Report: Cuomo and de Blasio need to focus more on city infrastructure

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Put Hurricane Sandy and the frailties it exposed in New York City’s ability to withstand fierce storms aside for a minute.

New York City’s crumbling infrastructure “could wreak as much havoc on the city’s economy, competitiveness and quality of life as the next big storm,” according to a report released this morning by the Center for an Urban Future.

The report compiles a series of alarming facts, including, in no particular order, these:

“Over 1,000 miles of New York City water mains are more than 100 years old,” and in a typical year, there are roughly 400 water main breaks, some of them flooding city subways and streets.

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Forty-seven New York City bridges “have been found to be both structurally deficient and fracture critical.” That means “if a single span, beam or joint of such a bridge fails, the whole thing could come tumbling down."

The average New York City sewer main is 84 years old.

The average New York City water main is 69 years old.

“The difference between the amount of water that enters the city's water delivery system and the amount consumed by customers is a staggering 24 percent, about double the 10 to 15 percent industry standard,” according to the report.

Twenty-six percent of subway signals are more than 70 years old.

About 43 percent of all Manhattan roads are "substandard."

Nearly 800 New York City Housing Authority apartments are uninhabitable, thanks to mold, collapsed ceilings, and other such problems.

The average gas main is 56 years old.

"Largely because of leaks, over 2 percent of the gas Con Edison sends to its customers every year never makes it to its final destination,” reads the report.

New York’s public hospitals and schools are old and getting older. Its homeless shelters are decrepit.

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

The report says that the city and state agencies and authorities that steward infrastructure in New York City have a $34.2 billion state of good repair funding gap over the next five years.

The Center for an Urban Future’s recommendations include congestion pricing, which neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor Governor Andrew Cuomo support, and residential parking permits (it's not clear where the mayor stands on that).

The report also makes clear that integral to repairing New York City’s infrastructure is being able to afford to do so. Put another way, it needs to be cheaper to build.

"In Tokyo the cost of building a new subway line is approximately $448 million per mile; in Paris, it is roughly $368 million per mile," reads the report. "By comparison, New York's Second Avenue subway and 7 train extension have each cost the MTA well over $2 billion per mile."

The report suggests that “a major public works program" might fit nicely with the mayor's platform, since it “could be one of the most effective ways to create middle-income jobs in the five boroughs, a clear policy goal of the de Blasio administration."

It also says, "To remain a magnet for global businesses and talent, and to ensure the high quality of life current residents have come to expect, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo and other government officials will need to make investing in the city’s aging infrastructure a major priority."

So far, de Blasio doesn’t seem all that interested in infrastructure investment, unless the money for it comes from somewhere else.

When, in February, he unveiled his pick for planning commissioner, a reporter asked him what he was planning to do about potholes, of which there are many.

First, he said, “This is connected to aging infrastructure writ large, right? We haven’t received the resources we used to, federally and from the state government, for road repair. We’ve had really tough weather conditions.”

Then he said, “We have to change the dynamics with Washington,” but he also warned, “This is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be years and years of work, but it has to change. Because the federal government has disinvested in our cities, and our cities more than ever in our history are the economic engines.”

Cuomo's primary focus on increased infrastructure spending downstate has been on a project outside the city, the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge.