecting the repaired and supported tunnel as it travels from one mined end to another. It’s 50′ deep, twice-compacted soil densification supporting the roadway above. It is a relined, redesigned shaft, swirling storm water down, exchanging and balancing air to allow water to flow, and not hammer down. It is a system designed to let overflow cross under Washington and find it’s natural way down.
I’d vote YES.
We don’t have to trust Mayor Gallo on this. We don’t have to trust City Engineer Ralph Swenson on this. In fact, long ago, when they found out the real extent of the problem, they both said this is a bigger problem than we can handle. We need the real pros, they said, and they asked the Council for help. They went out and got the companies that built Bronx Terminal Market and the South Transitway Tunnel under Boston’s Russia Wharf. I put my trust in them.
If my Alderman had shown his as-yet-unnamed Engineer “very close friend” as having the same depth of experience and wealth of expertise as these combined companies, we’d have more to hang our hats on. But, until he does, I’m trusting these guys.
I put my faith in Fran Hart, whose home has been hit hardest of all by the sinkhole, Tannery Brook, and all the efforts to repair the damage done. She says she doesn’t care about the noise, she can live with the work, she just wants to use her garage, have her driveway and yard back, and get her century-old house back up to livable. She wants the sinkhole done right.
I put my faith in Richard Van Kleek, who is tired of waiting for it to end. He doesn’t trust it can be done by the end of the year, but he’s willing to try. He wants the sinkhole done right.
I put my faith in Art and Barbara Althiser, who have seen their Red Sox win three World Series, but feel like they will never see the end of the sinkhole.
I put my faith in Kathy Eberlein, who wants to work in her garden, in Sharon Becker, who wants to keep the bluestone patio and garden her late husband built, and in Joyce Barnes, who is against the project. They are all willing to let the city work on their properties, just to put an end to flooding for their neighbors on Tannery Brook. They want it done right.
I put my faith in Renato DiBella, who, against tremendous losses, keeps his business going here when he could just move it out. He wants his business back. He wants it done right.
We have lived on their faith for too long. It’s time to show them some of ours. For all of these people, and all of the people of Kingston living with the specter of this dangerous hole in the ground, I’d vote YES.
Putting it off for a week or two delays the Common Council vote by at least a month. A month added to the schedule means we don’t have a chance of finishing by Thanksgiving. If we don’t finish by then, the ravages of another Winter take their toll.
When the question is called again on Tuesday night, I want my Alderman to stand up, speak for us, and vote YES.
Yes, the moment is now.-Andrew Champ-Doran Editor’s Note: Documents referred to in this article, including the GEA/Mueser Rutledge Powerpoint presentation from Monday’s meeting, and the August 2013 Kingston Report can be found on our new page, “The Documents”.