Repairs for city’s aging infrastructure estimated at $47 billion: Report

A water main break at East 13th Street and Fifth Avenue sent water gushing onto Fifth Avenue, causing streets to close and disrupting transit. Credit: Getty Images
A water main break at East 13th Street and Fifth Avenue sent water gushing onto Fifth Avenue, causing streets to close and disrupting transit.
Credit: Getty Images

New York may still be getting its post-Superstorm Sandy recover and resiliency plan off the ground, but a new report warns that addressing the city’s aging infrastructure should be a top priority for lawmakers.

Put together by the public policy think tank the Center for an Urban Future, the report suggested the reinforcement of the city’s roadways, transit system, airports, schools and utility lines all play a major role in keeping New York City competitive worldwide.

“If New York City wants to maintain its presence in the world, among other leading global cities, we have no choice but to maintain this infrastructure,” the report quotes real estate executive Mary Ann Tighe.

To that end, the center’s report asks Mayor Bill de Blasio to invest significant new capital for infrastructure projects and have the city focus its existing spending on state of good repair needs.

The report estimates that maintenance of existing infrastructure would cost about $47.3 billion, with a $34.2 billion state of good repair funding gap over the next five years. All the while, construction costs have jumped an estimated 53 percent in the city.

Public projects are costing the city more than equivalent work in the private sector and similar projects in other cities, the report contends.

The Second Avenue subway line and 7 train extension come with a price tag of more than $2 billion per mile. By comparison, the report found a new subway line in Tokyo costs close to $448 million a mile.

The report also pointed to this year’s massive water main break on 13th Street and the street and shut down nearby subway tunnels. It took days to repair.

“In some cases, the infrastructure in New York is so old we don’t even know where it is under the street,” city planner and historian Alexander Garvin said in the report. “There can be a water main break in lower Manhattan and our engineers won’t be able to find it.”

Key Findings

  • The number of city streets with a pavement rating of “good” fell to 69.6 percent in 2013 from 84.3 percent in 2000.
  • The Bronx had the highest share of “structurally deficient” bridges in 2012, with 16 percent deemed structurally deficient.
  • Approximately two-thirds of the city’s water mains were laid before 1969 and made using iron pipes inferior to modern-day technology — leaving them susceptible to corrosion and leaks.
  • More than half of NYCHA’s 2,600 buildings do not comply with municipal standards for exterior and facade conditions.
  • The 55 shelters operated by the Department of Homeless Services are more than 70 years old, on average.
  • The average complex on Rikers Island is 44 years old, while the city’s borough detention centers are on average 47 years old.


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