Harlem Tops List of Neighborhoods With Streets in Bad Shape

By Jeff Mays on March 12, 2014 11:21am 

 Manhattan has the highest share of substandard streets with almost 43 percent being rated as in fair or poor condition, according to a report from the Center for an Urban future.
Manhattan has the highest share of substandard streets with almost 43 percent being rated as in fair or poor condition, according to a report from the Center for an Urban future.
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DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

HARLEM — The roadways of Harlem are in the worst condition among all of New York City's streets, according to a newly released report from the Center for an Urban Future about the city's crumbling infrastructure, which would take an estimated more than $47 billion to fix.

Roughly 66 percent of the streets in West Harlem's Community Board 9 are in fair or poor condition. East Harlem's Community Board 11 ranks second with 53 percent of its streets in fair to poor condition.

"There are a lot of bad roads throughout New York City but Community Board 9 takes the cake," said  Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the Center for an Urban Future. "Not enough attention has been paid to resurfacing the streets in Harlem."

In fact, Manhattan has the highest share of substandard streets with almost 43 percent being rated as in fair or poor condition. Six of the 10 community boards with the worst road conditions are in the borough.

The problem is particularly acute in Northern Manhattan, said Bowles who attributed the problem to neglect, likely due to a lack of money for repairs.

The streets of Harlem are not the only pieces of the city's infrastructure in need of repair. Overall, New York City's infrastructure would need $47.3 billion to repair or replace existing infrastructure throughout the city.

More than 1,000 miles of the city's water mains are 100 years old or older. There were 403 water main breaks last year.

Of the 728 miles of subway signals, 269 miles are past their 50-year useful life and 26 percent are more than 70 years old. The city's water system also delivers 24 percent less water than it takes in, due to leaks. This is almost double the standard industry loss of 10 to 15 percent.

"A lot of the agencies that oversee infrastructure in New York City are making tough decisions about where to put the limited money they have," Bowles said.

That includes the Department of Transportation, which has focused on repairing the city's bridge infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the number of lane miles of completely reconstructed, not just repaved, roads dropped to 80 in fiscal year 2012-2013 from 136 in the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

In 2000 the city set a goal of resurfacing 1,000 miles of lane per year but has reached that goal only three time since then, coming in at less than 800 last year, according to the report.

Many of the streets in Harlem are beyond the point of simple paving and need to be reconstructed, Bowles said.

DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said the agency disagrees with some of the statistics in the center's report. The DOT resurfaced nearly 16 miles of road in CB 9 last year.

In terms of resurfacing 1,000 miles of lanes per year, Mosquera said the agency sets lane resurfacing goals each year based on its budget and has met those goals for the last few years. DOT plans to resurface 1,000 miles of road this year and has already repaired over 200,000 potholes.

CB 11 Chairman Matthew Washington says the board hasn't received many complaints about potholes or rough road conditions, but they are working with DOT to improve traffic flow along Park Avenue where there was a fatal accident at 102nd Street last year.

"In terms of the road conditions the safety of individuals is our main concern," Washington said.

The DOT recently unveiled a plan to make traffic improvements along Park Avenue, and Washington said he was happy about other recent road changes such as protected bike lanes along Second Avenue.

Among the recommendations to address the city's infrastructure needs are improving the capital planning process, completing an accurate survey of the city's infrastructure needs and identifying new revenue sources to pay for improvements.

With Mayor Bill de Blasio's focus on inequality in the city, improving its infrastructure may also be a way to create middle income jobs and stimulate the economy, according to the report.

"I'm hopeful that the De Blasio administration and the Cuomo Administration will make this a priority and invest in infrastructure," said Bowles.

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