Tuesday, June 3, 2014

#377 Hook Creek Pedestrian Bridge connecting Queens to Nassau County

Hook Creek Pedestrian Bridge connecting Queens to Nassau County
June 3, 2014, Keith Nelson, Rob Hickman

Wooden bridge crosses more than Hook Creek
Suburban Long Island on one side, gritty Queens on the other
July 28, 2002 | By Sarah Kershaw | NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

On a map, even the daintiest thumb would cover the knob of land and water in a hidden place where the city and suburbia meet, at a wooden footbridge separating the haves from the have-nots.

The 75-foot bridge arches over Hook Creek, which runs through southeast Queens and into Nassau County, forming the border and feeding Jamaica Bay. Half the bridge is on Long Island, the other half in New York City.

On one side of the bridge is Meadowmere Park, a middle-class Long Island community with its own firehouse, smoothly paved roads, lush and landscaped yards and an address that allows parents to send their children to first-rate local schools.

On the other side is Meadowmere, Queens, a century-old enclave of fishermen, mechanics and ironworkers, where the four potholed and bumpy streets - none of them appearing on the official city map - were paved once in the last 50 years and flood every time it rains, becoming impassable when the moon tides come. The first sewer system, if all goes according to plan, should be installed and working by about 2007.

Tucked between Kennedy International Airport - a mile from touchdown - and the start of Long Island's shopping-mall sprawl, Meadowmere, Queens, and the footbridge to suburbia are not easy to find.

One might stumble on it during a stroll on Long Island - Meadowmere Park is neatly marked on the map - but a map is of no use in getting there from the Queens side.

The city's Fire Department was once unable to find it, so firefighters from the Long Island side rushed over the footbridge when a Queens house was ablaze, several residents recalled.

For the most part, though, obscurity suits the people of Meadowmere, except when the neighborhood of two dozen houses is so obscure that people - official city types responsible for sewers and roads and drainage and snow plowing - forget that it is there.

Told by a visitor that the city was designing a sewer system for Meadowmere, Bob Seaman, who runs the M&B bait shop with his wife, Mary, and grew up in the neighborhood, was skeptical.

"We'll be old and gray before they do anything around here," he said the other day at the shop, where he was making the occasional sale of squid strips and blood worms. "It's like the lost colony down here."

Seaman, 54, pointed to the street outside, where a fire hydrant stands on a raised concrete platform. "They were supposed to raise all the streets 8 inches," he said. "They got as far as the fire hydrant."

Things are always different on the other side of the footbridge. Meadowmere Park, a cluster of about 90 houses that are in the Town of Hempstead, is scheduled for a repaving of its streets soon - making them 16 inches higher - to ensure continued protection from flooding.

Meadowmere residents pay a fraction of the property taxes the Meadowmere Park residents pay. But many on the Queens side pay to send their children to private schools, especially high school, rather than send them to troubled Springfield Gardens High School.

Lawrence High School, the neighborhood school for Meadowmere Park, has a stellar reputation and its students often win prestigious science competitions and other awards.

The lack of sewers in Meadowmere is a big deal to people on both sides of the bridge. Residents in Queens say they have fought for years to get the project rolling. And some on the Long Island side say it is frustrating to call New York City officials to complain about the stench of the waste dumped from the Queens houses into the creek.

"If I call the city, there are just too many departments," said Ruth Samuelson, a retired flea market manager who has lived on West Avenue in Meadowmere Park for 32 years.

"Several times I called to talk about Meadowmere, and they didn't know what I was talking about," she said, standing on the Long Island side of Hook Creek, in the back yard of a neighbor who has tall hedges in the front of his house and a handsome goldfish pond in the back. "They said those people don't exist."

Technically, the streets of Meadowmere did not exist as part of New York City until 1995, when the neighborhood got some rare attention and the Queens borough president's office went through the labyrinthine legal process of taking title to private streets.

But the neighborhood, now that it officially belongs to New York City, is entitled to all municipal services. City officials from the three departments handling the sewers and the repaving of the streets there said the entire project - from toilets to storm drains to potholes - would be finished in about 2007.

Community Board 13 in Queens, which covers Meadowmere, is planning to hold a meeting in the next few months to give residents information about the project, officials said. Connecting to the sewer system could cost each homeowner up to $5,000, in addition to monthly costs that would be almost triple their current water bills.

Meanwhile, the people of Meadowmere and their neighbors in Meadowmere Park, who sometimes mingle at bake sales or benefits at the firehouse on the Long Island side, are not convinced that any of this will actually happen. Seaman, whose father, a truck driver, settled in Meadowmere in the 1920s, is about as close as anyone is to being a historian of the neighborhood. "This place hasn't changed in 40 years," he said. "The trees have gotten a little taller, but that's about it."

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