Residents Fed Up With Noisy Webster Avenue Bridge

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(Photo by Marco Schaden)

On June 12, Michael Maura went to the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations meeting on an invitation from his Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey. His frustration over the Webster Avenue Bridge had led him to this point and now he finally had the audience that he was asking for—the beloved MTA-LIRR.

The MTA-LIRR shut down the 122-year-old bridge in December for two months in order to make repairs. The bridge was in the design phase for the 2015-19 Capital Budget plan set by the railroad and is expected to be fully replaced in 2023 as part of the 2020-24 Capital Budget plan. However, the repairs brought an unexpected result to the steel deck bridge.

“The bridge, it wasn’t an issue, until these MTA people, the geniuses that they are, back in December had closed the bridge for two months,” Maura, a resident for the last 16 years at 180 Lindburg St., said. “I was kind of excited because I thought they were actually going to fix it. But what happened was after they finished. That’s when the noise became beyond belief.”

Grated steel surface of the Webster Avenue Bridge. (Photo by Marco Schaden).

The bridge’s surface is grated metal and it goes over the Port Washington LIRR line that runs through Manhasset. When a car drives over the bridge, it makes a steady vibration noise, but repairs to the dilapidated bridge now add a banging noise on the ends of the bridge.

“When they fixed the bridge [in December], I was hoping they would shut it down forever,” Maura, who works from home, said. “When they reopened it, it was making noises you can’t even imagine—the banging, clanging of the cars going over it—it’s a rattle trap.”

The December repairs also led to an 8-foot-6-inch height barrier for vehicles and implementation of a 3 ton limit signage on both sides of the bridge.

New height barriers were placed on both sides of the bridge to prevent heavy vehicles from entering. (Photo by Marco Schaden)

“They wanted to limit the weight to 3 tons because they felt the weight over the years of large trucks caused the metal structure of the bridge to deteriorate. That grate design, it broke in sections,” Donald O’Brien, a resident of 158 Webster Ave., and president of Manhasset Parks Civic Association, said. “What they had to do was put steel plates and weld it together to hold it together.”

Maura decided he had to do something about it. He couldn’t live under these circumstances.

“Since [the reopening], I have been complaining, calling the MTA, emails with [Manager of Government & Community Affairs at the MTA-LIRR] Ryan [Attard] who was actually helpful, but [Attard] never got anything really done,” Maura said. “And then I decided to call the councilwoman. They had gotten in touch with [MTA-LIRR] and that worked.”

Attard and Hector Garcia of the MTA-LIRR were present at the Greater Council meeting and listened to Maura’s concerns about the bridge. At the meeting, Attard said an engineer would evaluate within a week and provide remediation options.

“They tried to fix it. They didn’t,” said Maura. “I went to meet with the engineer. One morning the guy explained to me when they fixed the bridge, they had to cut the metal grade in certain sections to fix it. I said, ‘Okay. So you decided not to put a new grid? You just left it that way? Is that what you’re telling me?’ ‘Yes,’ he said.”

After repairs were made in June, due to Maura’s appearance at the Greater Council, the banging noise tampered down, but some residents don’t believe that will last for long and the vibration noise is still a mainstay.

“It’s plenty loud. It’s further down besides me,” Jay Allen of 205 Mason Dr. said. “It’s just totally annoying. Now it doesn’t make the banging noise that it made because they welded it back together again, but now it’s starting to loosen up again cause the welds don’t hold because the thing is in so many pieces that it’s breaking apart again.”

LIRR train going from Port Washington to Penn Station as it travels underneath the Webster Avenue Bridge. The bridge is owned by the MTA-LIRR. (Photo by Marco Schaden)

“I started with the railroad back in April of 2012 arguing about the bridge, getting it repaired and there have been workers back and forth working on it, of course, and it’s never been fixed,” said Allen, who has been living in the same house that has been in his family since it was built in 1946. “I spoke to a guy named Peter Palamero in public affairs, who I’ve been dealing with most of the time and every year in the spring time when you open the windows and you want to get some air in the house, the thing is banging and it’s crazy. It’s unsafe. Two cars weigh more than 3 tons. No fire engines can go over it, no garbage trucks, no school buses. It’s a waste of time and for what we pay in taxes to have to listen to this because other neighbors that live around here want to use it as a convenience. It’s not a convenience for the neighbors that live here to listen to the bridge. Every year they say they’re going to fix it, they’re going to do something and say it’s supposed to be replaced and nobody’s got a date to replace it. It’s just a bunch of garbage and a bunch of aggravation.”

Allen has handwritten records of every phone call and email he has had with the MTA-LIRR over the last seven years, including who he talked to, time and date. In 2013, Allen sent a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to the MTA-LIRR asking to see all the repairs that they planned on doing to the bridge. He received a letter back from the MTA-LIRR stating that they acknowledged the FOIL request and would get back to him within the allotted 30 days. Allen never heard back.

“They were closing it for a couple of hours a day [in June] and working and welding and I was walking one morning. I walked over the bridge,” Allen said. “I said to the guys, ‘you know, you’re working over here, the real noise is over there where it bangs.’ These two engineers that were working on the bridge stood on the bridge and jumped up and down and told me, ‘see, we solved the problem.’ They jumped on it. This was a scientific experiment they were doing by jumping on it, telling me they fixed it. That’s what a joke it was.”

“It’s completely gone,” Katina Athineos said of the bridge she once knew when she first moved to 10 Brookwold Dr. in 1966.

Athineos, 88, is also concerned about the upkeep of the sidewalk along the bridge. Walking along the sidewalk you will find weeds that are 3 feet tall, broken branches, piles of leaves and dirt and a crushed White Claw can.

“That sidewalk has been completely neglected. Once I fell there and I really got hurt,” Athineos, who has not gone for a walk over the bridge in more than a year now, said. “I would not call it a sidewalk. The weeds are growing on both sides, there is a lot of dirt.”

The sidewalk of the bridge is property of the Town of North Hempstead, not the MTA-LIRR.

“The Town’s Sidewalk District will be doing some temporary repairs to the sidewalk along the Webster Avenue Bridge in the next few days, weathering permitting,” Town of North Hempstead Spokesperson Carole Trottere told the Manhasset Press via an email dated Aug. 7.

Supervisor Judi Bosworth and councilwoman Veronica Lurvey also sent a letter to LIRR President Phillip Eng in July stating, “the Webster Avenue Bridge in Manhasset has been labeled as structurally deficient. The town and our residents are alarmed by the structurally deficient bridge and the increasing noise it is bringing to the neighborhood.”

Underneath the Webster Avenue Bridge is the original rotted metal and new red metal support structures installed in December. (Photo by Marco Schaden)

“The bridge is a disaster. It’s rotted. It really shouldn’t be driven over, I don’t think, because you know, I’m not an engineer, but I’m not stupid either,” Maura said. “They put columns underneath the bridge to hold it up. That’s what they did for two months. You know when someone’s going to take the beam out of the basement and they put these columns up to hold the house up. That’s what they used for the bridge.”

Maura, Allen and Athineos all believe that the Webster Avenue Bridge is unsafe and is a public hazard. Maura and Allen would like to see the bridge shut down until it is fully replaced, not repaired.

“No, it’s not safe, look at it,” Allen said “It’s a piece of junk. It’s all cut into pieces to be welded back together again. It’s a total joke.”

“The LIRR is aware of noise concerns on the Webster Avenue bridge and is working to address them,” said MTA Communications Director Tim Minton after repeated requests for comment from the Manhasset Press. “LIRR President Phil Eng personally visited the bridge last month to evaluate potential solutions. The noise is exacerbated when the bridge is used by overweight vehicles, however engineers have determined there are no safety issues. It is an old bridge planned for replacement in the next capital plan. In the meantime, LIRR Engineering has been welding joints periodically to reduce noise. Recently installed low clearance barriers and additional signage seek to reduce the number of overweight vehicles to mitigate noise. LIRR also is working with local villages and school districts to reroute buses and trucks. Funding to replace the bridge is a priority project in the next capital program.”

“I hope nothing will happen to anybody,” said Athineos.

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