By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — The pothole problem in Manhattan has reached "emergency" levels and the city must do more to repair the damage, City Council members said Thursday.
Following a brutal winter that has battered streets with deep freezes, ice-melting chemicals and heavy snow-clearing machines, the Department of Transportation had received more than 8,962 pothole complaints through 311 this year as of Feb, 25. That's almost 35 percent more than the same period last year, officials said.
Across Manhattan, the city's complaint hotline 311 has received 1,793 complaints about poor street conditions on file that are unresolved or have just been resolved within the past five days.
To help repair the streets, pothole teams have been out in force with an extra $2 million in funding, filling an estimated 125,000 potholes so far this year — a huge jump from 2010, officials said.
"After the unexpectedly bad winter weather, DOT has engaged in an all-out war against the potholes," Deputy Commissioner David Woloch told the council at a hearing called in response to what's been dubbed "Pothole Pandemonium" on city roads.
But council members said that, despite the efforts, the situation has reached a level of crisis that they have never seen, blocking roads, damaging cars, and putting drivers and pedestrians at risk.
"At this particular moment the number of potholes we have in this city is at the level of emergency," said Upper Manhattan City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who said that when he drives his daughter to school on the Upper West Side, he feels like he's navigating an obstacle course as he chooses between jumping into potholes or veering into other lanes.
With pothole season in full swing, it now takes the department a little less than three days, on average, to fix a pothole, DOT Deputy Commissioner for Roadway Maintenance Galileo Orlando said. Still, about 25 percent of repairs take longer than four days, with about 95 percent of potholes filled within 14 days.
Orlando said that a call to 311 operators means a pothole must be filled within 30 days. But Rodriguez said he'd like to see large potholes treated with more urgency.
"The fact that it can take 30 days is unacceptable" he said.
Numbers show that the Upper West Side has been the worst-hit neighborhood in Manhattan, with ten complaints of pot holes or street cave-ins filed with 311 in the first three days of March.
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who represents the district, described the situation in the neighborhood as "unbelievable."
"There's so many of them...It's very dangerous, particularly for seniors," she said, adding that the city is putting itself at risk for lawsuits from pedestrians and drivers who get hurt or damage their cars on city roads.
To help alert the DOT to the problem, the she said she is planning to do a walking survey of every street in the neighborhood this weekend to compile a list of streets that still need fixing.
West 78th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues and West 95th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue have been particularly bad, she said.
But the problem's not over yet.
Tens of thousands of new potholes are expected to form though the remainder of the winter, Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca said.