Bay Ridge is dangerously close to collapsing in on itself and being swallowed up by the earth, say residents and civic leaders who are demanding that the city repair the broken century-old sewer and water pipes they say have created a number of sinkholes and collapses on neighborhood streets.
Residents say that the massive 20-foot sinkhole on 79th Street near Fourth Avenue (inset) that nearly gobbled up a car last Thursday is just the latest in a litany of street cave ins and depressions that have formed throughout the community in recent months.
“This city is falling apart,” said Diane Wood, who lives just a few paces from the 79th Street sinkhole. “They need to do something about it instead of just looking at it.”
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said her office has logged several complaints about sinkholes and street collapses.
Roughly a month before a section of 79th Street was sucked into the earth, a 70-foot-deep pit opened up on 92nd Street and Third Avenue. In both cases cracked water mains were to blame.
But Beckmann says several other sinkholes have appeared in the neighborhood recently, including:
• Sixth Avenue between Ovington Avenue and 72nd Street, where Beckmann says small sinkholes and depressions have been forming from a leaking water pipe running underneath the avenue.
• 78th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, where a small sinkhole opened in July.
• 92nd Street and Marine Avenue, where a small sinkhole formed roughly two blocks from the 70-foot chasm at Third Avenue.
Some fear that the sinkholes and depressions that are popping up around Bay Ridge, which are a far cry from the giant holes found in Guatemala and can usually be patched with a dollop of asphalt, are a symptom of something falling apart under our feet.
“When things start to break down in places, it’s a sight that the system is going and you need to work on it,” said Bay Ridge resident Mike Morris, who wants the city to tear up the streets and replace the neighborhood’s entire underground infrastructure.
Others want the city to take action before a sinkhole opens right underneath a hapless resident.
“God forbid, somebody is inside one of the cars that falls in the next time this happens and they die,” resident Donna O’Connor said. “They need to fix it now.”
Yet the city says it’s not sure if all the sinkholes and depressions are caused by an aging infrastructure.
A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Preservation said workers are still digging toward the broken sewers mains at both 92nd and 79th streets, and it remains unclear if the breaks were caused by old age.
“We don’t know for sure yet what caused it,” the spokesman said.
No matter what the cause, local pols think it’s high time to replace the 100-year-old pipes before the streets give out underneath everyone.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that our streets must literally collapse before getting the attention of the pertinent agencies,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “The city needs to stop ignoring the elephant in the room.”
State sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) agreed with his longtime sparring partner, claiming that a large-scale renovation of the city’s water and sewer pipes would save more money — and possibly lives — than repairing sinkholes whenever they pop up.
“It’s been band-aid, band-aid, band-aid, but eventually you need surgery,” Golden said.