Southern Brooklyn

Streets Paved With Good Intentions Won’t Solve The Pothole Predicament

Source: _chrisUK/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Since the snow and ice evaporated, most drivers probably assumed maneuvering along city streets would be trouble-free. But now they have to deal with another aggravating upshot generated by this year’s severe weather — a plague of potholes. They’re not nearly as harsh as the 10 plagues God smite on the Egyptians in Exodus, but the proliferation of gaps and fissures in the pavement are, nonetheless, plentiful and problematical.

Under ordinary conditions the city’s roads are rough enough, but after two months of wicked weather and frigid temperatures, those thoroughfares have taken a licking and keep on cracking, creating one final winter souvenir — an obstacle course that scars our streets. Drivers who don’t avoid those fissures typically experience unnerving jolts or, worse, costly vehicle damage.

The only roads likely to be worse than our pothole-peppered streets may be those pitted with bomb craters in war-torn Afghanistan.

A recent Daily News article noted that a study, conducted before this winter, by TRIP, a non-profit transportation research group, found that it annually costs city drivers an average of $2,300 to repair damage to suspensions, rims, fenders and frames — frequently requiring front-end alignments — as well as blown tires. That figure excludes medical costs for potential chiropractic treatment after sustaining a severe jarring from a large crack.

The same article noted that AAA New York reported over 10,000 flat tire calls in January, largely due to potholes.

Whenever seasonal changes involve a series of freeze-thaw cycles, potholes materialize ahead of crocuses, natural greenery and April showers. When motorists spot or hit potholes they are urged to call 311 with the location. However, due to the excess of potholes citywide, unless it’s exceptionally large, don’t expect a prompt response.

And don’t think the plethora of potholes diminishes as winter fades. April showers not only bring May flowers, but also tend to aggravate fragile pavement following a wet winter and exposure to plenty of road salt.
In a random drive around my neighborhood — bordered by Nostrand Avenue, Knapp Street, Avenue Z and Avenue X — to find out how holey local streets measured up, I counted more than 30 potholes. None of them were particularly big, but more than a few were large enough to shake and rattle my four-door sedan.

Asphalt concrete is the material of choice for heavily trafficked streets and roads, like those in New York City and other urban areas that has been widely used since the 1920s. With all the technological advances made since then, you’d think some bright civil engineer would have come up with a cost-effective plan to alter or improve road paving materials with a durable and indestructible substance for our frail roads and streets.

Whether its enhanced ingredients or something cooked up in a laboratory, a sturdier, more durable mix is required to offset the annual pothole predicament.

Patching potholes also leaves loose gravel that may be propelled and strike passing vehicles windshields and pedestrians. Our roadways need to be properly paved, not constantly re-patched, because no sooner is there another bout of rough weather than more potholes turn up — or down in this case — sometimes undoing previous repairs.

It certainly would be a drawn-out, financially-restrictive project to resurface every stretch of road, but when a planned resurfacing project does take place it should be repaired with a substance capable of holding up under the rigors of weather extremes common to our region.

Instead of posing for a blatant photo-op to fill a single pothole, as Mayor Bill de Blasio did three weeks ago, he should seek advice from Department of Transportation officials and engineers to develop a strategy to ensure the city’s heavily-traveled infrastructure is less vulnerable to Mother Nature’s wrath.

There’s little one can do to protect against hitting a pothole, especially after nightfall, when drivers may not see one until it’s too late. In any case, motorists should exercise caution, stay alert and remind themselves that potholes are out there.

The city claims to be doing its best to keep up with the recurring pothole problem, but no matter how you look at it, New York is a hole of a town. The DOT recently reported that it had filled more than 140,000 potholes, the largest number, to that point, since 2010. By now, I’m sure that number has increased and should continue to climb.

The pothole situation will likely afflict us for months, as spring rains further damage fragile pavements. No matter how much overtime road crews accumulate, it’s going to take months before our roads are sufficiently patched. And, as we’ve see year after year, band-aid patchwork is only a temporary remedy.

The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the perilous streets of New York are paved with shoddy materials that spawn a pockmarked roadscape.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  1. As I stated on Monday, we would not have so many potholes if the streets were resurfaced every ten years or so instead of every 30 or 40 years. And we wouldnt have to spend a small fortune each year on temporary repairs which only hold until the next snow storm or freeze and thaw cycle. A good asphalt resurfacing lasts at least ten years. Concrete resurfacing lasts 20 or more but is much more expensive.

  2. What streets have not been repaved in 30 or 40 years? I believe the DOT aims for seven years (I’d have to check). I know they miss some spots, but I can recall just about every street around the area I’ve lived for 30 years being repaved multiple times.

  3. I’ve lived on the same street for 27 years. No way it’s been paved 3 times since I’ve lived here.

  4. And there is a difference between resurfacing and repaving. Neither happens every 7 years!

  5. My street was paved only twice. First in 1950 and then in 1985 the same time every street in Manhattan Beach was reconstructed which includes also replacing sewer lines. No street except West End Avenue and Shore Blvd have been resurfaced since around 1985. I know of no other neighborhood where every street was resurfaced at the same time.

    Previously I lived in East Flatbush from 1949 to 1975. Utica Avenue was resurfaced for the first time after I moved out around 1977. It had not been resurfaced for at least 30 years with the exception of the part above Montgomery Street where a layer of asphalt was thrown over the cobblestones around 1957. It has not been resurfaced since then. The wide portion of Linden Blvd was also last resurfaced in the mid-1970s.

    If you look at the DOT website there is a page which supposedly shows the last time your street was resurfaced. But what they do is every tmie a pothole is filled, the entire block is checked of as resurfaced. So it is entirely misleading.

  6. There are three levels. Reconstruction which includes replacing the subsurface and sewer lines, resurfacing, where the street is milled then resurfaced, and just the fixing of potholes.

  7. The numbered streets in Brighton Beach were first built in the 1920s and were concrete not asphalt. Except for filling minor cracks, nothing was done at all for at least 50 years. Then a coat of asphalt was thrown over the concrete because the streets had become worn and slippery. Brighton Beach Avenue was reconstructed entirely with concrete, not asphalt so it still is in decent shape for the past 25 years or so.

  8. And speaking of paving, anybody remember the dirt road? 22nd Street Between Voorhies and Jerome. I lived on 22nd between Z and Y starting in 1962 and I don’t think it was paved yet by the time I got my first apartment in 1976.

  9. Ha they replaced East 17th St between Ave X and W is still a roller coaster never mind this patch work. If it was done right this would not happen. Get on the ball DOT. Pot hole madness around Brooklyn.

  10. If potholes were filled properly they would be less likely to recur. For example, look at the picture above. The hole is filled with water. The pothole has to be completely dry for a lasting repair.

  11. I don’t agree. It is just a temporary repair. No one knows when the next freeze thaw cycle will occur. Are you saying DOT just throws asphalt on top of the water? How can you tell that from the picture? The repair could have failed and then it rained after to fill the hole. Although the repair in the picture looks fresh, you have no way of knowing if the pothole was wet or dry when it was filled unless you watched the repair being done.

  12. I saw, on one occasion, a crew show up to repair a pothole in front of my neighbor’s house and the pothole was not dry. When my neighbor pointed that out to them they became nasty and belligerent with him. I can only assume this happens all around the city.

  13. Regardless of often or not the streets are paved, potholes are bound to keep popping up as long as they use shoddy materials that can’t stand up to weather extremes — in any season.

  14. Why are you so sure the materials are shoddy? What about Bagels comment below, that they fill the holes even if they are wet and that;s why they don’t hold?

    Also, are you saying that how often streets are resurfaced are not a factor if potholes develop? If so, why are newly resurfaced streets pothole free?

  15. They’re shoddy because potholes recur year after year and they’re repatched or roads are repaved with materials that DO NOT stop them from reappearing. You’d think after all these years, someone would wake up and suggest they try a better, more durable pothole repair solution. It ain’t rocket science!

  16. You didn’t answer my question regarding the repair cycle to repair streets which is not every 7 years as Ned believes. Except for a few streets that are resurfaced more often, most are not resurfaced in 30 years or more. One exception is West End Avenue that has been resurfaced three times in te past 30 years. That I believe is the major reason why the streets have so many potholes. The highways are another issue. I don’t believe the seams between the lanes are properly sealed because that is where the potholes first develop.

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