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Midtown's Smelly Puddle Still Stinks, But Help Could be On the Way

By  Mary Johnson and Jill Colvin | July 26, 2012 8:40am 

Worst Puddle Locations in Midtown
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Billy Figueroa

MIDTOWN — One of Midtown’s smelliest puddles still stinks.

More than a year after DNAinfo.com New York reported that a massive foul-smelling pool on 33rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues was prompting passersby to plug their noses, the puddle remains a lingering presence on the block.

But there may be some hope in sight for that particular puddle, as well as other standing water hot spots in Midtown.

The Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the 34th Street Partnership, has begun repairing some of the Midtown streets prone to standing water, beginning with the west side of Eighth Avenue between West 34th and 35th streets, according to a DOT spokeswoman.

In recent weeks, the DOT graded the roadway along that stretch of Eighth Avenue and restored the asphalt to fix the potholes that produced serious ponding problems in front of the New Yorker Hotel.

That is the first of what workers and business owners in Midtown hope will be many more repairs to come.

“The DOT has made a verbal commitment that they will help us resolve some of the other outstanding and really serious issues in the district, and for that, we’re very grateful,” said Craig LaCaruba, vice president of capital projects and maintenance for the 34th Street Partnership.

“We’re now on the precipice of addressing all of these standing water issues.”

Last fall, the 34th Street Partnership presented the DOT with a list of some of the most ponding-prone sites in Midtown, LaCaruba said.

“Most of those areas were more or less difficult to resolve,” he explained. “It wasn’t going to be as easy as patching potholes and filling in the places where water gets trapped.”

In some cases, problems arose because of old surfaces where the curb lowers to meet the street. In others, the curbs had been pushed down into the foundation by years of being run over or because the street had been repaved so many times that it had risen to curb level.

For the puddle on West 33rd Street, the complications required a collaboration between the DOT and the Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP has completed a study that explored ways to fix the ponding problems on the block and was scheduled to meet with representatives from DOT earlier this month. A DEP representative was not immediately available for comment regarding the results of that meeting or any action that was planned for the site.

But so far, nothing has changed on West 33rd Street, workers and business owners said.

On a recent trip to the block, the puddle was mostly dried up, which workers said is partly because representatives from the 34th Street Partnership stop by every so often to push the water down the block with brooms.

But just a day later, the puddle was back and was creeping up onto the sidewalk on the south side of the street.

“I haven’t heard any customers say anything,” said Karrison Connors, 17, who works at Jack Demsey’s restaurant.

Still, she said that every few days, the puddle returns and emits a powerful smell “just kind of like dirty, stagnant water.”

John Clancy, owner of the Irish pub Foley’s NY on West 33rd Street, called the stench “unbelievable” and said he was skeptical about the city's promises to repair the problem.

“They’ve been telling me that for years,” Clancy said. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Clancy strolled down the block to the spot where the puddle usually begins, where the sidewalk and the street are level prompting water to creep over half the path on the worst days.

He lauded the efforts of the 34th Street Partnership in pushing for repairs and in trying to keep the puddle at bay with brooms and brawn.

“If [they] didn’t do that, sometimes the smell is unbelievable here,” Clancy said.

“We want action,” he added. “If everybody does a little, we can make New York a great place to live.”

LaCaruba, from the 34th Street Partnership, said he has “a very positive feeling” that the DOT is committed to fixing the ponding problems on the block.

“We feel better this year than we have in the past where we just got lost,” LaCaruba said.

“It’s a slow wheel that’s turning, but it’s turning, and we hope to get them some relief.”