City pothole workers furloughed by DOT

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The city Department of Transportation started furloughing workers assigned to fill the city’s potholes amid the busiest time for fixing the road craters even though Queens and the other boroughs have suffered through a series of winter storms, a DOT spokesman said Tuesday.

The five-day furloughs started in January and saved the agency $1 million, the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, a DOT crew watched by Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) filled a Hollis Hills pothole Friday on 215th Street near the corner of Union Turnpike — one of the 2,000 potholes filled by DOT crews each day.

“We’ve seen Mother Nature striking hard,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who joined City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) at the site of the pothole. “We’re doing everything we can to stress the problem” of potholes.

Sadik-Khan said there are 40 Transportation crews filling some 2,000 potholes a day, seven days a week. Some potholes can take up to three days before a DOT crew gets to them, she said.

A DOT spokesman said almost 30,000 potholes have been filled in Queens since the fiscal year beginning July 1. “We’re definitely getting a jump on the roadwork that needs to be done here,” Sadik-Khan said, noting that eight storms have pounded the city this winter. “We’re doing everything we can to clean up our streets.”

Potholes are formed when vehicles put stress on a road and heat from the sun dries out the asphalt, which makes streets susceptible to cracks.

In the winter, cold temperatures make roads more likely to crack. Several heavy snows this winter have required extensive plowing in at least two cases and the salting of roads.

With winter not yet over, Sadik-Khan said it was difficult to say how much the pothole repairs will cost the city.

Weprin said he hoped all the potholes in his eastern Queens district get filled.

“The weather forecast ... really has so many other effects on our city streets,” he said. “Potholes are one unfortunate symptom.”

One resident of 215th Street said the pothole has caused difficulty for drivers who have to maneuver around it to prevent a broken axle or a tire coming off their cars.

“There’s been problems and [the pothole has] been there for a while,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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