New York Times (USA) - Online-Ausgabe unter www.nytimes.com vom 21.3.2010 - in der gedruckten Ausgabe erschien der Artikel am 22.03.2010
Hole Earth Catalog
AT the beginning of March, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg traveled to Staten Island to fill his administrations two millionth pothole. It was a milestone for him, but it was also a reminder that a new season is upon us: spring is pothole-filling time.
After Id read the news, I thought of the pothole outside my old apartment on Court Street in Brooklyn. The city would fill it one year, but the next spring it would reappear, larger than before. And so I despair: is our cash-strapped city condemned to filling in the same two million holes again and again?
A week later, though, I saw a television report on Niederzimmern, a German village where citizens can sponsor pothole repairs after this years especially cold winter. For a $68 contribution, they get their name embossed, over the town crest, on a patch of new asphalt.
With a few tweaks, New York could have its own sponsor-a-pothole program.
True, Niederzimmern is home to only about 1,000 people, and traffic is probably a lot thinner than in New York. Once a pothole is fixed in Niederzimmern, its likely set for a while.
In New York, potholes are like pets requiring constant care over years and years so our program would mean almost literally adopting a patch of road. It would also come with a slightly higher price tag than in Niederzimmern: filling a New York pothole costs about $30; new asphalt every 18 months for 15 years would cost $300.
But the idea of such a commitment contains the germ of a viable educational plan for New York: call it Pick-a-Pothole, a citywide civic investment program.
In Niederzimmern one contributes to a fund; in New York you would get to choose a hole to sponsor. Rather than a brick for your childs school, why not pay to repair the hole that swallows your stroller tire, with a personal marker in the pavement to recognize your effort?
You could even take part in the repairs, as Mayor Bloomberg did in Staten Island. That could be you in the Day-Glo vest shoveling gravel (professionals would handle the steaming asphalt kettle). The repair crew might even send you home with extra rocks to fix small repeat depressions, since constant attention would stave off the holes return.
And since were talking about shoveling only a few loads of rock, why not involve your children? People complain about how disconnected our children are from the outdoors and civic life. Families, youth groups and high school earth science classes could collectively adopt a pothole this could be a great way to get young people to look more closely at their surroundings, even if theyre not actually wielding shovels.
With the budget deficit rising, new methods for the citys upkeep need to be explored. At the same time, New Yorkers seem more willing to invest in their communities than ever before. And we have a mayor consumed by the same issues that would motivate a pothole adoption program, including metrics, education and sustainability.
Sure, Pick-A-Pothole wouldnt be for everyone. But for those looking to give something back to their city, it would be a great way to unleash their inner Bob the Builder.