Southern Brooklyn

How To Reduce The Number Of Potholes


THE COMMUTE: The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) will insist the reason we have so many potholes is due to the weather.  Of course, constant freezing and thawing of the roadway is the major cause of potholes. But there are other contributing factors that DOT does not want you to know about because, unlike the weather, they are in the city’s control.

Winter is slightly only more than a third over, yet potholes have already sprouted all over due to the unusually harsh winter. Usually we do not  see a massive amount of potholes until March. DOT claims to have already filled more than 50,000 potholes this January alone.

Budget cuts have necessitated furloughs, which the union opted for instead of layoffs, so there are fewer road crews making temporary cold patch repairs. These sometimes hold for only a few weeks and then have to be refilled again. Not very efficient, but DOT does not have much of a choice. It is their only option to keep their heads above water to keep the entire street and highway system from becoming hazardous. More permanent patch repairs and resurfacing are confined to Spring and Summer. According to CBS, the average response time for filling potholes increased from two days in 2007 to six days today due to budget cuts.

The situation is so serious that one morning, six cars were recently disabled along the Henry Hudson Parkway by the same group of potholes. Closer to home, sections of the Belt Parkway, eastbound, around Ocean Avenue and near the Mill Basin Bridge, were especially bad where it was necessary to slow down to 30 mph to avoid a jolting ride and possible damage to your car although the speed limit remained at 50 mph along these sections.  The advice to motorists is to slow down.  Most of those potholes have now been filled, at least until the next storm.

There was an especially bad pothole right in the center of Brighton 11th Street this week which did not pose much of a problem during the day if you were driving slowly and carefully.  At night, however, it was treacherous, possibly causing serious damage or injury.  It is unknown how long it was there, but as of three days ago it was repaired.  Other conditions on the same block were not addressed which means rather than cruising the streets for potholes, DOT is just running from one reported pothole to the next, ignoring unreported minor ones until they become major ones.

What to do if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole

You can sue the City but according to NYC’s pothole law the City must first have 45 days notice to allow them time to fix it, so reporting potholes is important. To file a claim with the city, you must file a claim with the Office of the Comptroller which now can be done online.

In 2001, I successfully sued the city by taking them to small claims court and received reimbursement for a $90 repair bill. In my case the city first tried to shift blame to the gas company, claiming an inferior repaving of a utility repair caused the pothole.  The gas company also denied any wrongdoing, and in the end they split the difference, each paying half.  It may not be easy, but it certainly is possible to collect from the city.

Types of road repairs

Road reconstruction is the most comprehensive repair. This is usually done together with the installation of new sewers and sidewalks and could last up to 20 years or more. A more common repair is when just the road is milled and resurfaced. This may last for only five years for a heavily traveled street when the surface is asphalt and the base is concrete. (A concrete surface instead of asphalt is much more expensive and is rarely done on local streets.  An example is Brighton Beach Avenue. That type of resurfacing can last as long as a total reconstruction.)

In this city, however, you never see local streets resurfaced every five years. You do see highways resurfaced as often as every three years because of greater wear and tear and faster vehicular speeds. In general, our streets are not resurfaced or reconstructed until they are severely deteriorated, but that is not always the case.

Last year Shore Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, which was in pretty decent shape, was resurfaced.  This immediately led to increased speeding. Other streets had a greater need. Most of the Belt Parkway was resurfaced about three years ago.  A few sections were neglected, for example near the Mill Basin Bridge, while other sections in Queens that were not in great need of repair were resurfaced.  The areas that were not resurfaced are those with the greatest number of potholes this year.

So how can the number of potholes be minimized?

  1. By reconstructing and resurfacing streets on a timely schedule without stretching out that schedule as long as possible. Roads should be in decent shape before the winter begins.
  2. Ensuring that utilities make proper repairs when filling holes by having adequate inspections.
  3. Having the proper number of employees so that repairs are done more efficiently rather than just responding to emergencies.
  4. Allowing need to determine which roads get resurfaced or reconstructed, not political factors.

Weather is just one factor that causes potholes, and is by no means the only factor.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA/NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Comment policy


  1. Resurface every 5 years? Moved to Ocean Ave. around 1988. A few years later they began to resurface it. Except the area between Avenues S & T. They did move the street drains, though. On the SE corner of S & Ocean the drain has been moved a few feet from the curb and out into the street. And the drain that was in the curb was removed.

    Drain doesn’t work right. We have had water run up onto the sidewalk and freeze, well down the block.

    Called the Community Board, they said everything would work right when that section was resurfaced, but that couldn’t be done because there was other work of some sort which had to be done.

    Now it is 2011. This block of Ocean Ave. has yet to be resurfaced and the street sewer drains which replaced the working units from the Campbell Foundry still don’t drain.

  2. Potholes are just nature’s bad attempt at making speed bumps. I love it when speeders go hopping down a street while going over 30.

  3. More then a third? No, More then half.

    Winter officially ends March 21. 1 Month and 1 week from now.

    If you consider Winter the period between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox (December 21st and March 21st respectfully) then aren’t we between half and two thirds right now?

    Even if you consider the entire month of December (which most informally do) It’s still more then a third over…..


  4. Okay more than half if you count the days. However, February has traditionally been the coldest month with the most storms. This year, though, that might be reversed since we are having a very good February thus far.

  5. They are probably prioritizing. I bet a bump doesn’t get the same priority as something reported as a hazardous condition.

  6. perhaps i should try telling them i just broke my fuckin rim over the same fucking pothole i reported 2 night ago, or that doesn’t count as hazardous?

  7. Back in 1993 the DOT repaved the length of Kings Highway. Much to my shock, two years later they dug portions of it up again to install gas mains and other utility lines. Look at now sometime. There’s money to be made in digging up the streets every few years for scutwork.

  8. I could go on forever with the shit roads we have. Ocean Ave has to be redone. It’s just complete shit. Both ways are shit. Ave V up until 14 to Coney is shit. Ave O From Ocean to Coney needs a resurface REAL bad. I reported this to 311 and nothing but shit happened. Fucking cocksuckers.

  9. Resurfacing has to be put in the budget. Then you have to wait years. A call to 311 won’t do anything.

    Remember when they tried to mix in ground glass when they resurfaced to bring down the costs. They called it “Glassphalt.” All the streets were sparkling. What originally was thought to be such a great idea, proved to be dangerous because they made the streets too slippery and it was discontinued after a few years.

  10. I remember when they used to tar in between the seams of black-top. It sealed off gaps for water to seep in, freeze and break up.
    Outside of New York it is still practiced and the roads last a bit longer.

  11. The side streets that were resurfaced this summer were not stripped low enough. The curbs are short and water builds up and freezes. The run off to the sewers sucks.

  12. The pothole has to be reported 45 days before. However, you should make a claim right after you have any damage. It is possible that the pothole was already reported numerous time by others.

  13. how about cutting all the unnecessary aid we have in new york why should we have to pay unemployment to a family, who lives in a rent controlled building, and has no desire of geting off their asses, while also collecting welfare/foodstamps.

  14. I think the DOT and whoever else is involved with the infastructure of our roads and streets are using inferior quality products for paving. I have travelled to many countries and they do not have the issues that we have with potholes. If a contractor of a building used inferior and was found out, they would be fined. I think an independent researcher should oversee the products used. ALSO, why do you need 10 men to fill one pothole? Sounds like I should supply a punchline. Just food for thought.

  15. It could be inferior quality products or maybe the crews are not sweeping out the pot hole so there’s no puddle of water in it when they pour the asphalt. My neighbor saw them do this once and he couldn’t believe it. It’s pothole repair 101.

  16. What makes you think that if taxes were raised they would go toward needed services? Wait they were just raised, Sales tax from 8 1/4% to 8.87%, Water taxes up double digits for the past three years, real estate taxes up every year even when assessments are going down, parking meters up every six months, ridiculous fines the latest being $270 for bikers going through red lights, etc.

    Okay so why are the potholes not fixed? Instead services are being cut.

  17. I agree. I think the materials are okay, but sometimes they don’t do the proper job. When the Belt Parkway is resurfaced, they never completely flatten out the seams between the lanes or tar the seam closed, so in a few years that’s where the water seeps through. Also, outside of NY, they seal minor cracks to delay the time it takes for them to become major. In NYC, nothing is repaired until its falling a part. They’ve never heard the proverb, a stitch in time saves nine.

  18. That’s called good customer service practice. “The Customers Always Right” which doesn’t mean the customer will be satisfied.

  19. Please. If the companies that get the contracts for roads would use just a little better material, the amount of potholes would dramatically decrease. Oh, then they couldn’t charge the city again for pothole repairs. Silly me

  20. The roads are resurfaced by in-house forces, not private contractors. The only times contractors repair roads, is when they rip it up for a repair, gas, electric, phone, cable, etc. They are required to restore the road the the same condition it was in prior to the repair. That means if the road was made of concrete, they cannot use asphalt for the repair. Sometimes, the repairs, are inferior and do not last.

  21. If you have suffered personal injury as a result of hitting a pothole you could be entitled to claim personal injury compensation. We are experts in handling Pothole Injury Compensation Claims and will give you open and honest advice on your chances of success in claiming compensation.

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