Potholes and sinkholes dominate Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights streetscape

The crane dug into the dirt, filling yet another bottomless sinkhole over six feet wide on a breezy Friday afternoon near the corner of 77th Street and Sixth Avenue,  the latest of 69 potholes and sinkholes confirmed by this paper as of the end of July, 2017, all in the Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights area.

“It’s 2017, and you still feel like you’re riding on a horse and buggy,” said President of the Dyker Heights Civic Association Fran Vella-Marrone. “Our streets are the emergency situation and these are things that are vital. It behooves my city to fix this, and we’re not correcting the base problem.”

For the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the city has allocated .17 percent of its expense budget to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The $140,953,229 the DOT has received will be split among the five boroughs, of which an even smaller fraction will be spent on Brooklyn street maintenance according to expense budget on the website of the New York City Council.

“This money is not nearly enough to do anything. I think if you gave the DOT the funding, they would do it. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and it’s dangerous,” said Vella-Marrone.

She regularly battles the issue as a community representative, along with Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, in whose catchment area the neighborhoods are located. The women are among those working toward a more permanent solution by pushing for trench restoration.

“When you have a recurring pothole, more often than not it will be related to an underlying water condition. But, trench restoration is very expensive and requires new infrastructure beneath the street,” said Beckmann.

Map by Danielle Kogan
Map created by Danielle Kogan utilizing Google Maps

Two years ago, Beckmann said she submitted 15 different locations in the community board area to the DOT for review after $60 million was allocated to New York City to be spent on road conditions. The only one of that group that the DOT will be working on is near a school, but construction will not begin until 2021.

The remaining money will be spent for trench restoration in other neighborhoods. The NYC DOT said a typical block of trench restoration is estimated to cost between $1-1.3 million.

According to reports, the de Blasio’s administration has so far invested $1.6 billion in road paving. Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the NYC DOT had exceeded its Fiscal Year resurfacing target by 24 lane-miles. The NYC DOT has repaved 4,000 lane-miles since, including resurfaced roads on Seventh Avenue. The DOT said 358 lane miles in Brooklyn have been repaired between 2016 and 2017.

“Since the Bill de Blasio era, we have repaired 320,592 potholes in Brooklyn,” said a DOT spokesperson.

The DOT spokesperson also said the city’s average pothole response time was just under three days in 2016-2017. “In the 2016 fiscal year, we repaired 59,315 potholes in Brooklyn compared to 50,155 in the 2017 fiscal year,” said the DOT spokesperson.

“There’s nothing flashy about repaving a road, but it is a key benchmark for judging the efficacy of government,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “From Bay Ridge and Bed-Stuy to Clinton Hill and Coney Island, smoother roads are making communities safer across Brooklyn.”

In this paper’s on-the-ground research, each instance of an open pothole was at least the length of a forearm. Many of the sinkholes have filled with trash, even though they were sectioned off with yellow tape, cones and safety barriers. The average length of any given sinkhole, sealed or on its way to opening again, was about six feet.

One resident, having seen this paper document yet another dip in the road, parked his car by the corner of 94th Street and Third Avenue and said, “Brooklyn is becoming a third world country. The roads got even worse after the winter.”

And that makes sense. Weathering that creates a crack in the road is then expanded by the weight and pressure of the cars driving over it. As it rains and the temperature changes, the water seeps in and freezes under the road’s surface, creating pressure on the roadway.

“In the interim,” said Beckmann, “I’d urge everyone to keep calling into 311 if they see a recurring pothole. The sooner we find out what the problem is, the more likely we are to make repairs.”

By press time, the Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for sinkhole repairs, had not responded to a request for comment.

An interactive map with pictures of all 69 locations documenting the research conducted in Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge area can be found at http://bit.ly/2v9wn6Q.

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