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City Vows to Drain West 33rd Street's Smelly Puddle

By Jill Colvin | August 8, 2011 6:46am | Updated on August 8, 2011 7:31am
"As long as it's a smell it's going to go away," Todd Koplin vowed.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — The days of the giant, smelly puddle on West 33rd Street could be numbered.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation have teamed up to battle the putrid-smelling, stagnant water between Fifth and Sixth avenues, which has been making locals’ stomachs turn.

The DEP will soon begin conducting an engineering study that will explore the feasibility of installing a catch basin to ease the pooling on the stretch, said department spokesman Angel Román. The catch basin storm drain would sit adjacent to the curb, draining water from the street, where the puddle grows to the size of a rancid pond after it rains.

At the same time, the city’s Department of Transportation is exploring ways to address the sidewalk, curb and roadway grading, which locals have blamed for the mess.

"In early July, DOT contacted DEP about a ponding condition at 33rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. A site meeting with both agencies was held to discuss the ponding and our work together to address it,” Román said.

The news was welcome relief to local business owners who say the foul odor that emanates from the puddle is driving customers away and making work miserable for deliverymen.

"I'm too happy!" said Paul Lee, 60, manager of Rae's Deli, grinning ear to ear.

Lee had complained that the stinky, stagnant water made it impossible for the deli to keep its doors open and said his workers were forced to sweep the streets two to three times a day, but still couldn’t keep mosquitoes at bay.

"A lot of customers, they complain. When they walk down the street, they're like 'Ugh,'" he said, covering his nose and mouth and mimicking an expression of disgust. "It's too much."

While he acknowledged major road work could be an inconvenience for businesses along the stretch, he said any temporary pain would be well worth it to rid the block of the stink once and for all.

John Bajada, the superintendent of 20 W. 33rd St., who had also complained of the stench, was equally pleased to hear the news.  

“Oh, that’s good. That’s a very big help!” said Bajada, 52, who had reported numerous complaints from his tenants and had complained to 311.

Bajada said he was nervous when he noticed a new alternate side “no parking” sign had been erected along the road. He thought it was meant as a measure to help clean the street, which locals say has grown considerably worse in recent months.

“I thought that’s all they were going to do... [But] It wouldn’t have fixed it," he said.

“If we don’t see water there, that would be great,” he said, crossing his fingers.