UPPER EAST SIDE — It’s been a bumpy ride for New Yorkers this winter.
The snowier-than-usual season has translated into a nightmare of street damage forcing drivers to navigate broken asphalt peppered with craters.
A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said crews have already repaired 106,570 holes across the city this year, including 14,787 in Manhattan alone. The city's 311 complaints line has logged 6,776 calls about problematic street conditions.
Jason Haber, a real estate agent, was driving to a showing on the Upper East Side earlier this week when the driver in front of him suddenly veered out of his lane.
"I thought, ‘Is he drunk?’” Haber said of the incident on Lexington Avenue near East 80th Street. “Two seconds later, I was also swerving to avoid this big pothole.
“It’s really dangerous. The streets of Manhattan look like craters on the moon.”
On the Upper East Side alone, 142 complaints were received by 311. Of them, 44 were about potholes. Another 13 calls described larger cave-ins.
Anthony Quinones, who delivers groceries for Fresh Direct, was recently walking on Lexington Avenue when a pothole swallowed up his handtruck, he said.
“My cart actually fell into a pothole and three boxes fell off,” he said. “It’s a problem not just for drivers, but for people like me who are delivering things too.”
Neighborhood resident Helena Johnson said that between lingering ice mountains that line the sidewalks and damaged streets, it’s also very difficult for mothers like her to walk with strollers.
“A few days ago I went out with the stroller and after a few blocks we turned around and came back home because it was just too difficult,” she said.
“It’s been a very bad winter. Since I moved here five years ago, this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
This winter's snow and ice have caused the road surface to expand and contract, cracking them wide open, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in Queens Thursday.
De Blasio reiterated that the past two months earned the unfortunate honor of being the snowiest in the history of NYC.
"The historic amounts of snow have also managed unprecedented wear and tear on our streets for a lot of reasons. Obviously with the snow came greater use of chains on tires, greatly intensified use of snowplows – that has a very big impact on our roads – the freeze and thaw cycles are very damaging to our roads," de Blasio said at his appearance with Department of Transportation staffers in Maspeth, Queens.
He added that the ice-melting salt spread by city trucks to keep streets clear has also taken a toll on the roads, "So all of this adds up to a lot more potholes, a lot more quickly, that cause tremendous damage to vehicles and obviously, potentially, a danger to people’s lives."
Flanked by a crew of DOT administrators and Department of Sanitation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, de Blasio personally shoveled a pile of asphalt into a pothole.
"I want to thank this great crew for giving me my first lessons in pothole filling," de Blasio said.
The Mayor reiterated the city has added more than $7 million to the DOT’s budget this year and is planning on a “pothole blitz” throughout the city in March to further improve roads.
But City Council Member Costa Constantinides who looked back at the city's handling of past winter road damage, has expressed concern that the DOT is doing enough to address the potholes.
He found that in past years, when the number of potholes went up, the time it took the city to get around to fixing them went up as well.
In Fiscal Year 2011, which runs from July 2010 to June 2011, the city repaired 397,560 potholes in the wake of the 2010 blizzard and a major snowstorm that brought 19 inches to the city, according to DOT data.
"The average time to fix them went from 5.6 to 11 days,” Constantinides said.
By comparison, the city repaired 367,337 potholes for the same period in 2010 and 238,628 in 2012, DOT records show.
Constantinides is introducing a bill in the City Council next week that would require the city to repair all potholes within ten days of when the initial complaint is made to 311, he said.
“We’re not bringing on additional pothole filling staff for another month, which says to me that we’re still not taking this seriously,” he said.
“We know we’re going to be in the 2011 range again and so why not bring them on early?”
City Councilman Ben Kallos is also aware of the problem. His office has fielded complaints not only about potholes, but also about unsafe curbs and intersections and inaccessible bus stops, either because of snow and ice or because of sidewalk problems.
In response, Kallos is launching a “Livable Streets” initiative to solicit feedback from residents and to monitor the city’s response.
"Those of us who talk to residents in our district every day know that safe, livable streets are a key concern to the people who live and work in our neighborhoods,” Kallos said in an email.