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Massive Sinkhole One of Many East River Greenway Obstacles, Locals Say

By Allegra Hobbs | July 20, 2017 4:53pm | Updated on July 21, 2017 4:52pm
 A massive sinkhole at East 23rd Street and the FDR Drive has added more obstacles to the waterfront greenway.
A massive sinkhole at East 23rd Street and the FDR Drive has added more obstacles to the waterfront greenway.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

STUYVESANT TOWN — A massive sinkhole that has opened up on the East River Greenway near 23rd Street has created an irritating and hazardous obstacle for cyclists and pedestrians — but it's just the latest issue in a string of problems with the path, locals said.

The stretch of the bike and pedestrian path from the Waterside Plaza residence around 26th Street to Stuyvesant Cove below 23rd Street is saddled with unclear signage, crowds of revelers flocking to party cruises at a neighboring marina, and a traffic-packed gas station momentarily breaking up the Greenway, said those who use the path. 

"This isn't even the worst thing about this area," cyclist Zeno Lee of the East Village, said of the sinkhole, which opened up just above 23rd Street. 

"This whole area is kind of a s---tshow because once [the path] ends, there's this gas station and there's only a sidewalk.... and here, after a certain time, all the people who are taking the boat start crowding around.

Lee, who uses the path every day to get to work, said the sinkhole became a real hazard roughly a month ago, he estimated, and posed a danger especially at night.

"It’s like a trap," he said. "I'm sure somebody must have broken their bike or flipped over."

A representative for tenants of the nearby Waterside Plaza complex has been clamoring for the Department of Transportation to fix the sinkhole for weeks as it continued to grow — a complaint via the city's 311 hotline was first made on July 5, then again on July 11, records show. But the agency dragged its feet on giving a repair timeline, said Janet Handal, leader of the Waterside Tenants Association.

The Department of Transportation on Wednesday placed a large barrier around the hole along with construction tape to better prevent accidents, noted Handal — but the large obstacle reroutes cyclists and pedestrians alike through a narrow arrangement of large rocks directly next to the path. 

On Wednesday evening, clusters of cyclists and pedestrians threaded their way through the rock network, carefully avoiding the conspicuously marked sinkhole on one side and a growing crowd of marina visitors on the other.

Cyclists and pedestrians now navigate a cluster of large rocks to avoid the massive sinkhole. (DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs)

"The amount of space for people to walk or bike is dramatically reduced, and it's dangerous," said Handal.

According to Handal, the SkyPort Marina at 23rd Street is an ongoing issue for those who use the path. Revelers flocking to NYPartyCruise boats that launch from the marina in the evening often stand directly in the path while waiting to board the boats. The crowds also congregate near the sinkhole-stricken area.

"They couldn't care less about the bikes," said Handal.

Adding to the chaos, the marina sits directly next to the United Nations International School, bringing in parents dropping off kids in the mornings and afternoons, plus a bus stop for the M34A. 

The waterfront path ends at the point where the school, the bus stop, and Waterside Plaza entrance all converge — cyclists are supposed to then move left to a separate path alongside the FDR Drive, but the signage is unclear and the cyclists often use the sidewalk past the Waterside entrance instead, said Handal, posing a danger to elderly residents exiting the building.

Handal also noted that while there is a sign notifying southbound vehicular traffic of the converging bike path, there is no adequate signage for cars traveling north, creating a potentially dangerous mess of criss-crossing cars and bikes. 

"If you'll pardon my French, it's a clusterf--k, it really is," she said.

The Department of Transportation is already working to fix the stretch by Waterside Plaza, between 25th and 34th Streets, though locals have expressed concern about the DOT plan to create shared lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. 

When asked for comment, the Department of Transportation waited until Friday afternoon to say the agency had carried out emergency repairs at the site but that the sinkhole is the responsibility of the city Economic Development Corporation because it was caused by a leaky water pipe that falls under that agency's purview. 

EDC is working to repair the hole and the site will stay covered while the repairs are completed, the DOT continued.

NYPartyCruise said they do not handle security or management of the marina and directed DNAinfo New York to contact SkyPort Marina, a representative for which could not immediately be reached.

The manager of another cruise company that uses the dock said they are doing their best to corral their crowds.

"We will continue to enforce an [sic] control the conduct of our guests," said Mamadou Dembele of Empire Cruises. "We are, and will do our best."