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Resurfaced Montauk Highway has bad vibes

Wayne Lavender, of West Babylon, at the eastern

Wayne Lavender, of West Babylon, at the eastern edge of the Montauk Highway resurfacing. (Nov. 18, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Judy Cartwright

Attention, Montauk Highway drivers: That shakiness you've been feeling is not in your imagination.

But who would expect to get such jitters along a road with a new surface?

"I thought there was something wrong with my car," John Vogt of Lindenhurst said of driving along the stretch of road near his home. But he realized his new SUV was in the clear when he reached older sections of pavement -- and the shaking subsided.

"Up and down, up and down" is how Wayne Lavender of West Babylon described his daily ride, "like the road is shaking when you drive on it."

After a few rides, Watchdog can confirm: Good vibrations, these aren't.

And that's unacceptable, the state Department of Transportation said last week.

The resurfacing project from Howard Avenue, just east of Great Neck Road in Copiague, to Wellwood Avenue "does not meet NYSDOT's contract specification standards," department spokeswoman Eileen Peters said in a statement. "NYSDOT apologizes for the inconvenience and assures motorists [that] repairing this pavement is a priority issue."

The state specifies contract requirements, she told Watchdog, "and it's our responsibility to make sure that the work meets the specifications. In this case, it didn't."

Peters said the cause of the surface shakiness had not been pinpointed. The contractor hired by the department, Intercounty Paving Associates, will do the repair at no additional cost, Peters said. Officials of Intercounty could not be reached for comment.

The nature of the recently completed roadwork is called "mill and fill" -- milling down, or removing, the old surface and replacing it with new pavement. The 1.5-mile stretch was one piece of a regional project with 10 locations, she said, and "this is the only one we had a problem with."

"It will be rectified," she said.

So get ready for another round of Roadwork Ahead signs.

The work needs to begin as soon as possible, Peters said. "We are doing our absolute best to have it done by the end of paving season, November 30," she said, but held out the possibility that work may need to continue in the spring.




Rough going on Emporia Avenue


Emporia Avenue in Elmont is easy to identify: Where the smooth blacktop ends, Emporia begins.

The rutted surface is marked by a series of potholes and even more patched potholes. Adele Assenza and her neighbors envy the surrounding streets, which were resurfaced during projects in 2005 and 2006, and find it hard to understand why Emporia wasn't included. "This is the only busy street in the area that they didn't do," Assenza said.

So she got busy, as evidenced by her stack of correspondence from Town of Hempstead officials dating to September 2009. And her efforts haven't been ignored: Potholes have been patched and she's been told Emporia will be considered for a future paving program.

In response to a Watchdog inquiry, town spokesman Michael Deery said the town has "taken a second look" to determine if Emporia should be included in the 2012 highway capital construction program, which is devoted to resurfacing streets. He said the town engineering and highway departments will assess the street's condition and make interim repairs, but the message was clear: A repaving is no sure thing.

So, at least for now, Emporia can expect more patched potholes.

Which doesn't please Assenza. "I'm 75 years old," she says. "I have no time to wait for this."

No question, the town's 1,200 miles of roadway can present a challenge. "One of the things with a township so large and so mature -- there's a lot of miles of roadway to assess and maintain and repave," Deery said. As for Emporia: It wasn't included earlier, he said, because its condition wasn't sufficiently dire.

Assenza has lived on Emporia for more than four decades. She raised three children there and, these days, plays host to her 5-year-old grandson, Mateo.

But she won't let him play in the front yard. When cars drive past, their tires churn up small chunks of pavement -- one of which sailed into her car rearview mirror.

She's determined to keep Mateo out of the line of fire.




Tree limbs hang in the balance


Up in the air, over Hal Rice's head, are the remains of a tree.

They were left attached to utility wires in March, according to Rice and his wife, Maureen, after the couple arranged for an old tree they considered a hazard to be removed from their Levittown backyard. But first, they were told, the top branches would need to be cut free of the utility wires. A LIPA crew did just that -- but didn't liberate those two pieces because the wood had grown around a wire, and the wire didn't belong to LIPA.

The Rices spent almost eight months trying to find out who is responsible for the designated wire, and then contacted Watchdog early this month. LIPA responded quickly to an inquiry, sending a supervisor to inspect the hanging wood chunks and then reporting that the wire in question belongs to Cablevision, which owns Newsday. Even so, the couple was told, LIPA would trim back the wood as much as possible.

But before they could do so, a crew from Cablevision arrived Thursday -- less than two hours after Watchdog made an inquiry. After they departed, Hal Rice reported that the sky over the backyard is clear.

Which is especially good news if children play on the swing set on the other side of the fence: There's no more need to watch for falling objects.




Mystery of the missing trees


Eighty-two trees that lined four blocks of 17th Street in Jericho, from North Broadway west to Ziska Avenue, are gone. As are those on Ziska Avenue and other nearby roads: 16th Street and Richard and Procop avenues.

They disappeared in recent days, according to a resident named John -- when he called Watchdog Thursday to report the disappearance he declined to give his surname -- who said the visual impact is "tremendous." The trees had obscured the Fairhaven Garden Apartment complex, he said, and now that they're gone "you don't see anything natural," just the buildings, which occupy several blocks.

The 82 trees were designated for removal, according to Town of Oyster Bay spokeswoman Phyllis Barry, for reasons related to sidewalk safety.

Removal became necessary, she said, because the town had received a letter complaining that the sidewalks had become unsafe -- tree roots were causing them to heave. "Once we're put on notice, it puts the property owner on notice," Barry said. "Now that there is written notice, they have a liability issue. Someone who trips and falls could sue."

The town inspected the site and determined that the trees -- which she described as "good-sized" -- would need to be removed for sidewalk work to be successful.

The trees are the town's responsibility, she said, and simply cutting away tree roots to clear the site for new sidewalks could have disturbed the stability of the trees.

"This is not something the town does unless it becomes absolutely necessary," she said. "In this case, it was necessary so the town could put the sidewalks in correctly."

The apartment management company asked the town to do the concrete work, she said, and the town will bill the company for the work. "The plan is to do the concrete work between Thanksgiving and Christmas," she said.

New trees will be planted, Barry said, if possible before winter. But if weather prevents that, they will be planted in the spring.


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