Is Brooklyn Heights sinking? It might sound far-fetched, but judging by the amount of craters in our neighborhood streets, we might be closer to swimming with the fishes than you think.
There are sizeable chunks missing from Hicks Street at both Remsen and Clark streets, another one at Poplar and Henry Streets and a smattering of smaller holes on State and Clinton streets. Not to mention the giant crater on Pineapple Street between Hicks and Willow Streets that opened up this summer. Whew!
So it’s no surprise that locals are wondering whether our little nabe is falling through the cracks. With grumblings about sinkholes and potholes and frequent calls to 311, I want to make sure we are all clear on the details.
Sinkholes and potholes are both dangerous to pedestrians and drivers, but they are not the same thing and of course, are not addressed by the same city agency.
“A pothole is when there is damage to the roadway, and it’s filled with asphalt for a temporary fix,” said Craig Chin, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.
A sinkhole is an entirely different problem caused by a leak or broken pipe under the road. The Department of Environmental Protection repairs those.
But even if you know which agency handles which hole, it doesn’t mean you’re any closer to filling the void. The Department of Transportation evaluated two of the neighborhood’s potholes — on Hicks and Clark streets, and Hicks and Remsen streets — only to declare them actually sinkholes. But because of extensive back ups at the DEP, no progress has been made.
Some residents say they have requested repaving at the intersection of Adams and Tillary streets for over five years, only to be told they are still on the waiting list.
“It’s not just an aesthetic problem,” said Lakhma Choudhary, who passes the damaged roadway daily. “I’ve personally witnessed several pedestrians trip and fall because of these large divots.”
But even if the potholes do get filled, it’s often only a temporary solution. “We can keep putting asphalt on top of it and two weeks later the hole will reappear,” said Chin. “What really needs to happen is the road needs to be resurfaced.” But because the DOT is so backlogged on repairs, holes fall down the priority list unless they pose a major threat to traffic.
And our sinking state is not about to get any better. Winter usually results in an entirely new set of potholes because the constant freeze and thaw combined with traffic makes the concrete significantly more vulnerable.
Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn Heights.
The Kitchen Sink
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