2011-10-07 / Top Stories

Red Tape Slows Pothole Repairs

As New York City struggles with the 56% spike in pothole complaints since 2006, a new study from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio shows needless bureaucracy is costing taxpayers money and slowing down repairs.

The first in a series of Red Tape Reports, the Public Advocate’s analysis finds that repair requests are being dropped when shuffled between different City agencies, requiring residents to make a second call to 311 and necessitating a costly re-inspection before repairs can be made.

The report recommends streamlining the process to more effectively manage the City’s 100,000 annual pothole complaints.

Existing procedures forward a 311 pothole complaint to the Department of Transportation, which dispatches an inspector.

However, if the DOT inspector finds the damage is a ‘sinkhole’ rather than a ‘pothole,’ the case is often dropped without resolution.

Only if the constituent calls 311 again to check on the repair status is he or she told the case was dropped because sinkholes are handled by a different agency, the Department of Environmental Protection.

The caller must then open a second case so that 311 can refer the problem to DEP, which performs a redundant second inspection before finally making the repair.

The bureaucratic shuffle can add weeks to the repair process and magnify the safety risk of unfixed potholes.

“This is a classic example of one hand of government not working with the other,” said de Blasio. “This bureaucracy is wasting taxpayer dollars. Agencies should forward these requests and inspection reports automatically and immediately respond to each other to get repairs made as quickly as possible.”

The public advocate recommends automatically forwarding a 311 complaint and an inspection report to the proper department any time an agency finds a street repair outside its jurisdiction.

The simple change would simplify the reporting process, save the City money, improve the speed of repairs and reduce the safety risk of unfilled potholes.

Read the Red Tape Report here: www.advocate.nyc.gov/redtape

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