Why I Would Vote Yes

01 Mar

Kingston City Hall, Monday night in a crowded Finance and Audit Committee special meeting, Conference Room 1.  The moment is now.

The Committee Report

The Committee Report

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 AOffered 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.

Washington Avenue Do we want another year? -KingstonBarn Photo

Washington Avenue
Do we want another year?
-KingstonBarn Photo

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.

The Future of Tannery Brook-KingstonBarn Photo

Tannery Brook as it runs through Kathy Eberlein’s yard. Neighbors just want it to be done.
-KingstonBarn Photo

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”.

Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Why I Would Vote Yes

  1. gerald berke

    March 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I was at the meeting, I’ve written a letter to the Kingston Times, and to Ward4Kingston facebook group…I also read Will’s letter to the Kingston Times… the point against Will’s position, the part that raised the flag for me was his pursuit of the very best, the most cost effective and that smacked of some fleeting excellence when the amounts of time and possible savings were well out of kilter: that we won’t know. Yet.
    But what did not come up, and out to have, was how the future damages to the properties we or were not computed…. how many houses, what is the damage so far, what is the expected damage, what is the cost to do the estimates… that information, indeed, the street level view of who might be affected was nowhere costed out… yes, the people damaged want it fixed, now. But the repair might cause significant damage to many more houses… there were no figures, no guesses, no boundaries on that…that needed to be done: what was the upside exposure. What was also NOT presented was any alternative, and quickly what the costs were and what the risks and reasons for rejecting were. That’s short and simple and if that information is known here, put it out there… also ignored was a look at what Swensen utterly rejected: scrap the old thing and do it over… he balked at 5 years… well, it ain’t gonna be done in under 4 as it is… so that didn’t give me a lot of faith… where’s that plan? When was that at least considered?
    The long range plans of the city cannot be made on the basis of the severe suffering of some. Where was the plan for opening the road up to local, lightweight traffic only?
    Then the is the whole process that goes underground and emerges fully grown like Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin…
    Let’s give Will a week or two… (note, that all the things called for here could have been written by Will… and a long time ago, too… I mean, this is his ward!) anyway, lets see what he has to say in a week from now… he might just say “yeah, go ahead”… he might say nothing. If he’s got a problem with the work, he has to ask himself, why did he wait so long, until it was all done??

  2. Joyce Barnes

    February 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I need to correct the representation of my position as against fixing the sink hole. Absolutely, the city needs to make Mrs. Hart, Mr. VanKleek, and all the other residents on Washington Avenue whole. But, please do not tie piping Tannery Brook in to that fix and say I am against the work on Washington Avenue, because I am not. I am against doing work in the brook — which runs beside my property, not through it — when that work requires access through, on, over, under, etc.,my property and the predictable outcome more flooding of my property. All we low-landers know that the problem originates from high ground & have said to the city to start the fix there for stormwater control there. I mean in the vicinity of the development annexed by the city as well as Twin Ponds.

    • KingstonBarn

      February 21, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Ms. Barnes,

      True. The last time we spoke before publication, you were quite clear that you were in favor of fixing the Washington Avenue sinkhole, but you didn’t think the Tannery Brook portion of the work would do the job. I am sorry that I did not make that clear distinction on your behalf, nor do I want anyone to have the impression that you think or feel otherwise.

      As you know, I’ve concluded that regardless of root causes, one cannot be fixed without the other. To my mind, and the point of the piece is, that the problem has to be solved now, and not with half measures or parts of the fix in place. We cannot afford to do this again. We need this done right, completely, and permanently. We owe it to ourselves and to the people who’ve suffered with it the longest. I am grateful to you and everyone else who have borne the brunt of the the problems for the rest of us, who have the most to lose if something goes wrong, and still want it done anyway.

      You’ve given me a great deal of education on the sinkhole and Tannery Brook history, and the current problems that affect the neighbors in your area. I look forward to more.

      Thank you,
      Andrew Champ-Doran


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