By Paula Katinas
Bay Ridge – “We can’t be certain that if these breaks continue to happen, we won’t see another sinkhole form,” Councilman Vincent Gentile said as he stood at the scene of the giant sinkhole that formed on 79th Street.
As repair crews from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection were busy working at the scene of the 20-foot-deep sinkhole that formed on 79th Street on Wednesday, Aug. 1, Gentile and local residents said they were worried that the cave-in, the second to take place in Bay Ridge this summer, is a troubling sign of things to come.
The sinkhole, which erupted at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday on 79th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues and nearly swallowed three parked cars, was caused by a ruptured sewer line that undermined the street, according to Gentile.
No one was injured in the cave-in, officials said.
Still, residents said they viewed it as a close call. They’re grateful no one was hurt, but are afraid more sinkholes will develop in other places in Bay Ridge and that the next time someone will be injured or killed.
“I am worried that it could happen again,” Marie Carreras, a Bay Ridge resident, said as she walked down 79th Street Thursday morning to get a closer look at the sinkhole. “You had the other one, now this one.”
On June 28, a 70-foot-deep sinkhole opened up on 92nd Street between Ridge Boulevard and Third Avenue. It, too, was caused by a ruptured sewer line, Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said. Repairs at that site are still ongoing, more than a month after the sinkhole first developed. DEP had to install an emergency sewer, officials said.
The two sewer line ruptures could be a sign that a major sewer replacement project is needed, Gentile said.
“We may be witnessing the end of life of our aging infrastructure. This sewer was installed over 100 years ago. It’s almost as if the previous generations are passing us the baton. They’re saying to us, ‘We installed it and it lasted this long. Now it’s your turn to do something,’” he said.
Gentile said he would request a meeting with DEP officials “to get a better understanding of our infrastructure.”
Beckmann said 79th Street residents told her they believe construction work in the street might have contributed to the cave-in on Wednesday.
“Residents said there was heavy construction by National Grid on the block. There was an open trench near where the cave-in later took place. You have a lot of digging, a lot of rattling, and a 100-year-old sewer pipe. It’s not a good combination,” she said.
Repairs at the 79th Street site are expected to take approximately two weeks to complete, Beckmann said.
“This one (at 79th Street) looks a lot worse that 92nd Street because it’s wider. But it’s not as deep as the one on 92nd Street,” she said.
On Thursday, vehicular traffic was not permitted on 79th Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues in order to allow repair crews a chance to work. Pedestrians were given access to the sidewalk on one side of the street.
The sinkhole stretched from curb to curb from one side of 79th Street to the other. A small crowd of onlookers stood by and watched the DEP repair crews at work.
Most of the residents on 79th Street did have water, electricity and gas service in their homes in the aftermath of the street cave-in, Beckmann said. The exception was the house at 452 79th St., which did not have water.
“Their sewer line was cut in the collapse. They’re getting water from their neighbors,” she said.
As she walked down the block, Carreras shook her head.
“I told my sister I didn’t want to move down to Florida to live near her because I was afraid of all of the sinkholes they get down there. And we have two,” she said.