By KATIE HOOS
After months of dormancy and uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Palmer Avenue streetscape project, the Village of Larchmont has found a new contractor to resume construction on the project within the coming weeks.
The streetscape project, which intends to widen and re-place 4,000 square-feet of sidewalk, plant trees, and install new benches and streetlamps along Palmer Avenue and Chats-worth and Larchmont avenues, will begin again after experiencing numerous setbacks and coming to a halt in June 2013 when the village issued a stop work order.
According to Larchmont Ma-yor Anne McAndrews, a Democrat, the village has found a new contractor whose name she was not willing to release, that is ready to begin construction once a few details are ironed out.
“We crossed our t’s and we’re just about to dot the i’s,” McAndrews said. “We just don’t know exactly when it’s going to start.”
McAndrews said Selective Insurance Company of Americas, the surety company that issued the performance bond, which guarantees satisfactory completion of the project, found a new contractor for the project. She also said the agreement between the new contractor and the village will hopefully be signed this week and village officials, village engineers and the new contractor will meet with the state Department of Transportation next week for a pre-construction meeting to go over requirements and specifics of the project.
McAndrews said a staging area for the contracting company’s equipment has already been set near the ramp for Interstate 95 in the Town of Mamaroneck.
“The village is absolutely ready to go. We’ve been ready for 18 months now,” she said.
While the village may be ready to go, some local business owners do not think the timing of the project is right with holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day right around the corner.
Judy Graham is the owner of two retail stores on Palmer Avenue, Pink on Palmer and Clutch, who believes the construction would be detrimental to businesses during this time of year. “We just came off three months of the worst winter,” she said. “In a walking town, who comes out in the ice and snow and cold? Nobody. Here’s our chance; it’s nice weather and people are coming out. I would be devastated if the village did this right now. It would be a real blow.”
The long-awaited streetscape project has been riddled with setbacks, most notably when the former contractor, Mount Vernon-based DiMarino Brothers, was declared in default of the contract in July 2013.
Since the Weaver Street Bridge would be closed and a detour was to run through the construction area, the contractor was directed not to work near the intersection of Palmer and Chatsworth avenues, but to begin working on the other end. When work was not progressing, the village declared the contractor in default for “failures to comply with the terms and conditions” of the contract, leaving the village to repair the curbing that was disturbed during the initial construction.
When asked about possible litigation involving the village and DiMarino Brothers, McAndrews said, since the surety company is making good on the insurance policy and insuring the work will get done, no decision has been made about a lawsuit.
“Let’s put it this way, we haven’t decided one way or the other. We’ve been so focused on getting the project done,” she said.
The project, which was initially estimated to begin in October 2012 but has been on the drawing board since 2000, was postponed until Spring 2013 due to setbacks stemming from paperwork issues and inclement weather.
It had also drawn the ire of Larchmont residents who expressed disapproval after about 29 trees were removed throughout the business district, something McAndrews said was done to rid the area of dead trees and improve the safety of residents walking along the sidewalk.
In the fall of 2013, after construction stopped, McAndrews said an independent arborist reassessed the trees throughout the streetscape area and determined the trees that were removed were indeed dying. She also said the village plans on replacing the trees that were removed with more suitable trees for suburban areas.
Further criticism from residents concerning Pine Brook Park being used as the storage lot for construction equipment also plagued the streetscape project. After a swing set was removed from the park and an additional fence was installed, residents criticized the village for allowing the park to be occupied with construction equipment during the summer months.
The project’s total costs are estimated at $1.65 million, a portion of which will be paid for by a grant of more than $800,000 from the state Department of Transportation.
McAndrews said the new contractor gave an estimated completion date of Labor Day for the streetscape project.
James Staudt, the village attorney, could not be reached for comment as of press time.