MANHATTAN (PIX11) — It was devastation like East Harlem had never seen on March 12. A massive explosion annihilated two buildings and killed 8 people. Investigators said the culprit was a gas leak. The devastation brought to light an obvious question — exactly how old is New York City’s infrastructure and what have we been doing to maintain it?
A city-based think tank, Center for an Urban Future, concluded a nine-month-long investigation and explored everything from our roads and bridges to our subway system to city-owned public housing complexes. It turns out our highways and roads are in the worst condition and in fact, getting worse.
However, one of the most concerning findings was from about what lies beneath our feet — gas mains and water mains. Those, according to the study, must be made a higher priority. The mains, the study concluded, were anywhere from 80 to 100 years old. In our city alone, we see more than 400 water-main breaks a year and alarmingly, according to Adam Forman, the lead researcher for the study, 24% of the water in our system never reach our faucets because of leaks.
“We do have to focus on modernizing replacing and rehabilitating existing infrastructure in the future. Particularly with water mains we’ve fallen behind. Mayor Bloomberg set a plan to replace 80 miles of water mains a year in his plan NYC in 2008 since then we’ve only replaced 26 or 27 miles a year,” said Forman.
Subways, aesthetically, are not the most pleasing according to the study. Congestion was always an issue, but mechanical issues stemming from signal issues was the biggest headache.
The group also took a look at aging city buildings, including schools using mobile trailers as classrooms and of course, our bridges. The study examined about 1400 bridges and found 11% to be structurally deficient. Forman said bridges like the George Washington Bridge, was among them.
“The suspension cables are original equipment from 1931, so usually suspension cables are supposed to last 70 years . They’ve been around for about 82 years and they’re not going to be replaced now until 2024,” said Forman
The good news is, while long overdue, the Port Authority is already in the midst of a multimillion dollar rehab project. Budget, however, was no doubt the underlying reason why the city has continuously bypassed maintenance and upkeep, according to Forman.