The Department of Public Works steps out.
By 1870 the old Croton Aqueduct Department had taken on the reponsibilities of both bringing water to New York and the equally important task of taking it away. (Not to mention paving streets made muddy by too much washing of the sidewalks with Croton Water.) The Department of Public Works was formed with various subdivisions to carry out the different tasks. Interesting fact: the Head of the DPW in the early 70's was a certain William M. Tweed.
This oddity is slightly smaller than other DPW manhole covers and although it shares the same overall pattern as the others is misproportioned. Nevertheless it is still serving its function after almost 150 years of being stepped on daily.
The spokes of a wheel design was used early by the Croton Aqueduct Department, but by the 1870's the design was used almost exclusively for sewerage.
This particular example with large characters is unique in this survey. This one is on Broadway in the lower 80's. Cartwheel patterns with similar dates can be found in many locations on Manhattans Upper West Side and in the south Bronx.