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East New York Residents Say Pothole That Injured Firefighter Has Been A Problem Since Last Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A firefighter's job is tough enough, but on New York City's streets, just getting to a call can be dangerous.

Lieutenant Brendan Connolly has been recovering from a broken back since his firetruck hit a sinkhole on the way to a call.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, neighbors have been complaining about the road for months.

When firefighters from Engine Company 236 in East New York answer a call, they expect danger to await them in a burning building -- not a sinkhole along the way.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Lt. Connolly broke a vertebrae when the fire truck he was riding in hit a sinkhole in Cypress Hills.

"It was certainly large enough to jar a huge firetruck and break the back of an officer. He suffered a very serious injury," Nigro said.

A 12 by 10 ft patch of black top on Chestnut and Etna Streets covers the hole following a repair job by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Nigro said 41-year-old Connolly was sitting in the front passenger seat when the truck rolled over the crater. Everyone on board was jostled around. The driver was also seriously injured.

It's a challenge everytime firefighters in the neighborhood hit the road.

Residents in the area said they have been complaining about the sinkhole for more than a year.

"People get tired of just calling and nothing is being done," Johnnie Lewis said.

"It's dangerous to everyone. Dangerous to the kids driving their bikes around the street, dangerous to the cars, to everyone," Lilian Henriquez said.

The Department of Environmental Protection, responsible for repairing sinkholes, said crews came out after the accident, found the sewer system was working fine, so they filled up the hole and resurfaced the road.

Residents said it looks like it's sinking again.

"They patch it and it comes right back open. If we don't dig deep enough and smooth it out and start stacking it up it'll never get repaired properly," Shelton Barlow said.

"It was certainly large enough to jar a huge firetruck and break the back of an officer. He suffered a very serious injury," Nigro said.

Speaking off camera, firefighters from Engine Co 236 said sinkholes and potholes are an every day work hazard that can potentially slow down response times -- a delay they can't afford.

The FDNY recognizes the challenges road crews face.

"The city does a good job trying to keep our streets in good conditions. Sometimes potholes come very quickly as probably happened in this case," he said.

"Long as the city take their time to do it, you have more injuries and accidents," Barlow said.

And possible delays to emergency responses when every second counts.


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