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Large Sinkhole Opens Up Along East River Esplanade; Residents To NYC: Enough Is Enough

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Part of the East River Esplanade is closed after a large sinkhole opened up, creating safety concerns along the popular walkway.

The area was fenced off by the Parks Department on Monday night, blocking access between the 71st Street and 78th Street foot bridges after the walkway collapsed straight down to the river. But people CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis spoke to Tuesday said they're not entirely surprised.

It's a dangerous and inconvenient mess for those who walk the path regularly, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's pretty scary because families, they come through here all the time with kids, bike around. Someone could really fall in there," said Upper East Side resident Matthew Larangeira.

Larangeira walked into a caution sign -- caution tape. The scene is very different from a week ago.

"The last time there was a cone on the sinkhole, but now they blocked it off," Larangeira said. "The sinkhole was just getting bigger and bigger, not really a lot of maintenance over here."

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CBS2 was told wear and tear on the nearly 100-year-old Esplanade support structure triggers the city to inspect every five years.

After a separate state inspection on June 30, the Parks Department was notified of a large void underneath the Esplanade at East 76th Street, and a portion was cordoned off.

But then ...

"It keeps getting worse. The ground is uneven. They blocked it off, some days. Some days it's just there, but it could use some TLC, that's for sure," resident Molly Riddles said.

That sentiment was echoed by Jennifer Ratner of the advocacy group Friends of the East River Esplanade.

"My concern is that there are many other areas along the waterfront that the city knows are dangerously in need of repair and has had the funding to repair these areas for quite a long time, and really has been dragging its feet," Ratner said.

The Parks Department has been allocated more than $100 million for projects on the Esplanade between the Ed Koch and RFK bridges, some still in the design phase.

This isn't the first collapse CBS2 has covered on the Esplanade.

In 2017, a 50-foot section of seawall came crumbling down into the East River next to Gracie Mansion.

"We don't want a domino effect of collapses all along the waterfront," Ratner said.

DeAngelis was told the Parks Department has expedited remedies in the coming weeks, but some worry that's not fast enough.

"We need to be fixed right away, not tomorrow, not next year, today. Tomorrow might be too late," resident Maggie Goldfarb said.

In the last inspection by the city two years ago, CBS2 was told this area was apparently not identified as critical.

People DeAngelis spoke to feel maybe more frequent inspections should be done to keep everyone safe.

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