Patchogue's Oak Street to finally get repaved
Oak Street residents will finally get relief from potholes like these. A grant dating back to 2006 will finally be sanctioned by NYS DOT for next spring.

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Patchogue's Oak Street to finally get repaved

Story By: LINDA LEUZZI
9/4/2019


Bumpy, pothole-ridden Oak Street will finally get its transformation.

Really.

Patchogue mayor Paul Pontieri admitted he was ready to throw in the towel and return grant money on the project after years of fighting to obtain approval for the half-mile of street that badly needs fixing. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, or SAFETEA-LU, grant for $1.2 million approved in 2006 was obtained by former congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), who had an office on Oak Street, now occupied by congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

The key to resolving the kerfuffle? NYS DOT regional director Joseph E. Brown’s willingness to cut through the red tape and get the project done.

Pontieri said Brown and his officials met with him to clarify issues.

“The package will be put together and hopefully it will be worked on next spring; that is what their calendar is now saying,” Ponteri said.

Oak Street runs between North Ocean Avenue and Route 112. It’s a well-traveled street, between the Main Street back parking lots including Patchogue Theatre, Temple Beth El, businesses and homes.

The remainder of the grant, $980,000 after DOT-required engineering costs, will be utilized and the paving project will go out to bid.

“It will be blacktop, the base is concrete; some of that will be taken out and filled with compacted blacktop,” Pontieri said. “We don’t have money for overrides, so that’s the best possible plan.”

The length of time — 2006 to 2019 — is quite a stretch to home plate, even for bureaucratic approvals. Federal and state officials were called on over the years to give it a push.

“The cost of the blacktop was in the mid-$50 a ton range in 2006-2007, now it’s $100 a ton; the cost of labor went up 50 percent, so we needed to modify the plan to fit into the constraints of the money we had available. Then because of staff changes, issues changed, different things in their mind had to be adjusted, but it seems under the direction of Mr. Brown with the last couple of emails recently, they’ve been resolved. We had a number of meetings over the last five months. Marian [Russo] got an email the other day that the plan was being clarified.”

One of the sticking dilemmas was tearing up the base concrete, he said.

“My point is if we can get it done in the springtime instead of now, we’ll get greater durability,” Pontieri said.

Russo, Community Development Agency executive director and grants administrator, confirmed Pontieri’s comment about staff changes slowing up the approvals. There was a dizzying fleet of back-and-forth correspondence, including NYS DOT advising that the road was not eligible, NYS DOT requests to reclassify Oak Street as a connector, draft designs and comments, relocation of telephone manholes and PSEG relocations.

“The Federal Highways Agency gave us 10 years to do the job and then gave an extension,” Russo said. “There were no more after the last one and the regional director wanted to let us get the project finished. Sometimes you need someone who has the larger view. In the DOT I think there were six different offices involved. You needed one to say, ‘stop being picayune.’”

Oak Street residents, particularly from Maple Street to Route 112, have inquired about the project over the years at village board meetings.

The project’s estimated start was good news to Kris Kelly, a newcomer to Oak Street, who has been emailing trustees about its status. “I purchased my house in January,” Kelly said. “I work a lot on state-funded construction projects and it seems when there’s a lot of hands in the pot, the project gets a little lost in the mix. My main goal was to find out where they were in its completion.”