City and subways can’t catch a break
Twice in six days, Manhattan saw two massive water main breaks that not only
impacted nearby apartments and businesses, but also the lifeblood of the city — our
The Jan. 13 burst near Columbus Circle, occurring at the height of the Monday
morning commute, left much of the area without the 1, 2 and 3 subway lines for
most of the day as MTA crews scrambled to pump out the water that poured into
the tunnels. Amazingly, they got the job done just in time for the afternoon rush.
In many ways, the MTA and city were fortunate that the second break occurred
on a sleepy, post-snowstorm Sunday morning near Central Park West and 102nd
Street. That ruptured pipe forced water into the underground tunnel where the
A, C and E trains run.
Yet again, the MTA hustled to get the trains running by the afternoon. However,
the authority stated its frustration with the city over the latest water main break,
claiming that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) workers only shut
the faulty pipe down an hour after the failure happened.
“We hope this latest incident will spur quicker shut-off response times by the
city and a review of its aging system in hopes of avoiding similar situations moving
forward,” said MTA New York City Transit Vice President Sally Librera on Sunday.
It’s rare that the MTA is the one voicing outrage; usually, the authority is the
one to hear it from commuters and the city. But the MTA’s gripe with the city is
When we asked for comment from the DEP about the MTA’s statement, an agency
spokesperson responded with boiler-plate statistics about the frequency of water
main failures in the city, and how much the city is investing toward upgrading the
That information is appreciated, but it doesn’t directly address why crews took an
hour to stop water from pouring out of the busted main Sunday — or what’s being
done to, at the very least, shore up or replace aging water lines near the subways.
We’re told by the DEP that it invests $400 million a year to build about 52 miles
of new mains a year. It’s not nearly enough.
Can’t the city, out of a projected annual budget approaching $100 billion, find the
cash to at least double that effort and keep both the water and the trains running?
The Jan. 7, 1960 issue of The Villager included a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt
and Dr. Edwin S. Burdell, president of The Cooper Union. The
caption said that Burdell was escorting “Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt”
through an exhibition of photographs of the Lower East Side, which was on
view in the Cooper Union Museum at Fourth Avenue and 7th Street. The
exhibition was sponsored by the Lower East Side Neighborhood Association
and included 200 photographs by 50 photographers.
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12 January 23, 2020 Schneps Media