A road-curb pond in Chinatown. Photo by Charles Li.

A shallow pond, longer than the wheelbase of a taxi, makes it tough for pedestrians to cross Forsyth near Hester streets in Chinatown.

That pond will likely turn into a huge pothole like the one on nearby Bowery Street, where there’s a hole wide enough to fit two car tires and is about 5 inches deep.

The potholes that make walking and driving a hazard in Chinatown are believed to be caused by road-curb ponding, which occurs when a puddle of water contained by a hollow on the street does not evaporate after rainfall. Instead the water remains there for days and causes further damage, as it seeps into the concrete. Over time this condition may transform cracks into potholes. The potholes tend to collect both liquid and solid wastes and becomes havens for insects and their larvae.

Daniel Squadron, Democratic state senator for the 25th District, which includes Chinatown, joined local officials and Chinese community leaders yesterday in Columbus Park to raise public awareness of the ponding problem in New York City, especially in Chinatown. Squadron’s office released its own report of ponding’s adverse effect on Chinatown’s economy and environment.

“We’re rebuilding Lower Manhattan, and we’re really focusing on Chinatown’s economy and quality of life,” Squadron said. “This neighborhood has for too long been forgotten.”

Squadron wants the City’s Department of Transportation to create a specific 311 protocol to report ponding and do its own survey in Chinatown, which is particularly bad.

At Columbus Park in Chinatown, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, talks to reporters about the severity of the ponding problem in Chinatown. Photo by Charles Li

According to the report , “Road-Curb Ponding: A Drain on Chinatown,” Squadron’s office identified 93 ponding conditions in Chinatown this July, even though this July was the second driest July in New York City since 1895.

Five streets in the heart of Chinatown – Bayard, Mulberry, Mott, Baxter and Elizabeth Streets – accounted for more than 50 percent of the ponding conditions discovered in July.

“It’s a cost for businesses, it’s a cost for residents, and it’s a cost for tourists,” Squadron said.

Virginia M. Kee, a founding member of the Chinese-American Planning Council in Chinatown, is concerned about the hazard roadside ponding creates for senior citizens.

“The young people who grew up in Chinatown have moved out,” Kee said. ” Mostly old people remain here. So I’m extremely concerned about the danger of ponding on the residents.”

Interns from Squadron’s office conducted field surveys in Chinatown during August. The survey respondents included merchants, residents and visitors. Out of 347 individuals surveyed, 72 percent of the respondents said ponding negatively impacted their eating or shopping experiences. Sixty-two percent of the respondents said the quality of the streets were “below average” or “poor.”

This report also showed that 331 survey respondents have observed ponding in Chinatown but more than half of them didn’t know whom to contact, or that reporting ponding was even an option. “The biggest problem is no one knows what to do about it,” Squadron said.

William Su, chairman of the Windsor Hotel, Inc. on Forsyth Street, believes the biggest problem isn’t the citizens’ failure to report ponding conditions observed, but is the Department of Transportation’s neglect of road hazards in Chinatown.

Su said a water main ruptured on Forsyth Street, between Grand and Broome streets, and “water just kept pumping out to the sidewalks,” he said.

“I believe the neighborhood called the City’s DOT, but nobody took care of it,” Su added.

When the Department of Transportation finally fixed the water main two weeks later, road-curb ponding had been exacerbated.

Chong Fong, 49, an immigrant from Shanghai who worked in Chinatown for several years, wants the city government to be more proactive in fixing Chinatown’s roads.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to take the initiative in making the roads safe,” Fong said. “People here are trying so hard to make a living. They shouldn’t have to spend more time to look for ponds or to deal with the city’s employees responsible for road safety.”

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