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CB8 Environmental Committe Recap: Water Tunnel #3, Future Air Quality Forum Discussed

Last night Community Board 8 held its monthly meeting of the Environmental and Sanitation Committee. The Committee originally intended to discuss plans for the former DSNY garage property on the East River between 73rd and 74th Streets (now home to some eerily cool looking ruins), but mother nature had other plans. Sanitation was given a free pass in order to contend with the impending snowpocalypse, or is it snowmaggedon now? Either or, they had a good excuse. No word yet as to when interim plans for the site will be discussed.

Also on the agenda last night was a presentation by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection on upcoming work for City Water Tunnel #3 in the district. Newly minted, and somewhat controversial, DEP Commissioner Cas Holloway was in attendance to express his commitment to the project and to no doubt allay some of the neighborhood’s concerns. For those who don’t know, City Water Tunnel #3 is possibly the City’s most important infrastructure project, ever. The City’s first two water tunnels were built in the early part of the 20th century and have never been shut down for inspection. Sandhogs have been toiling deep underground (sometimes at depths of over 800 feet) on-and-off since 1970: a testament to the gigantic scale of the project. Heck, the History Channel even gave them their own TV show! Read more about the City’s water supply system here and here.

In order to bring all that new water to the neighborhood DEP must construct a series of connecting mains, pipes, and valves. Last night DEP presented plans to install a 40 foot water main along 59th Street from 3rd to 1st Avenue. DEP acknowledged that the neighborhood would feel some impacts during the 3 years of construction, including noise, traffic disruption, and vermin relocation (those critters have got to go somewhere!). Most of the construction will be centered around the intersection of 59th Street and 1st Avenue where 14 Honey Locust Park used to be (the site is now surrounded by construction fencing and in no way resembles a park). Concerned about the possibility of having a vacant eye-sore after construction is completed (like some other sites around the City), the Board pressed DEP to ensure that 14 Honey Locust park is eventually restored.

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A current Google Street View of 14 Honey Locust Park

Though construction in the neighborhood will no doubt bring some unwanted disruptions, the importance of City Water Tunnel #3 cannot be understated. The third water tunnel will allow the City to safely deliver clean drinking water for years to come – a central concept that allows great cities to thrive (thank you Romans).

In other news, CB8 is also discussed the possibility of holding an air quality forum based on the shocking results of the City’s recent Community Air Study. The Board hopes to engage residents to learn about the health and environmental dangers of dirty heating oil and theĀ  economic incentives available to buildings who switch to cleaner fuels and make energy efficiency improvements. The Board is currently planning for the forum to take place sometime in the late Spring.


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