By Taylor Kate Brown
Sometimes it’s not there for months; at other times, it stays for days. For Bay Ridge residents near Fort Hamilton Army Base, the unexpected visitor is not a barely-tolerated relative, but a pervasive, rotten-egg stink that emanates from sewer grates and basement plumbing.
Homeowners along Fort Hamilton Parkway, from 92nd to 101st Street, continue to cope with the gag-inducing odor after three years.
In 2004, the Department of Design and Construction installed a new sewer along the Fort Hamilton Parkway, in response to years of homeowner complaints of severe basement flooding during storms. After completion, the flooding continued and raw sewage leaked into basements. The contractor, JR Cruz Corp., fixed the flooding, but left the old sewers intact under the new.
Soon after the repairs were finished and the street was closed up, the odor appeared. While residents still have no definite answer from the Department of Environmental Protection, they are convinced the second sewer project is responsible.
The irregular timing is frustrating and perplexing for homeowners.
“It’s not low tide or high tide. It’s not the temperature,” said Christine Mascialino, a resident of the area. “We’ve never found the trigger or the common denominator.”
Mascialino, who wrote a letter detailing the problem to the city’s public advocate in November 2008, says that, though the smell bothers her, she doesn’t have time to be a crusader.
Community Board 10 has a foot-high file documenting the situation, while Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office sent a letter of complaint in July 2009 to the Department of Environmental Protection.
Representatives from the department come dutifully to investigate every time a complaint is made, but the root of the problem remains.
“Myself and a neighbor had the DEP come into our houses to test the plumbing,” said Irene Rivera, who lives on Fort Hamilton Parkway. “Two years later, and we still haven’t gotten a result.”
The reason for the delay? They were told it had to go to the head of the department first.
In November 2008, officials from the department of environmental protection were invited to explain the steps they had taken to find and remove the smell to the community board’s general meeting. According to the community board, no one from the department attended.
“I think DEP thinks the odor is a lower priority than flooding,” Community Board District Manager Josephine Beckmann said, “I don’t share that view.”
Department officials did not return calls or emails for comment.
In early March 2009, the odor became sulfurous, prompting residents to call 911. The nearby Fort Hamilton Senior Center was evacuated. The new smell showed up again on March 23rd.
Community liaison Stephanie Giovinco at Councilman Gentile’s office said officials from the environmental department met with the councilman’s office last month. They had ruled out an accidental sewage connection to the Fort Hamilton Army Base, which borders the street, or open catch basins beneath sewer grates as the culprit.
But they were no closer to finding the source of the smell.
After months of sweet air, Mascialino got whiff of the odor again on October 1st, but she is weary of the formal complaint process.
“Nothing has ever been done about it, so today I didn’t bother,” she said.