Forest Avenue property sees impact from construction

Saturday, December 03, 2016 - Updated: 4:09 AM

By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

As Amsterdam officials try to quell raw sewage discharging into the North Chuctanunda Creek, one resident along Forest Avenue is dealing with the impact to their property.

As of Tuesday, a construction vehicle was still parked in a fenced off area on a piece of property shared by Joseph Benanto and Passanno Paints. The property has been the main staging area for construction crews since the summer when a sewage leak was discovered near the property.

Richard Cunningham, president and CEO of Passonno Paints, said the city or contractors may have asked the store manager if materials and equipment could be placed on the land adjacent to the store, but regardless he would have granted permission.

However, Benanto who has lived on Forest Avenue for almost 45 years said the strip of land, which is owned by the store, has served as his yard.

"I got permission when I moved here, because we built an add on to the garage," Benanto said. "We did all the work here, we cleaned it and there was woods all the way out to the stream."

Benanto said there used to be a stone circular driveway to his home, several trees, flowers his wife had planted and an active bocce court where the land has since been torn up or disturbed. There is a still a paved driveway to his home, but the gravel driveway connected to it and formed a "U" shape. All of these features were on the land owned by the business, but used by Benanto.

Cunningham recalled reaching an informal agreement with Benanto many years ago, which allowed Benanto to utilize the unused land. Cunningham said the Passonno Paints property is owned by the business's real estate branch, TC Realty.

"I didn't care if he used it," Cunningham said. "We certainly didn't write something down and it was casual."

Cunningham also did not have any issue with the city excavating the land as long as it's "put back in order" and is usable.

"It should be put back in an order that's better than they found it," Cunningham said. "It is not bothering us and we want to work with the city."

Benanto said the city had told him they would "put it back together" to how the land was before the leak, but he questioned when that would be since the issue has been ongoing since the summer and there is no clear date yet.

City Engineer Richard Miller confirmed the city would restore the land, but he could not provide a specific timeline since it's an ongoing issue.

He said the land was not initially excavated as extensively, but it was dug up further to determine if there was a pipe there at one point. There was no pipe found at the location.

Miller said the construction vehicle has remained at the site to be accessible for whatever work might be required of it.

Miller said there could be a manhole structure installed alongside sewer infrastructure near the edge of the creek along the excavated property, which would be used to route the sewage back into the sewer system. He said the city would not proceed with attempting that solution until test results after recent repairs are known.

Besides the property, there is also still the familiar smell in the air, which had tipped off the city to the leak this past summer.

"When it's running it's not bad, but as soon as the stream stops a little bit you get sewer smell," Benanto said while standing outside of his home. "Just to see that stuff going into the creek bothers me."

Benanto said he typically would have bought a 12- to 15-foot tree during the holiday season and decorated with lights in the yard, but this year he does not have any spot to place the tree.

He somewhat jokingly said this year he was going to decorate the machinery left at the site for Christmas and put some lights on it instead of the tree.