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.