A study conducted by the Center for an Urban Future found that the city's infrastructure isn't faring so well in its old age, with necessary lifelines like hospitals, subways, water mains and street pavement in desperate need of an upgrade.
The report, appropriately titled "Caution Ahead" [pdf] broke down the city's infrastructure by age and quality of strength, finding that many important amenities date all the way back to the start of the 20th century. "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 told the organization. “There can be a water main break in lower Manhattan and our engineers won’t be able to find it." On the plus side, Manhattan now has a new water tunnel.
Some of the oldest infrastructure includes the city's main sewer lines, which are over 80 years old, and a 90-year-old subway system, which actually seems to be managing pretty well, all things considered. Homeless shelters are on average 70 years old, and water mains clock in at an average of 69 years old, which is noteworthy considering the city experienced 403 water main breaks last year. "We’re probably going to see more water mains that burst because of fatigue cracks,” Sam Schwartz, a transportation engineer and former New York City traffic commissioner, said.
And it's the city's streets that are in the worst shape: 42.7 percent of Manhattan roads were rated “poor” or “fair,” following Staten Island (40.1 percent), the Bronx (34 percent) and Queens (29.7 percent). Perhaps surprisingly, Brooklyn's streets are in the best shape, with only 27.2 percent rated substandard. Experts say the city will have to do more than fill up potholes (no matter how expertly) to get things up to code. The report suggests more funds be directed towards repairing infrastructure, noting that the city has funded less than 20 percent of the line item "state of good repair" needs.
The report also noted that the city's gas mains, while relatively new at an average of 56 years old, are in poor shape. 60 percent of Con Edison's mains are reportedly made of leak-prone unprotected steel, steel or cast iron; today Mayor de Blasio confirmed that the deadly explosion that destroyed two East Harlem buildings this morning was the result of a gas leak.