Cymbrowitz Brings Long-Overdue Action To Forgotten Street Corner

This accident waiting to happen in Sheepshead Bay is finally being corrected thanks to Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz, pictured.

In 2010, when pieces of a retaining wall extending from the train track on Gravesend Neck Road and East 16th Street started raining down onto the sidewalk, the city closed off the site to pedestrian traffic as a safety precaution.

That was the moment when time began to stand still at the corner. By 2017, little had changed except that toddlers who were in baby carriages when the site was blocked off were now able to sidestep it on their own. Meanwhile, the location also became an illegal dumping ground for trash.

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz

“Over the years a fence appeared around the perimeter of the location, but it remained un-repaired, not to mention a huge inconvenience to all the people who didn’t have access to the corner for the better part of a decade,” recalled Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach).

“We all know the stereotype that bureaucracy moves at a crawl, but this should’ve been a relatively quick fix to shore up a wall. Instead it was simply forgotten,” he added.

All this began to change in the summer of 2016, when Cynbrowitz got a call from a constituent alerting him of the situation and his office started investigating why the repairs never happened. It turned out the problem was jurisdiction.

“Since it was an extension of the wall by the train track, everyone assumed it was the MTA’s responsibility to fix it. But that wasn’t the case, and determining ownership wasn’t simple,” said Cymbrowitz, adding that another mystery regarding the issue was that the location was non-existent on the city’s tax maps.

After shopping the issue around to various agencies, Cymbrowitz’ office contacted the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which referred him to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB). Buildings confirmed that in July 2010 it had found the retaining wall on Neck Road and East 16th Street to be structurally defective and in danger of collapse. But since MTA didn’t have jurisdiction, as was believed, the repairs were never made and the site remained stagnant.

Prompted by questions from Cymbrowitz’ office in 2016, the DOB once again contacted agencies potentially responsible for the site and the Department of Transportation (DOT) claimed responsibility.

DOT began repairs in April and, barring unforeseen delays, the corner of Gravesend Neck Road and East 16th Street should be returned to pedestrians later this month.

“I’m pleased we were able to get things moving in the right direction,” Cymbrowitz said. “Better late than never.”