Bay Ridge brings city water siphon to Staten Island

In the early years of New York, fresh water was available from an abundant ground water table that bathed land with creeks, streams, ponds, and two rivers. As manufacturing helped make Manhattan a place of commerce, those waterways became polluted and foul. One of the first major urban projects was building new water sources and draining the old.

In 2015, Bay Ridge residents are a little offended by a water project along a few blocks of Shore Road Park. The project is to construct a new city water siphon to Staten Island to replace existing ones in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. In the 1950’s, Bay Ridge was selected as a site for a bridge to Staten Island at the Narrows. Bay Ridge seems to be the site of many new water projects. What does this mean to Bay Ridge?

New York City has grown beyond capacity in the last century and clean water ha become a resource that many take for granted. Factories, stores and residents require more water while ground water became toxically polluted. Fortunately, the city reached out to bring water from over 100 miles away, along with various filter stations. Staten Island is in need of more water, especially after population growth following the construction of the Verrazano Bridge from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Staten Island. At Bay Ridge’ Shore Road, from around 85th to 83rd Street, a long project is set to bring Staten Island at least 3 million gallons per day of precious water supply.

Suitable drinking water was vital to early settlers in Manhattan and the Bronx, especially after a cholera epidemic occurred in Manhattan near the dawn of the 19th century. City leaders built a ceramic water tunnel (1839) to Westchester as a means of creating a watershed reservoir. They constructed a dam to the Croton River. As the city grew over the next 50 years (1882), a second, larger water tunnel made of cast-iron went to Westchester and a new, deeper Croton Dam.

When the Dutch and, later, the British, fought and settled New York, the coastlines and waterways were particularly attractive and important to sustain life. The unsettled lands had rich ground water tables from various streams and creeks at above and below sea level. In the early 19th-century, the borough of Kings (Brooklyn) and Queens were not part of New York City. They were added after the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1898.

After Brooklyn and Queens joined the Greater New York, the city extended this second water tunnel to Brooklyn and Queens. The project concluded around 1935. Until then, many parts of Brooklyn were drawing water from polluted watersheds in the local area.

Since the 1950’s, New York has undergone a more ambitious project of constructing water tunnel number 3. It has a 72-inch diameter width compared to existing 36-inch and 42-inch pipes and is better constructed than the rusting, cast-iron pipes of 140 years ago. The pipe is surrounded by a 12-foot (144″) diameter tunnel for easier maintenance.

All of New York City’s high-quality drinking water is collected in protected reservoirs located up to 125 miles north of the city. From there it travels south through aqueducts where it enters City Water Tunnels Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Construction of water tunnel 3 will eventually replace older city water pipes.

Freshness of water supply is particularly sensitive in Bay Ridge history. The area was once known as Yellow Hook. A spread of Yellow Fever across the area in the mid-1800’s, precipitated the name change to Bay Ridge around 1853. Yellow fever is a result of being bitten by a female mosquito. Yellow Hook once shared tepid creeks and water sources that helped these mosquitos breed. Virtually all have been covered over as part of the city’s water main extension, completed in the 1930’s. There are also yellow-fever vaccines available.

Under grants from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the project is aided by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The daunting project will require installation of those pipes to an underground (beneath the bay) tunnel for the mile stretch to a distribution center in Staten Island for 22 communities. DEP claims, ” No increased demand for community facilities in Brooklyn would be required and no existing community facilities within the study area would be directly impacted.”

While the project disrupts the beauty of the park on Shore Road for those 3 blocks, the significance of this project outweighs the inconveniences.

As with all government projects, the water siphon project was expected to be complete in 2014 at a cost of 250 million dollars. Thus far, the date has been delayed. This is sensible as the ambitious project began in 2013.

The project is a little more sophisticated than merely threading the water tunnel. The bay is 45-feet deep. To facilitate larger boats, an idea was to dredge the base of the bay to 50 feet. That move would have compromised the older pipes that were installed in 1917 and 1925.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation launched a project to replace them with a larger and deeper siphon. The project required boring a tunnel under full hydrostatic pressure, through highly variable clays and sands. The project was led by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg Mayor Mike Bloomberg said, “New York Harbor has been a critical part of our economy since the founding of our great city some 400 years ago. And if we want New York City’s economy to stay competitive, we must accommodate new mega-ships and their cargo. This investment in our infrastructure will spur economic activity all along our working waterfront.”

The significance and durability of a city requires the integrity of its maritime commerce and the replenishing quality of its water supply. We have witnessed many New York and New Jersey cities go bankrupt as they grew out-of-date for business development. Shore Road Park is a valued Bay Ridge asset. Promoting bay passage while bringing Staten Island access to city water seem sensible, as long a Bay Ridge preserves its precious waterfront.

While many Mayor Bloomberg’s pet city projects (WTC transit hub, 2nd Avenue Subway) have exceeded their completion dates, Bay Ridge residents generally support the project but hope the eyesore will go away soon. Effects from Hurricane Sandy may have contributed to the delays of installing this 100 foot deep pipe line.

Shore Road Park extends from 67 Street to 100 Street. A temporary 3-block interruption is a small price to help our neighbors across the bay with fresh city water. Residents hope there aren’t any lurid, unforeseen, after-effects. Above all, Shore Road Park is very precious to Bay Ridge residents and to its growth.

Some Bay Ridge residents seem to believe that Bay Ridge brings city water siphon to Staten Island but it is a project using multiple funding resources. The narrows are the narrowest points between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Ultimately, the creation of a deeper channel may promote better business and jobs for the Port Authorities of New York and New Jersey.

Old-time Bay Ridge residents weep how bridge construction marred the natural beauty of Bay Ridge. Bay Ridge residents have an idyllic coastline with recreational parks and great views. Will Bay Ridge continue to be the site of water projects? We hope this is the last one as Bay Ridge was geographically chosen as the site to bring city water siphon to Staten Island.

Or you might find an apartment in Bay Ridge

There are many great cities. New York City is arguably the most majestic. For many, New York City is Manhattan, one of the 5 boroughs that are part of Greater New York City. Living, commerce, business, and tall buildings epitomized Manhattan since the 1800’s and it continues to grow and attract more excitement and variety. Manhattan is all about attitude, competition, work, and play. Manhattan rocks with your lifestyle choices. There aren’t many playgrounds that offer perpetual fun as Manhattan if you use it and can afford it. If most of your salaries go to overhead expenses – rent, gas, phone, internet, dating – is Manhattan living worth it? That’s why many young new urbanites are reaching to Brooklyn and Queens.

With many gross salaries teetering at less than $50,000 gross per year, access to the fun often takes compromise. Small studios may rent for $2,000 to $4500 per month, eating most of many people’s net salary. So many young people sought out the less central neighborhoods of Manhattan or the perimeter neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. Those neighborhoods also began to demand higher rents. There are really no more affordable bargains in Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Williamsburg, Long Island City, and Sunnyside. With a growing drought of affordable, larger and convenient apartments, many real-estate agents advise searchers, “…Or you might find an apartment in Bay Ridge.”

Often it may be a hard sell but more people are reluctantly targeting areas further in the boroughs and Bay Ridge is one of them.

Brooklyn neighborhoods are vast and complex. In the 17th century, Brooklyn was originally made up of six separate towns, five of them Dutch, which then united into the borough of Kings. Brooklyn was one of those towns. In the late 19th century all those towns were united as Brooklyn. Each of those towns had to find their own water supplies. Many were using ground water supplies that, with expanding populations, were growing smaller and polluted. In 1898 Brooklyn, along with Queens, after much debate, was removed from Long Island and made part of Greater New York.

One problem in planning Greater New York was the need for a larger water supply, when New York consisted of Manhattan, Bronx, and Staten Island. Planners sought water from upstate and tunnels were constructed to bring that water to the city. Water tunnel number one was completed in 1843 but was too small for the growing population. Water tunnel 2 construction began in 1880 and, as a separate city, Brooklyn was not part of New York’s plan. After unification, the pipeline was extended to Brooklyn and Queens for completion by about 1935. At this time, Brooklyn now shares water quality with Manhattan.

Passage to Brooklyn was by ferry and, by late 19th century, bridges. Near Brooklyn, just north, was the town of Bostwick. When the City of Brooklyn annexed the village of Williamsburgh and the Town of Bushwick, this area was then known as the eastern district of the City of Brooklyn and Williamsburgh lost its final “h”, in 1827. In 1834, Town of Brooklyn (including Village of Brooklyn) becomes City of Brooklyn. Kings County now includes 1 city (Brooklyn) and 5 towns (Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht). New Utrecht is where Bay Ridge originated from what was earlier called Yellow Hook.

Because of independent urban planning, a united Brooklyn proved certain not so subtle navigation problems. The streets in Brooklyn do not line up because each of the 2 cities and 6 towns in Kings County were independent municipalities and created street grids with different naming systems that did not line up with the adjoining city or town.

The city of Brooklyn experienced a lot of development in the 19th century. There were many factories opening. Prospect Park (1859), Greenwood Cemetery, elevated railroads from Long Island Railroad and the Robert Culver line connected to deeper areas of these different towns, including the Coney Islands (yes, there were two). Construction of the Brooklyn (1870) and Williamsburg (1896) were built and permitted people to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Many homes were built for more spacious surroundings than the slums of Manhattan’s immigrants.

As a city, Brooklyn consisted of many neighborhoods. Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Greenwood Heights, Park Slope, Red Hook, South Park Slope, Sunset Industrial Park, and Windsor Terrace. These neighborhoods enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in the 1970’s as apartment seekers found values in the decaying 19th century houses of these areas. Over the next 30 years, these Brooklyn neighborhoods, many offering skyline views, flourished with property restorations and higher rents and sales.

Commuting was merely within minutes from Manhattan, allowing easy work and recreational access to and from Manhattan. These neighborhoods were perceived as extensions of the Manhattan lifestyle as they were very nearby. Some merely a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

As these areas grew more in demand, real-estate agents started advising their clients, “Or you might find an apartment in Bay Ridge.” For many, this undiscovered zone seems more of an insult than a commendation. Why does Bay Ridge illicit such reactions?

The drawbacks for those finding Bay Ridge are that commuting is farther from the city. Bay Ridge has a more suburban family than active city feel. Bay Ridge was not associated with the city of Brooklyn before borough unification. It was part of the township of New Utrecht and the area that encompasses the the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. The rest of the town’s lands are today the neighborhoods of Borough Park, Dyker Heights, and Bay Ridge. By subway, the commute is over 30 minutes. Though parts of Bay Ridge overlook the New York Harbor, the Atlantic ocean, and the grand Verrazano Bridge, there’s no Manhattan skyline. The view is Staten Island.

Bay Ridge officially stretches from 65th St to 101st St, and from 7th Ave west to Shore Rd. It’s a welcome change from the mind-numbing traffic of Manhattan and an easy day trip for travelers. From Manhattan take the N or D train downtown to 36th St in Brooklyn. Take the R train across the platform to 86th St and 4th Ave. It is still viewed by many as suburbia.

While Williamsburg and Bushwick grow increasingly expensive with the arrival of twenty-somethings eager to be next to Manhattan, Bay Ridge’s seven-mile commute is just too far from the city to be considered attractive. But you get more apartment living space for fewer dollars, So you might ask yourself whether the extra 20 minutes travel is worth a nice-size 1 bedroom apartment instead of a cramped studio or room-mate situation. Many see Bay Ridge just a little too far from Manhattan

The 4th Avenue R subway is the only nearby subway. The local route requires about 14 stops to reach 86th Street, the main shopping boulevard of Bay Ridge. That is nearly double of the F route to Park Slope. Switching to the N express train at select R stops can reduce commuting time.

A valuable asset and major benefit, is the X27 express bus route that runs mostly on Shore Road and travels from 100 Street in Bay Ridge (near the Verrazano) to 57th Street in Manhattan. Fortunately, many apartment buildings are near Shore Road, allowing for costlier but very comfortable commuting 7-days per week for easy Manhattan access. The entire route (barring traffic) is about an hour from Bay Ridge to 57th Street and Madison Avenue. During rush hours, the X37 delivers more rapid access to midtown stops from 23rd Street to 57th Street.

Like most Brooklyn neighborhoods, parking a car requires strategy. Because Bay Ridge has many private houses, more street parking is available than Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights. A rarity for Brooklyn, there are public garages near 4th and 5th avenues. Many apartment buildings have garages for residents but there are waiting lists.

Bay Ridge also has a few local bus routes that make the area attractive for those choosing not to have a car. The B16 connects to various subway and bus routes as it routes to Prospect Park’s botanical gardens. B37 runs along 3rd Avenue, the shopping and restaurant district, to the Brooklyn Atlantic Terminal mall and Barclays center. Other buses take you on 86th Street and on 5th avenues. 86th Street is the areas main shopping strip, with stores like Century 21, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Modell’s, and many more. There’s even a New York Sports Club (one of four major fitness centers in the Bay Ridge area).

Despite all this, the area maintains a quiet, safe suburban charm of when Brooklyn was not part of New York City. That’s what many long-time Bay Ridge residents find attractive. It also makes Bay Ridge a harder pill to swallow for former suburbanites seeking the big-city environment.

Instead of masses, trickles of people do discover Bay Ridge residential opportunities and other qualities. That may be a good thing for Bay Ridge residents but not such a good thing for realtors. Houses run higher in value but apartment sales remain generally stable, except for larger spaces. The area hasn’t yet found the urban settlers yet but as more down5town realtors advise, “Or you might find an apartment in Bay Ridge,” the area is encountering a younger and more diverse crowd.

Bay Ridge is an active traditional community. Predominantly Christian with Norwegian, Polish, Italian, and Irish backgrounds, Bay Ridge is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bound by 65th Street on the north, Interstate 278 on the east, and the Belt Parkway-Shore Road on the west. The portion below 86th Street is a subsection called Fort Hamilton. An active army base, Fort Hamilton is among the oldest bases and recognized landmark. A small area east of I-278, bounded by 7th Avenue, is also part of Bay Ridge. Access to local streets and highways offer conveniences to drivers.

Bay Ridge is relatively quiet, with little traffic noise from Shore Road to 4th Avenue. After sunset, it is nearly silent.

Is it safe? Bay Ridge is patrolled by the NYPD’s 68th Precinct. From 2013 to 2014, there is significantly less crime and lesser crime than most Brooklyn neighborhoods. The 68th Precinct Community council meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 P.M. and provides the community with the opportunity to meet local officials and raise their concerns. A youth council sets up team play in neighborhood parks. Bay Ridge is served by Engine 241, Engine 242, and Ladder 109 of the New York City Fire Department, located at 92nd Street and 5th Avenue.

Once called “Little Palestine” because of an Arab population in the 65 to 70th Street area, Bay Ridge offers numerous family-owned restaurants, shops and markets. Bay Ridge boasts many New York City parks and bay views. Perhaps Bay Ridge’s family-based influences tend not to attract many young singles to the area but more singles and young-marrieds are discovering Bay Ridge than before as they ride the bicycle path along Shore Road Park.

Bay Ridge is mostly a neighborhood of stately, private houses. As a prominent family neighborhood, private home prices are high.

Apartment buildings are mostly on or near Shore Road. They offer affordable rentals and sales prices. One bedroom apartments might average around $2,000 per month, facing the Shore Road Park. It’s quite attractive when compared with the more popular parts of Brooklyn. Many buildings have elevators. There are pre-war and more recent buildings. Most are 6 floors. No towers here.

Shore Road Park was once the natural edge and the ridge that contributed to changing the area’s name from Yellow Hook to Bay Ridge in the mid-1800’s. In 1930, the ridge became a New York City park, extending from 68th Street to 100 Street. The conversion was designed by Robert Moses, who created the Belt Parkway through the park. The compromise was using landfill to widen the park and building footbridges over the parkway to a bay-shore path, a greenway for walkers, bikers and more. Though larger than the Brooklyn Heights promenade, there’s no Manhattan skyline. The bay is stunning, especially at sunsets. The park also has an active, privately-sponsored conservancy that helps maintain and enhance its natural beauty.

There are several other parks to note. Owl’s Head Park, near 68th, and John Paul Jones, at 101, nearly beneath the bridge. From Owl’s Head Park to Jones Park, and Shore Road Park in between, there are over 2 miles of uninterrupted park lands for recreation, meandering, views, and solace. There is a bike path promenade that stretches even farther.

Shore Road resembles Manhattan’s upper west side Riverside Park but, instead of stately pre-war high-rise buildings, most of the apartment buildings are 6 or 7 floors. Some even have a doorman or concierge – a rare resource in Brooklyn. Many of the larger apartments offer comfortable terraces.

Age wise, over half of the neighborhood is over age 50. There are families that have been there for several generations. Unlike Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Carroll Gardens once was, the neighborhood is not in disrepair. It is strong and solid. As of 2010, the median age is about 36 of 170,000 residents. Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights have smaller populations and area sizes but, ironically, the median age is about the same. The only area that is significantly lower I median age is Williamsburg at 29.11.

Bay Ridge has a very strong argument. Many apartment rentals are available for less than $2,000. You don’t have to squeeze into a studio at that price. Some have 2 bedrooms at those price points. There’s hardly another decent area around the city that offers the features of Bay Ridge. While it’s not closest to the high-class thrills of being in Manhattan, you get more living space, more money saved, and a (somewhat) happening neighborhood with parks, restaurants, and shopping conveniences. It’s a good, safe neighborhood that might be a little less pretentious than others. It could be a good place to live. The savings allow you to have more fun when you do go to Manhattan.

Bay Ridge may be more distant from Manhattan and may not have as many people in their 20’s. As apartments go, you might be wise to try and find an affordable apartment in Bay Ridge. It’s like pioneering but, in a safe neighborhood, you might find to be a suitable fit for (at least) many of your lifestyle needs.

There maybe nothing as exciting as Manhattan or the Brooklyn Heights area. If your realtor advises, “Or you might find an apartment in Bay Ridge.” it isn’t a brush-off. Considering Bay Ridge might be a nice idea. Is Bay Ridge perfect for you? It may be an idea worth exploring.