By Erik Bascome | [email protected]
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After funding for resurfacing was slashed in the past year as a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it appears the city’s roadway restoration efforts will soon be back on track.
On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled the Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which includes $1.4 billion to resurface 1,150 lane miles annually over the next 10 years.
“We are continuing a strong commitment to repaving roads and keeping this city moving,” de Blasio said.
In recent weeks, various Staten Island elected officials, including Councilman Steven Matteo (R-Mid-Island), Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) and Borough President James Oddo, have urged the city to restore funding for roadway resurfacing as Staten Island streets continue to crumble.
Earlier this month, Matteo and Borelli penned a letter to de Blasio and Department of Transportation (DOT) commissioner Hank Gutman calling for a full restoration of resurfacing funds following a year in which the number of lane miles paved dropped citywide, with Staten Island baring the brunt of the reduced resurfacing efforts.
“Prior to last year, the City was resurfacing approximately 1,200 lane miles per year citywide and 200-210 lane miles on Staten Island. By contrast, in 2020, the City resurfaced 910 lane miles citywide and a minuscule 115 lane miles on Staten Island,” the councilmen wrote.
Last week, the councilmen visited the City Asphalt plant on Staten Island to discuss the borough’s deteriorating roadways and the urgent need for the resurfacing budget to be restored to pre-COVID levels.
“The de Blasio administration doubled the amount of lane miles the city was paving, and instead of taking a victory lap this final year of his term, we are back to fighting to keep it funded, even though the federal government bailed us out,” Borelli said.
“Paving will certainly be a top priority for Steve Matteo and I in this budget negotiation. It’s a real problem,” he added.
Borough President James Oddo, who has long advocated for increased roadway resurfacing to deal with Staten Island’s pesky potholes, praised the resurfacing work that has taken place under the de Blasio administration, but cautioned that much more remains to be done here on Staten Island.
“The decade and a half before we got to Borough Hall, we saw an underinvestment by New York City in street resurfacing. We made the case to Mayor de Blasio to ‘Pave, Baby, Pave’ and he responded with unprecedented levels of repaving, resulting in 42% of Staten Island’s streets being resurfaced over a several year period,” said Oddo. “But the hole we inherited was so big, that 58% of our streets remained untouched, have become several years older, and are in worse condition.”
“My hope is that in this, our last budget together, the Mayor exceeds the 1,000 lane mile mark once again, so that we send a strong message to the next mayor that this commitment to smooth streets requires a continued heightened effort,” he added.
While funding for the restoration of the city’s roadway resurfacing efforts has been included in the Executive Budget, it will not be finalized until the city official adopts the budget prior to the July 1 deadline.
The need for increased roadway resurfacing has become evident to Staten Island drivers, with many of the borough’s major roadways, including Richmond Avenue, near the Staten Island Mall in New Springville, and Richmond Terrace, near the St. George Ferry Terminal, rapidly deteriorating in recent months.
The reduction in resurfacing, paired with the harsh winter weather experienced this year, has left hundreds of roadways, from major thoroughfares to small, residential streets, badly battered and in desperate need of repair.