Too Many PotHoles Not Enough Workers in NyC

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TODD MAISEL/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

City pothole crews on Tuesday were on the Jackie Robinson Parkway in Queens trying to correct potholes that have been plaguing motorists.

Spring temps have sprung — and so has the city’s annual crop of bone-jarring potholes.

New Yorkers are complaining vociferously about the car-busting craters that proliferate every winter, wrecking rims and blowing out tires.

This year is worse than ever, said Marcio Crociata, co-owner of Whitey’s Tire Service in Brooklyn, where business is booming.

“Last year was crazy, but now, these past two weeks, it’s getting even crazier,” said Crociata.

“It’s so bad, I feel sorry for my customers. It’s blown tires and bent rims almost every day — I had one client, they left here after we repaired the damage from one pothole and drove right into another,” he said

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg acknowledged repairs this year were slower than usual because of the prolonged blasts of Arctic temps.

New York City Potholes Spring Again
NY Daily News
00:00 / 00:53

“The hardworking men and women of DOT’s roadways division have filled over 158,000 potholes in this cold and difficult winter season,” Trottenberg said, noting that repair efforts will ramp up as temperatures rise.

City streets have long been vulnerable to the dangerous fissures that erupt during the constant freeze-thaw cycle of New York’s harsh winters.

New technology has improved the Department of Transportation’s ability to make quick-fixes to the worst potholes even in frigid temps — but serious road repairs wait until spring.

It’s not just the weather slowing things down. The city’s also hampered by a longstanding policy of laying off roughly 200 assistant highway repairers every December — and hiring them back in March when pothole season hits its peak.

“It’s been going on for at least 15 years, as long as I can remember,” said union head Joe Puleo, who reps the highway workers.

“It was meant to be a cost-saving measure, but it doesn’t work out like that,” he noted.

The assistant repairers, who earn $40,000 a year, sit on their thumbs for three months, while the full-time repairers, who earn $80,000, are run ragged trying to keep up with demand, said Puleo. “They’re paying out three times as much in overtime when the city could just keep more seasonal workers on the job, and they wouldn’t fall so far behind with the potholes, either,” he said.

The assistant highway repairers serve an apprenticeship of eight years to learn the trade. For the first five, they are seasonal and earn $40,000. For the final three they work year-round and earn closer to $80,000.

In the 1990s the city did heavy repairs on 1,400 miles of road — versus anywhere from 900 to 1,000 miles a year now, according to former Transportation Commissioner Lucius Riccio.

The department needs to move faster to fix another 300 to 500 miles or commuters will be stuck in an endless loop of potholes and repairs, Riccio wrote in the AAA journal Car & Travel.

Drivers are hoping for relief soon.

“It’s the second time in three weeks!” said Connie Zuniga, 26, of Rego Park, Queens. “That’s how I spent my day, going out to get new tires — to replace the tires I just paid to fix,” said the harried mom.

Zuniga’s 2007 BMW was snagged twice by the same gaping crack as she exited the George Washington Bridge, angling to get onto the FDR Drive and back to Queens.

“My husband works in New Jersey, so I go to pick him up and both times we got slammed by a pothole coming off the bridge,” she said. “It’s costing us a fortune.”

Zuniga had to plunk down $150 for her dinged rims and $300 for a cheap set of tires.  

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With Keldy Ortiz

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