By Stan Solomon
It was a most ‘dark-and-stormy-night,’ and there we were, headed up Columbus Avenue, running late for a dinner date. “We” means myself — attempting to hold an umbrella and steer my aging-but-trusty mobility scooter — and my wife, keeping pace beside me. Ahead was yet another curb cut, but one filled with water.
WHAM! The jolt of my front wheels dropping into what felt like The Marianas Trench almost threw me off the scooter. And now I was immobilized; front wheels in some sort of water-filled canyon, with no way to move forward…or back. The rain grew worse. We were getting wetter. And hungrier. And frantic.
For maybe five seconds. But, this being the UWS, several passers-by were on the scene, literally lifting my stuck wheels out of the canyon and sending us off. But the incident lingered.
As I drowsed off to sleep, I kept thinking about that deadly ditch – really a hole in the asphalt roadway – and about all the other Bad Curb Cuts I had encountered. “That can’t be right,” I thought.
And it isn’t. An entire page of the Federal Highway Administration’s website devotes itself to the requirements for ADA-required curb cuts (“Curb Ramps” in Washington-speak), spelling out the “Best Practices for Curb Ramp Design” among other mandates. Nowhere do Best Practices allow for: gaping holes in the roadbed, cracks in the concrete, too-high curbs, etc. Yet, as any disabled New Yorker knows all-too-well, they exist – in greater numbers than anyone could imagine. And not just on the UWS.
But the UWS is home, and home to many disabled and/or elderly. So I decided to become the Bad Curb Cut Maven. With the approval of the good folks at Community Board Seven, especially Mel Wymore, Andrew Albert, Dan Zweig, and Penny Ryan, I set off on my self-appointed rounds – to photograph every problematic curb cut between West 60th and West 110th.
Why? Officially, to document and then present the visual evidence for whatever authorities might, hopefully, authorize repairs. Which can be serendipitous, as when one of the city’s Mysterious Midnight Repaving Crews miraculously corrected that bone-jarring too-high southwest curb where W. 62nd meets Broadway. Perhaps they will do others. Perhaps you, reader, can help. Here are some of the Unkindest Cuts of All. (Below the pictures, check out a spreadsheet Stan made that details the condition of the worst curb cuts in the neighborhood. Click spreadsheet to enlarge)
To report a damaged curb cut, call 311 and email the local community board at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can leave comments about your experiences below.
All photos by Stan Solomon.