An unoccupied taxi plunged into an enormous sinkhole early Thanksgiving morning in Maspeth, Queens, to the shock of onlookers.
Passersby spotted the vehicle, an orange Toyota Rav4 with TLC plates, around 6 a.m. at 70th Street between 52nd and 53rd avenues. They included Queens Councilmember Robert Holden, who snapped a few photos of the car tipped over inside the sinkhole.
"We knew this could happen because the 70th Street sewer project was well underway," Holden told Gothamist/WNYC, referencing a massive project that began in August.
Holden, who posted the photos on Twitter, said he saw police and fire personnel attempting to lift the vehicle out of the sinkhole. Members of the city's Department of Environmental Protection and the utility company National Grid were also on hand to assess whether any infrastructure was damaged as a result of the incident, he added.
Thupten Topjy, the vehicle owner, described the turn of events as a shocking surprise.
He told WNBC-TV on Thursday that he felt "very lucky" since he typically begins his shift around the time the car plummeted into the hole.
Holden said city officials recently held a meeting about the project, in which one homeowner said that the type of boring happening underneath the roadway—a strategy intended to prevent the city from digging up the entire roadway—would lead to these kinds of sinkholes.
"The contractor did say they would monitor, and then hopefully it wouldn't happen. But obviously it did," Holden said.
Ian Michaels, a spokesperson for the city Department of Design and Construction, which is supervising the project, said it's investigating what could have caused the sinkhole. Michaels added that contractors are currently making repairs.
Large sinkholes are a rare occurrence across the city, but have been known to happen from time to time.
Last month, a 33-year-old man suffered injuries after falling 12 to 15 feet into a sinkhole that buckled in a sidewalk on Third Avenue near 183rd Street in the Belmont section of the Bronx, according to fire and police officials. The man was waiting for a bus when the incident happened, according to a witness.
Topjy said he was worried the incident will jeopardize his brother's livelihood at a time when unemployment is rampant due to the pandemic.
Holden urged the city to cover the cost of replacing Topjy's vehicle.