Dept. of Working for the Public


Photo by Karen Zautyk/ Contractor using bucket crane carefully removes storm-toppled tree from house and utility wires on Hamilton Ave., Kearny.

By Karen Zautyk

This story is about some people who rarely get credit for the work they do. They are taken for granted, until something goes wrong. They fix it, and no one even says “thank you.” Consider this a “thank you.”
We’re talking about the folks at the Department of Public Works — and not just in this town, but in all our towns that are still recovering from Hurricane Irene. In this article, though, we’ll focus on Kearny, since it’s the Kearny DPW that has been most visible to us as we travel around our community.
They worked exhaustively through and after the storm, and part of their job was keeping you safe. The DPW set up the barricades that warned you of downed trees and, especially important, blocked the flooded roadways, to prevent drivers from getting in over their heads. Perhaps even literally, considering how deep the waters were in some places.
Last week, we spoke with Gerry Kerr, department superintendent — spoke with him, that is, after some phone tag, because he was usually out on the road, busy superintending. Well after the hurricane, DPW employees were still all over Kearny, monitoring things and cleaning up debris.
Prior to Irene’s visit, Kerr told us, the department obtained sheets of plywood and palettes of sandbags and loaded up its trucks with the aforementioned barricades, so they could be readily placed where needed.
Six of the DPW’s nine employees, including Kerr, went on duty at 11 p.m. on Saturday the 27th and worked straight through until noon the next day.
That Monday morning, all nine were on duty. “Everyone was committed to storm work,“ Kerr said.
Part of the job entailed checking and maintaining the town’s four storm water pump stations — one on the Belleville Pike, one on Harrison Ave. and two on John Hay Ave. east of Schuyler. These pumps take the storm runoff and deposit it in the meadows, where it is less of a threat.
DPW also provided dumpsters for residents of Devon Terrace and Hoyt St., where extensive flooding had occurred. “There was a lot of basement damage,” Kerr noted.
But the bulk of the post-Irene job involved the trees. DPW even brought in an outside contractor, Downes Tree Service of Hawthorne, to help with the extensive cleanup. We watched Downes at work on Hamilton Ave. in the Manor section last Wednesday morning, removing a massive tree from the roof of one home. This entailed not merely lifting it, but cutting off its branches and safely untangling it from electrical wires. The branches and trunk were then cut up and removed.
“We lost at least 20 large trees, mostly in the northern end of town,” Kerr said. “Ninety percent of the tree work was north of Midland.”
Tree removal went on continuously most of last week. “The last one was cleared on Thursday,” he said.
But the DPW work wasn’t over. “We’re going street by street, picking up broken limbs and removing those that are hanging in the trees,” Kerr told us late Thursday afternoon.
We recommend checking out the DPW page on the Town of Kearny’s website, You’ll get a bit of an education as to the extensive responsibilities these municipal workers have. We did.
And by the way, DPW, thank you.

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