Finalizing NYC Water Tunnel #3

A Short, Temporary Road on Roosevelt Island and the Future of Brooklyn and Queens

Updated 10 weeks ago David Stone
Along this temporary road will roll the future of Brooklyn and Queens
Along this temporary road will roll the future of Brooklyn and Queens
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

Finishing off one of the biggest infrastructure projects in New York history will take place on Roosevelt Island, using a short, temporary road set aside decades ago.

For all the twenty-five years I've lived on Roosevelt Island, I thought of it as our own quirky "road to nowhere," the odd little track starting across from the fire station and running about a hundred feet between the soccer field and the community gardens into nothing.

Not exactly nothing. Cat rescuers set up stations in the bushes where the road ended.

When I felt a little flakey during my early morning runs, I'd jog up the little road and back down.

As it turns out, that seemingly discarded avenue is about to play a crucial roll in the future of Brooklyn and Queens. It's being finished to provide access to a shaft for the Department of Environmental Protection's Water Tunnel No. 3.

RIOC's Compliance & Internal Controls Officer Gretchen Reynolds explains.

"Pursuant to an easement DEP negotiated with UDC several years ago, an access road to their site exists at the location in between the soccer field and the Community Garden. So, for this work, DEP is going to place a temporary access road at that location. " she wrote in an email to The Daily. 

"This will not disturb people from gaining access to the Community Garden or impede activities at the baseball field.  Once the project is completed, DEP has agreed to work with RIOC to make the space where the access road is going to be placed aesthetically pleasing."

Concerns were raised late last week when equipment was transported to the site nearest the Octagon and concrete barriers went up along the easement.

An early article in the Main Street WIRE, relying on what looked like an outdated and barely readable sketch, suggested that a second road would be built from Main Street near the Coler parking lots across the picnic area, squeezing in between the residential building and the East River.

This doesn't seem any more likely now than when the article was published. Instead, it seems that the DEP will use the existing paved road through Octagon's outdoor parking area that leads directly to the Water Tunnel's construction entrance.

"It is my understanding," Reynolds answered in a follow up, "that the access road located near the Octagon already exists and DEP only needs to shift a couple of the bbq stations and young trees to another location in that general area to accommodate their needs."

No firm time line for work on the shaft to be completed has been established so far by DEP, but the de Blasio administration has said that funding is in place for full project completion in 2020.

Water Tunnel No.3 is a critical source of supply that will provide redundancy for tunnels built between 1917 and 1936, allowing repair work for the first time. Construction began in 1970 on the 60 mile tunnel that runs as much as 500 feet beneath street level. Projected total costs are $6 billion.

The shaft work, essentially pumps and controls for managing the system, is the last needed before going into full operation.

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