Neighborhood alliance looks to preserve Dumbo's unique streetscape

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DUMBO -

A neighborhood group is trying to preserve Dumbo's unique streetscape that they say could disappear soon.

Dumbo has conducted a $20 million street, water and sewer renovation project, and the Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance says many of its well-known Belgian blocks or cobblestones have been removed, taking away the character of the community.

Many refer to them as cobblestones, but the group says they are technically Belgian blocks, which were hand-cut and placed in specific locations for a reason.

Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance says more than half of the hand-cut Belgian blocks have been removed since it achieved historic district status in 2007.

The four-year renovation project will replace water and sewer lines from Main to Jay streets and from Front to Water streets. It is now in the second and final phase.

Residents have noticed that streets are being dug up and the Belgian blocks are being taken out but not returned to the street.

In a statement New York City Department of Transportation said: "All the Belgian blocks that can be salvaged will be reused and the project will observe all the ADA requirements. It will also include reconstruction of the roadways and resetting of the cobblestones, bike lanes, ADA-compliant sidewalks, pedestrian ramps, crosswalks, inclusion of a plaza in Anchorage Place, and the updating of the sewers, a water main and private utilities."

The city Department of Design and Construction said: "The contractor is required to remove the asphalt and cobblestones without damaging them; label the stones so they can be returned to their original locations; transport and store the cobblestones in a way so that they're not damaged; and clean the cobblestones before returning them to the street at the end of the project. Any stones damaged beyond repair must be replaced at no cost to the city."

The alliance says it wants the city to be mindful of the work it is doing in the community.

"I think what we stand and what a lot of neighborhoods stand to lose with development that isn't monitored is some of the personality of the places. We lose the sense of place," the Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance said in a statement.

Going forward, the city will use the same contractor, who is aware of its position. The DOT says the project is expected to be done by spring 2024.

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