With No Oversight, City Contractors Destroy Our Roads

This ditch at Voorhies Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road is a danger to motorists and pedestrians, but the city's independent contractors are in no rush to repair it.

Attention drivers! Nevermind those iPod-wearing pedestrians, law-skirting bikers and cellphone-wielding motorists – you’ve got another thing to worry about when driving around Sheepshead Bay: shoddy workmanship.

The neighborhood’s streets are pocked with open holes and faulty repair work done by city contractors, sometimes left unchecked for months or longer.

Click to enlarge

Just this Wednesday, I witnessed one car almost lose its wheel to the above photographed ditch – a sewer drain that’s been missing since construction on Sheepshead Bay Road wrapped up months ago. We snapped the photo to the right moments later when another vehicle almost did the same. The planks of wood supposedly “protecting” vehicles and pedestrians from falling in have become displaced, making it a particularly treacherous spot for those making a right turn from eastbound Voorhies Avenue onto Sheepshead Bay Road – or just about anyone walking in the crosswalk.

And don’t think for a second that this is an easy trap to get out of. We’ve seen what happens when a car falls into a sewer drain. It ain’t pretty.

According to Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, this is a common problem around the neighborhood caused by a lack of oversight over independent contractors hired by the city.

“The city uses contractors to do certain road work. They do the job half-assed and move on, and who is watching? Nobody,” Scavo told Sheepshead Bites. “They are paid and the work is never completed.”

Scavo thinks the work above is connected to a pedestrian ramp requested by the community “some time ago.” DOT told them work would need to be done to the sewer, and contractors were hired. But the mess above is what was left behind, as work was never completed.

“The Community Board calls 311, then we contact our DOT liason to try and get [repairs] done quicker,” Scavo said of the board’s effort to prod the city into action. “Many times we end up pleading because they say they are not responsible because the contractor is going to come back and finish the job. Ha-ha.”

And it’s not just contractors, Scavo said. Utility companies like Con Ed with underground infrastructure frequently dig up large stretches of city blocks, but fail to repair them effectively. Locations like this are found all throughout the neighborhood, according to Community Board 15, which has received complaints about Neptune Avenue near Coney Island Avenue, Irwin Street in Manhattan Beach, several spots on Avenue T between McDonald Avenue and Ocean Avenue, and on Ocean Avenue from Kings Highway to Emmons Avenue – to name just a few.

The issue is such a concern that Scavo brought it up directly with Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a powwow in Brighton Beach. The mayor said that the agencies do their best to coordinate with contractors and utility companies, but admitted it could be done better. In the future, he hopes for a hi-tech solution.

“I still think somebody’s got to be able to invent a machine that comes along, digs it up, adds some chemicals to it, puts it back down and keeps going down the street,” said the mayor. “But, so far, as I’m told, nobody has a machine like that.”

The Department of Transportation did not respond to our requests for comment on this article.


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