Utilities mostly back, traffic still disrupted after sinkhole opens up in Sunset Park

A day after a massive sinkhole swallowed up the majority of the intersection of 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, things are distinctly not back to normal there.

Traffic access to the intersection is prohibited, with vehicles diverted to adjacent streets, as city agencies work to repair the damage caused when the roadway opened up on Tuesday, August 4, just after 7 a.m.

Cops, firefighters and a number of city agencies were on at the corner for the better part of the day Tuesday. The Office of Emergency Management and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were on scene shortly after first responders.

While no injuries were immediately reported, business owners nearby told press that there were people crossing the intersection at the time of its cave-in that were able to get to safety in time.

“Upon arrival at the scene, we found the hole [to be] approximately 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep,” said FDNY Deputy Chief Peter Leicht of Division 8 adding that – by around 11 a.m. that morning – there were no apparent gas leaks at the site. “At this point, everything is intact and, at this time, it is apparent that [there has been] some sort of water main issue.”

The agencies on scene – including the Department of Buildings, there to look into the structural integrity of the building closest to the sinkhole which, as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, had not been deemed an issue – worked closely with the utility companies which, officials said, would likely have to shut off for the surrounding area.

Water was indeed shut off along Fifth Avenue from 62nd to 64th Street, with the announcement of the shut-off made just before noon on Tuesday. By just before noon on Wednesday, utility services had been almost totally restored, according to Community Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer, who told this paper that it was his understanding that only one building in the affected area was still without gas.

“Work is continuing to fix the hole and repair the water main but, as of this morning, everyone has water,” confirmed a spokesperson for DEP just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

DEP Deputy Commissioner Jim Roberts told press at the scene on Tuesday that the incident did indeed involve a 48-inch cast iron water main that crews were in the process of shutting down. “As the chief mentioned, we are working with the utilities – including the gas companies and electric – and they’re in the process and ready to turn [everything] off. We’ll know further as we move along who, if anybody, is impacted utility-wise, whether it’s electric or gas.”

“We’re not in a position to make that statement right now,” he went on, noting that work at the site would take up “the better part of the day.”

This is not the first sinkhole to hit southwest Brooklyn. Three summers ago, a series of sinkholes opened in Bay Ridge, including a huge one at 92nd Street and Third Avenue that caused problems for nearby residents and businesses for months.

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