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Construction at Brooklyn Subway Station Causes Flooding, Damage and Frustration for Williamsburg Businesses and Residents

Construction at a Brooklyn subway stop with the goal of making the station ADA compliant has caused flooding, broken windows and damage to nearby property, area residents and business owners say.

Work at the Metropolitan Ave./Lorimer St. station in Williamsburg it is intended to improve the station with new elevators, raised boarding areas, curbs, and Braille signage, among other improvements. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

But as the work progresses, complaints arrive.

“This has been a real nightmare for me, my neighbors and other small businesses around Metropolitan, Lorimer and Union,” said Joseph Franquinha, owner of Crest Hardware, a 61-year-old business on the top floor of the station.

“While we are all understanding and compassionate of the ADA needs in our city, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it,” Franquinha said. “And this is definitely the wrong path.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher (D-Brooklyn) called for “immediate intervention” to address residents’ concerns in a letter to Jamie Torres-Springer, MTA president of construction and development.

Conditions at the project “are not just a nuisance, but dangerous, and we know that the MTA generally holds its contractors to a higher standard,” the letter, shared with the Daily News, reads.

“Of course, expect some disruption around the construction, but the MTA’s complete disregard for this area has even led city agencies to complain about the MTA’s lack of communication and coordination,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

He added that he has been complaining for months, but conditions have worsened. “I don’t think we’ll see this level of abandonment in places like Manhattan,” Gutierrez said.

Franquinha said the construction caused flooding in her building that left tenants without heat or hot water for days.

One day in December, construction crews dumped water from two large garbage containers that held concrete water onto the street, he said.

“It created a reflux and returned through the pipes and through Avenida Metropolitana,” he said.

Dark, cloudy and acrid water, mixed with sewage and with an oily film on top, seeped under the sidewalk and into Franquinha’s basement, the building’s owner said.

Franquinha put on her overshoes and grabbed some garbage bags, and went to work cleaning up the “disgusting and unsanitary” mess.

“I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, looking into that… We’re talking about a 1500 square foot basement filled with 2½ foot high water. I mean, that’s a lot of water,” he said.

Lisa Summa, 58, a retired public school teacher who lives next door to the construction, said she feels unsafe coming home at night because the construction creates a dark tunnel to her door. Night work on the project has interrupted her sleep, she added.

“Your home is not your home,” said Summa, a lifelong Williamsburg resident. “They are literally in my living room with noise. It’s an incredible feeling. We didn’t even open our windows because of the dirt (in the air).”

Summa and more than a dozen other nearby residents organized the Friends of Lorimer group to challenge the project. “It seemed like the MTA was paying lip service about wanting to be a good neighbor,” she said.

“You can put this elevator up, do it right, and also try to have minimal impact on the community.”

Iván García, co-owner of Zona Rosa, a Mexican restaurant on the corner of Metropolitan and Lorimer, said his business is down 60% since construction began last year and he has had to lay off servers and bartenders.

He blames the construction: it hides the restaurant from view and blocks foot traffic.

Iván García, owner of Zona Rosa, a local restaurant.  He said that the windows and floors were cracked due to the construction.

“I think it’s the worst year for us,” he said. “Today is Taco Tuesday. Usually everyone is here, looking for happy hour. But now, we don’t have anyone.”

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The vibrations have caused two-inch-wide cracks in the concrete floor and several broken windows in the restaurant building, Garcia said.

Plus, he said, water has pooled in places where it didn’t before on the restaurant’s open roof. Garcia fears that this could be a sign that the building’s foundation is damaged.

“They have big machines and then the whole building vibrates, shakes,” Garcia said.

An MTA spokesperson told the Daily News that crews have been doing limited night work inside the Lorimer St. station, which is allowed since the station is indoors and open 24 hours a day, the 7 days a week.

The agency has also been made aware of the damage to a nearby building, the spokesperson said, and is investigating whether ongoing construction is to blame.

The work at the Metropolitan Ave./Lorimer St. station is part of a larger effort by the MTA to improve accessibility at its stations, following the settlement of a lawsuit against the agency filed by disability advocates.

The MTA committed last year to making 95% of the subway system accessible. Less than a third of the city’s subway stations are now accessible according to ADA standards.

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