Bensonhurst water main break causes car-trapping sinkhole

January 12, 2018 Meaghan McGoldrick
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A water main break on a Bensonhurst block Thursday evening took a turn for the worse resulting in an approximately four foot by five foot sinkhole that laid claim to the tail end of a nearby Honda Odyssey.

According to Fire Department officials, a call came in at around 10:30 p.m. for a water main break on Bay 13th Street, between Shore Parkway and Cropsey Avenue.

Once on the scene, FDNY discovered the vehicle in the hole and reported the condition to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as well as securing the area for safety, shutting off the water.

Despite an equally prompt response by the DEP – the agency had the hole repaired by morning – Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia wonders if the fallout could have been prevented.

“It’s curious,” she said, “because on Tuesday we reached out to the DEP because of something that we saw on the Citizen app [regarding a leak on that block] and I was told that they saw no issues.”

Elias-Pavia also noticed that later Tuesday evening, calls were being made by residents of the block to 311 to report the same leak.

“It seems that complaints were being made two days before the collapse,” she told this paper, “and I find that very troubling if that’s the case.”

A resident of the block confirmed to this paper that, in the days leading up to the break, there were certainly signs of trouble.

“There was some sort of broken pipe for at least a week because water was coming up out of the street and nobody did anything about it,” the neighbor said. “[There was] water visibly pumping out of the street in large volume.”

However, by Friday morning, the resident said all looked to be in order.

“[There] didn’t seem to be anything too out of line,” he said, adding that his home’s water had been out from about midnight to 8 a.m. “[It] looked like a large filled pothole.”

Fix or not, Councilmember Justin Brannan — who was also on scene — shared similar sentiments to Elias-Pavia.

“When Marnee sounds the alarm, the agencies need to listen,” he told this paper. “I commend DEP for acting swiftly in the early hours Friday morning but if this issue was something that had been quite literally rumbling for several days then it’s something that we could have avoided. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

In terms of the water main break, Elias-Pavia said, with the wild weather, this is likely not the last for the neighborhood.

“We’re probably going to see quite a few water main breaks with the fluctuation of temperature – that’s pretty common in my years working. We do see that a lot,” she said. “All we can do is hope that they’re handled properly.”

“After an historic cold spell hit New York City this past week, DEP employees have stepped up to the challenge to ensure that our critical services continued without any major interruptions,” said a spokesperson who did not address the allegations of prior complaints. “Late last night, DEP crews responded to a water main break on Bay 13th Street and Cropsey Avenue within a half hour of the first call and had repairs complete, with water restored to all, by the early morning hours today.”

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