City of Albany says they won’t pay for man’s SUV swallowed, destroyed by sinkhole


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Work continues on South Lake Avenue in Albany where crews have replaced a water main after a sinkhole last month.

The man who lost his car doesn’t relief headed his way anytime soon.

Six weeks ago Steeve Pierre watched in disbelief as his car was pulled from a sinkhole.  The vehicle was destroyed after a water main break and sewer collapse on South Lake Avenue in Albany.

He didn’t plan to sue for damages because he was expecting the city would replace his car.

The city denied his claim, stating they aren’t liable for any damages due to a water main break.

Pierre doesn’t agree.

“I thought was kind of disheartening that yeah there was a water main break, but it was the sinkhole that brought my car under. The car wasn’t washed away, the street caved in,” Pierre said.

The city says they aren’t liable because no way of knowing a break would happen here.

Some argue there was a red flag.

Three months prior a sinkhole opened up half a mile away, and the water department believes the same problem caused both sinkholes.

Joe Coffey, Commissioner of Albany Water Department, estimates crews have done about $2 million worth of work. They have installed a new pipe and are flushing the pipe on Friday.

Results from bacteriology tests are expected tomorrow, and over the weekend, crews will conduct pressure tests. If all goes well, crews will put the water main in service on Monday and lift all water restrictions.

However, there is still a lot of construction work to do before the road can be reopened.  Coffey says the sewer collapse caused the sinkhole. The sewer that had failure was 150 years old and the water main was built in 1930.

Coffey says crews inspected the sewer that failed in 2015, but because believes the same problem caused both sinkholes, crews will look “very hard at all the structures on the old sewers.”

Pierre is prepared to go to take the city to court.

“I pay taxes for the city to maintain the infrastructure, be it above ground or underground.  Given that it collapsed, I feel like that is their responsibility and their liability,” Pierre said.

City Attorney John Reilly says while he understands this is a difficult situation, he cannot comment on this because he expects there will be pending litigation.

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