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Village road repair formula: Worst come first

Construction crews work on the streets of New

Construction crews work on the streets of New Hyde Park. (Sept. 21, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

In New Hyde Park, the calculus for road reconstruction is simple: the worst come first.

Like clockwork every few years for more than a decade, stretches have been torn asunder, reconditioned with new blacktop, dressed in freshly painted yellow lines and -- if necessary -- given rebuilt curbs and sidewalks.

While some roads have waited longer than others, officials contend each will have its turn under the repair system, which rates roads from A to F. Nearly 18 miles have been reconstructed so far.

But some residents are giving the repair strategy less-than-stellar grades. And after the wait, they contend, the roadwork itself creates even more hassles.

Deputy Mayor Robert Lofaro said the village abides by the worst-to-best approach.

"Some residents say my road is really bad, and we say your road is really bad, yes," said Lofaro. "But this road is worse."

The strategy has guided road construction in the village for 11 years. But the scope of the project, say residents and village officials, is ambitious and long overdue.

"Many of these roads have not been addressed in this level of repair for at least over 30 years," Lofaro said.

An engineering firm rated the roads, giving them letter grade distinctions. The village has phased in the construction, with major projects every two or three years, sorting through the list one letter at a time.

That approach has resulted in uneven waiting times -- and expectations -- for residents.

"I've been waiting for this for 32 years," said Charles Alfano, outside his home on Sixth Avenue near Premier Boulevard, where the sidewalks were being torn up. Down the street, his neighbor Dennis Spinner said his road was redone five years ago.

Many relish the changes. "It keeps the town up," Spinner said, adding he felt that residents over the years are "happy about it, because it keeps their property values up."

But some are peeved, put out by having to park on the street. And Alfano said he was expecting a new curb.

But curbs are fixed only if they are "not the proper elevation to accept the new road," disintegrated, or largely deteriorated, said Tom Gannon, superintendent of public works. "Unfortunately, when we do a large roadwork job, some people will be inconvenienced for a few days."

The road work is financed by $500,000 in earmarks set aside by the village each year, but the projects require borrowing. The village has issued bonds, most recently one for $1.2 million, and has a $2.1 million debt, said Lofaro. The project this year, expected to cover nearly 1.5 miles of roadway, is expected to cost the village more than $1.4 million.

The trick, Lofaro said, is striking a balance between what the village will borrow and what it will build.

"Every year we could do a $500,000 project and take no debt, but we wouldn't get economies of scale," he said. Or, "we could float a bond for $10 million and burden ourselves with debt services that are beyond our means."

The summer renovations are expected to be finished by winter. And though F roads are long gone, Lofaro said, residents will always be antsy.

"It's funny," he said. "A resident with a C road may think it's an F."

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