A white minivan turns onto 101st Street from 101st Avenue and begins racing up the desolate mainly industrial Ozone Park block. Suddenly the red brake lights, like tiny distant explosions, light up. A screech is heard. The driver stops, then slowly veers right, then accelerates again.
The driver of the white minivan wasn’t avoiding a cat or a child, but a giant hole in the street, marked by an overturned traffic cone. Several feet south another giant hole hosts a traffic cone, this one standing freely, perhaps because the hole is so deep nearly half of the cone is underground.
The white minivan didn’t get caught up in the two depressions in the street, but one look into the holes shows some others have. Pieces of painted plastic, appearing to be from car bumpers, and shards of red plastic covers to headlights lie scattered at the bottoms of the holes.
“The smaller one has been filled several times over the last two years,” said one woman who works on 101st Street and made a complaint to 311 on Tuesday. “The big one is huge and is going to swallow a car one of these days.”
The two sinkholes have been there since at least April, and they make 101st Street between 101st and 103rd avenues almost impossible to navigate.
Just steps away, barriers placed in the street due to sidewalk work in front of the Five Star Electric building force traffic to veer left, then right after veering right to avoid the holes.
“It’s a maze,” said Paul Godan, who drives up the street to park to go to the gym. “It’s like a video game. I always forget the holes are there. I haven’t hit them yet, but I’m afraid I will.”
Kimberly Lathan, who works at Moving Right Along, a moving company that parks its trucks in a lot on 101st Street and operates out of the building next door, said she did not know if her company’s moving trucks have hit the sinkholes and suffered any damage. On Tuesday, several of the firm’s vehicles were parallel parked on 101st Street next to the potholes. The driver of one smirked when asked about the depressions.
What’s surprising about the sinkholes is that they are there, everyone who lives and works on or around 101st Street knows they’re there and they’ve been there for months. Yet until this week, there is no record of anyone complaining.
“I figured someone must have told the city already,” Godan said, noting that the traffic cones were placed in the holes. “Somebody obviously knows about it if the cones are there.”