No change orders for the problem-fraught Clinton G. Martin Park project were brought before the North Hempstead Town Board, according to Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio.
The New Hyde Park public park and pool is the subject of a hotly contested legal case between the town and Wantagh-based contractor Gramercy Group. The town originally granted a contract to Gramercy in 2017 for a $19.4 million bid to renovate the then-50-year-old park, which increased to $23 million once additional refurbishments and additions were built.
In May, Public Works Commissioner Paul DiMaria, whose office oversaw the repairs, wrote in a letter to Gramercy that some work, including domestic water piping, the pool’s overflow system and a sump that was not connected to a drain, had not been completed on time.
The contractor replied in a letter that there were discrepancies between what was presented in the contract and what was present on site. Now, the town is withholding $1.3 million for what it considers unfinished business, and Gramercy Group is claiming an additional $1.5 million in unpaid debts, a conflict that will play out in Bankruptcy Court. DiMaria resigned from his post effective Oct. 4.
De Giorgio, whose 6th District represents Port Washington, Plandome and Flower Hill among other areas and who was a lawyer prior to her public service career, said in an interview that she had asked the town attorney about the matter in a series of emails.
“The fact that we’re in court means somebody dropped the ball somewhere,” De Giorgio said. “So I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the fact that we’re in litigation over this means that someone dropped the ball.”
Gramercy Group says that change orders for the project totaled $1.5 million. When asked if the change orders should have come before the board, De Giorgio answered, “I believe so.”
“I think any time a change is made to any contract, the board needs to approve it, no matter how large or small,” De Giorgio said. “If there were, in fact, almost $2 million [of change orders], we were absolutely required to weigh in on that if that’s what really happened.”
The councilwoman noted that the board has approved changes for as little as “$500 in other projects, with respect to other contracts.”
“There is that rule, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t follow it,” De Giorgio said. “I’m not sure we ever voted on any of those cost overruns, and we definitely never voted on the change orders.”
De Giorgio added that the Department of Public Works “was obligated to notify the Town Board.”
“We have to look at change orders that change the dollar amounts,” De Giorgio said. “To the extent that money is being requested or additional monies are needed, the board should weigh in on that.”
In a phone call in June, Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said that the matter of Clinton Martin Park’s overruns was “never discussed at a public hearing.”
De Giorgio, who is seeking re-election for a third term in November, says that the solution lies in better management.
“It’s deeply troubling why this was allowed to go this way,” De Giorgio said.
A request for comment from Bosworth was unavailing.