View Full Version : Bronx Water Plant and Parks Deal
May 8th, 2003, 09:21 AM
Parkland covers 24% of the Bronx, the highest percentage of any borough.
May 8, 2003
Water Plant With a Spoon of Honey
By JOYCE PURNICK
AFTER the Albany budget wars will come the legislative skirmishes, and one of the more urgent is the matter of a filtration plant that City Hall wants to build under the Mosholu golf course in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
The federal government says water from the Croton system (10 percent of the city's water) has to be filtered. Some disagree, but the city is under court order, and after years of false starts, time is running out. The city figures it has through this month to get approval from the City Council and from Albany.
The former mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, tried to build a larger version of the plant, but was thwarted by a court decision and by community opposition that he did little to assuage. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who often demonstrates his preference for honey over vinegar, is pledging to spend $200 million on improvements to parks throughout the Bronx, and $43 million on Van Cortlandt Park and the golf course, to make them whole after construction.
That would be a total of $243 million in capital financing for Bronx parks over about four years (though capital projects tend to stretch out), compared with an average city capital appropriation for Bronx parks of about $13 million a year.
Will opponents say no to government largess? They have before — most famously in 1985, when 15 years of fierce opposition succeeded in scuttling Westway, the plan to submerge two miles of the West Side Highway and build a park and beach, all on Washington's dime.
Christian D. DiPalermo, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said his group wanted the site rezoned and analyzed in another environmental impact study: "We are opposed to taking public parkland for nonpark uses." Will he go to court? "We're looking at that option," said Mr. DiPalermo. "We are not ready to say we are definitely going to sue."
Some of the parks advocates prefer two other possible sites because they are not in parks. One is in Westchester, where the city would have to pay rent, the other on the Bronx side of the Harlem River at 207th Street. Both would cost more, and be more complicated to construct and make secure, according to the environmental commissioner, Christopher O. Ward and the commissioner of Parks and Recreation, Adrian Benepe.
If the Van Cortlandt option is blocked, the city could have to select one of the other locations. Neither would be accompanied by the sweetener — which would come from bonds backed by water and sewer fees. "The Bronx can get a legacy that is just phenomenal, but this is a window that will close if we don't do this in Mosholu," said Mr. Ward.
Reading between the carefully neutral lines of the City Council and State Legislature, both are likely to approve building on the Mosholu site — after more trading with Bronx Democrats on how and where the park money would be spent.
That would put the advocates in a difficult position. "They have to fish or cut bait," said one Democratic legislator. "The worst thing would be to have this dissolve into recriminations and deal-making with the Bronx Democratic organization."
A NEW lawsuit would, says the city, use up time, which could lead to steep federal fines. "They can nibble you to death," Mr. Benepe said. "I would find it ironic that parks advocates would try to stop over $200 million from flowing into the parks."
Among the projects under consideration for Bronx parks if the deal goes through, he said, are adding new trails to the Bronx Greenway, restoring the Croton Trail and rehabilitating the largest complex of ball fields in the Bronx.
Critics are skeptical. "Will the money really be there?" asked Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democratic assemblyman whose district includes the golf course. "Administrations change, commissioners change."
Mayors would be under strong pressure to honor the plan, said Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society: "The administration should be sensitive to doing this in a way that does not gut protections important to park advocates, and should provide reasonable enforcement that these benefits accrue to the Bronx. It is all within the realm of the very possible."
Also possible are time-eating court fights, the kind New York knows so well. "It would be a Pyrrhic victory to say parkland should not be used for anything but parks," Mr. Benepe said. "You could have a renaissance in the Bronx unparalleled since W.P.A. days." Or the Mosholu golf course can remain untouched, along with the needy parks of the Bronx.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
May 8th, 2003, 10:41 AM
Step right up NIMBY's.
"We don't need no stinkin' water!"
Wait...that's what we'll get.
June 13th, 2003, 07:58 AM
From the New York Observer:
Mayor Buying A Water Filter In the Bronx
by Greg Sargent
Ending a municipal drama that has dragged on for years, city and state officials have reached a deal with the Bloomberg administration to support construction of a controversial $1.5 billion water-filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, The Observer has learned.
The agreement was reached in recent days during private discussions among State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and aides to Mr. Bloomberg, according to sources familiar with the talks. It clears the way for the construction of one of the biggest and most politically charged proposals on the city’s agenda: a massive underground plant that would filter the water that flows from the Croton Reservoir, in northern Westchester County, into many neighborhoods in the Bronx and Manhattan.
The agreement, which could be announced as early as June 12, is a significant victory for the Bloomberg administration. The project, which opponents have stymied for nearly five years, concerns that most fundamental of municipal missions: keeping the city’s drinking water clean.
In securing support for the project, Mr. Bloomberg is succeeding where his predecessor failed. First proposed by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the late 1990’s, the plan gave rise to one of the most protracted and intense political battles in memory. Mr. Giuliani finally abandoned the plan in 2001 in the face of opposition from parks advocates and elected officials, who argued that it would waste taxpayer money and gobble up enormous swaths of precious parkland.
But the Bloomberg administration revived the plan several months ago, and has since managed to win support through a combination of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and, more important, a willingness to spend $240 million on new parkland in the Bronx.
The agreement has far-reaching implications for the entire city. When the plant is built, it will enhance the quality of the water that flows from millions of faucets and showerheads on the Upper East Side, downtown Manhattan, parts of the West Side, the Lower East Side and parts of the Bronx. The Croton reservoir system, which serves these neighborhoods, supplies 10 percent of the city’s drinking water.
According to sources, a crucial piece of this complex political puzzle fell into place when Christopher Ward, the head of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which will build the plant, agreed to do a supplemental environmental-impact statement sought by residents around the park. In exchange for that concession, Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller agreed to back the plan.
The support of these legislative leaders is crucial, because the city needs state legislation to build the plant on parkland. On June 10, Assembly leaders introduced the requisite bill, and according to sources, it will be voted on in coming days, with an assurance of Mr. Silver’s support. (A similar vote is certain to pass in the Senate, and Governor George Pataki’s support is also seen as certain.)
Mr. Miller, meanwhile, has agreed to deliver a home-rule message from the City Council as early as June 12, which Albany needs to pass laws that affect the city. Although nothing can be labeled a certainty in Albany, the support of Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller virtually assures that the project is going to happen.
Asked if a deal had been reached with City Hall, spokesmen for Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller declined comment. Mr. Ward also declined to comment.
The decision to support the Bloomberg administration’s plan is politically sensitive. Mr. Silver and Mr. Miller risk the considerable wrath of the plant’s opponents, who thought they had killed the plan for good in 2001. That’s when the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that the city would need state legislation authorizing the use of parkland for the plant. Many observers believed it would be impossible to coax such legislation from Albany.
But, as The Observer first reported in March, the plan’s opponents were caught off-guard when the Bloomberg administration quietly revived the proposal. They mobilized once again, and opponents—including Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, the powerful civic group Friends of Van Cortlandt Park and many others—mounted a full-scale lobbying effort to persuade legislative leaders to oppose it.
Although a federal court order mandated that the city filter water from the Croton, some opponents wanted the city to drop plans for the plant entirely, saying that the science behind filtration was unsound.
But the city’s position has long been that a huge filtration plant is the best way to deal with a nettlesome strain of bacteria known as cryptosporidia, a parasitic microorganism that flourishes in the Croton Reservoir. The organism itself isn’t the threat; the problem is that the bacteria has forced the city to treat water with huge amounts of chlorine, which may be a long-term health risk. Some studies say that chlorine creates chemical byproducts that have been linked to cancer and fetal-development problems.
Other opponents backed the idea of a plant, but argued that the city should build it at another location. The city was considering two other sites: one along the Harlem River, and another in Westchester.
But city engineers persisted in their argument that the Van Cortlandt Park site was easier and cheaper. And the plant—a huge construction project that will take five years to build and will create thousands of jobs—already had the support of the city’s powerful labor unions.
In the end, City Hall outmaneuvered the plan’s foes.
Bloomberg aides had spent months working behind the scenes to solidify support, long before their plan to revive the Van Cortlandt option became public.
One significant victory came in May, when City Hall won the support of environmentalists who had previously questioned the need for a filtration plant. After months of persistent lobbying by city officials, three big conservation groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the New York League of Conservation Voters—endorsed the idea of filtration. While this endorsement didn’t concern the politically delicate question of where to put the plant, it was a huge step forward nonetheless.
Then there was the question of location. To win support for building the plant in Van Cortlandt Park, City Hall wooed the Bronx political leadership with promises of new parkland elsewhere in the borough. This made it easier for local elected officials to back the plan in the face of vociferous community opposition.
Those efforts infuriated the plan’s foes, who have accused City Hall of using taxpayer money to buy off the opposition in a series of old-fashioned political deals. "The D.E.P. commissioner is sneaking around in back rooms and making deals with the Bronx leadership," Mr. Dinowitz, the Bronx Assemblyman who opposes the plan, said at the time. "The only thing missing is the smoke."
Now that the deal is consummated, however, even opponents seem resigned to seeing the plant built. "Our stance is that the park should be a location of last resort," said Allison Farina, the government-affairs director for New Yorkers for Parks, a century-old civic group. "But if the city has to do this, we just hope they will follow zoning and environmental laws designed to protect parkland, which is a priceless commodity."
COPYRIGHT © 2003
THE NEW YORK OBSERVER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
June 13th, 2003, 07:09 PM
Yay! *Clean water! *And jobs!
June 27th, 2003, 12:25 AM
This entire post suffers from a severe lack of information. A few facts:
1/ There is nothing currently wrong with the water they want to filter. The water that comes from the Croton watershed passes all safety standards, if anything it has improved over the past few years.
2/ The water that comes from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds, which supply 90% of our drinking supply, has higher levels of several noted contaminants (incl. giardia and cryptosporidia) than Croton. And Catskill / Delaware have received a waiver from the Feds for filtration.
3/ Additionally, there is an alternative treatment to chlorine, which does not create the harmful by-products. And anyway, as said above, more of this junk is coming from the watersheds that don't have to be filtered, than from the one that supposedly does have to be.
4/ Building the filtration plant opens the floodgates for unfettered development in the watershed area. So the water will only get dirtier. Building the plant encourages the dumping of chemicals into the water at their source, then brings in more chemicals to clean up those chemicals. Does that sound clean to you?
5/ "Jobs" will primarily go to construction workers who live outside of New York City. If it's going to be such an economic boom, why are the local residents so opposed to it?
6/ Mr. Benepe is truly naive if he thinks all that money is going to be spent on parks in the Bronx. Have you noticed Pataki dragging his feet on the whole thing the past few days? If anything that money should be put into protecting the watershed, if they get away with building the plant. Any other use is just bribery. Benepe has plenty of fundraisers, it's part of his job to convince them to raise money for parks that aren't necessarily the "backyard" of the wealthy, a la Central Park.
7/ This opposition is the opposite of NIMBYism (though there certainly have been and continue to be proponents of that appraoch). The best way to keep the water clean is to do so at its source, through careful management and restricted development. The filtration plant is not necessary. The DEP could have applied for the waiver for Croton, and probably would have gotten it. But it was their "sacrificial lamb" to protect the Catskill / Delaware region. And that ain't fair to the residents of the community or the watershed area.
8/ Who do you think is paying for all this? Water rates in the city have already gone up, in anticipation of paying for the construction. Bloomberg can't keep firehouses open but he can find ways to pay for unnecessary filtration plants?
I haven't even mentioned the health risks involved for the people / children living nearby, both during construction and after.
We are not trying to keep "200 million dollars from flowing into the parks." We are trying to protect a much larger and more important ecosystem, one that can continue to supply clean water, unfiltered, for years to come.
July 6th, 2003, 10:43 PM
July 7, 2003
A Park Divided in the Bronx
By KIRK JOHNSON
The one-mile pathway that runs through Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, from the tennis courts at Indian Field to Van Cortlandt Lake, is all parkland, or so it says on the map.
But in some places it is pretty hard to tell, especially for the quarter-mile stretch that goes along the shoulder of Interstate 87 — an often-roaring, often-clogged commuter artery otherwise known as the Major Deegan — or when the four-lane Mosholu Parkway is clattering overhead.
The highways carve up Van Cortlandt Park like a pie, or perhaps more aptly like a series of fenced-off kingdoms. Only by the most circuitous routes can a person go from one segment to another, over or under the highways, and so residents here say mostly they do not.
"The park has been chipped away," said Karen Argenti, a nearby resident.
Van Cortlandt's segmented character, and what historians say is the underlying cause — city and state policies that for decades considered the park's land expendable for highways and other projects — colors everything about the fight over a huge water-treatment plant that New York City wants to build in the park's southeast corner.
The city's Department of Environmental Protection is under court order to filter water from the city's oldest reservoir system, the Croton, and faces fines for every day that a site is not finally selected and approved. Officials at the department argue that putting the $1.3 billion plant in the park is the most logical and cost-effective choice.
Opponents say Van Cortlandt has already given its share. Taking pieces of it has been the way things have been done, they say, since at least the 1930's, when Robert Moses, the highway builder and city parks commissioner from 1933 to 1959, paved over one of the biggest freshwater marshes left in New York City, in the park's center, for the building of the Mosholu Parkway.
Hardly anything is certain. City officials say that Bronx parks will blossom if the Van Cortlandt plant goes forward, from the $240 million in park improvement money agreed to by city and state officials last month. But the legislation that would create that package is being held up by Gov. George E. Pataki, who has said, through a spokeswoman, that he has "serious concerns" about the bill, raising the possibility that he might not sign it when it reaches his desk.
Underneath all the positioning, however, and the mountain of statistics and studies accumulated over the years around this filtration issue, is the landscape of the park itself.
If Central Park has become the symbol of the cultivated, worshipfully preserved urban garden, Van Cortlandt in some ways presents the opposite question. When does a park cease to be a park at all? How many pieces must be cut off from public use without the fabric of the whole being lost? Who does the park belong to, the city or the residents who treat it as their backyard?
Van Cortlandt, according to the history of the park written for the city in 1984, was not formally designed, like Central Park, or Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where landscape views and specific plantings were part of the architectural plan. For reasons of costs or aesthetics or both, it was left wild.
And the highways, in an odd way, have reinforced that wildness. The park's center, hemmed in by the Deegan Expressway and the Mosholu and Henry Hudson Parkways, is barely used at all because it is so hard to get to, residents say. And on a recent afternoon walking the park's trails, especially along what is called, appropriately, the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, it seemed almost like wilderness, if not for the inescapable traffic sounds. Vine-covered trees hung down where they had fallen across the trail, apparently undisturbed by pedestrians. Signs marking the way were almost entirely absent.
Like every New York open space, Van Cortlandt has its passionate devotees. Or perhaps more accurately, it has people who love their particular slices.
Abdelaziz Benchekroun, 34, a Moroccan immigrant, moved to the Bronx from Manhattan last year specifically to live by Van Cortlandt Park after he visited a friend and fell in love with a biking and jogging area called the Parade Ground on the park's east side. He runs there every night. Asked if he ever goes over to the southeastern corner of the park, where the filtration plant would be placed near Jerome Avenue and Gun Hill Road, Mr. Benchekroun looked blank for a moment, then shook his head.
"I don't go over there," he said.
Joseph Rivera, a social worker who lives in Manhattan, drives to Van Cortlandt Park with his family on his day off because he finds it more peaceful than Central Park, which is a few blocks from his home. His particular segment, he said, is a place called Vault Hill, just south of the Henry Hudson Parkway, which cuts off the park's northwest corner.
Lyn Pyle, who was eating a take-out Chinese dinner on the lawn at the park's southeast corner on a recent evening, said that Van Cortlandt's chopped-up character makes the filtration plant a neighborhood issue.
And she thinks her southeast corner neighborhood, called Knox Gates, is at risk. It held together in the 1970's, when she first moved here, even as the abandonment and arson and decay spread elsewhere in the Bronx. But asthma rates are very high, and she thinks the five-year construction plan for the plant and the need to blast 13 stories down through the bedrock might make people move away, unraveling what urban decay never could.
But the negotiation over the plant and its impact is also very much a work in progress.
As recently as a few weeks ago, for example, the managers of the Van Cortlandt Golf Course had planned to expand into park's southeast corner to compensate for the loss of two fairways that would be displaced by the plant's construction.
But the course's manager, Barry K. McLaughlin, said in an interview last week that city officials have now told him they want the 11-acre corner parcel untouched. Mr. McLaughlin said his architect has since found a way to use the existing course's land to make up for the lost holes.
Paul R. Sawyer, executive director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park, which has been fighting the plant, said the decision to protect the corner was a very positive development.
"They don't want to infringe upon the community where they have their business," he said, referring to the golf course. "That's a victory."
For other residents, the question of the filtration plant has become bound up with all the things they want their neighborhood to be. Last year, for example, teenagers at the Knox Gates community center, called the Cove, created a kind of wish-list project for the park's southeast corner. The teenagers did man-in-the-street interviews, questioned local business owners and came up with a plan. Working with an architect, they imagined a manicured place with a cafe and restrooms and benches, none of which the area has.
Now city officials have suggested that the filtration plant might make that vision a reality. The city's environmental commissioner, Christopher O. Ward, visited the Cove a few weeks ago and told residents that money might come the group's way, and that he would work to see that their project was at the top of the list when the $240 million in parks money is doled out.
"This is a process that empowers and makes that agenda real, rather than an agenda that has no mechanism to become real," Mr. Ward said in an interview, referring to the Cove's plans.
Residents near the southeast corner of the park say the tradeoff is more complicated.
"We had plans for raising the money," said Ms. Pyle, a director of a small theater company and a volunteer at the Cove. "They're saying we could get money now — if we put up with five years of construction."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
July 9th, 2003, 08:49 AM
July 9, 2003
City Asks Albany Leaders to Release Water Plant Bill
By AL BAKER
ALBANY, July 8 — Facing fines of $7,500 a day for failing to lock in a site to filter water from the Croton reservoir system, New York City officials urged the State Legislature today to release legislation needed to move the project along.
Officials from the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the fines to the federal government had mounted to $300,000 so far while the city had waited for Gov. George E. Pataki to sign a bill to build a water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
But Mr. Pataki said he had not seen the bill, which was passed by the Legislature just before lawmakers went on vacation on June 20. The bill would allow the city to build a $1.3 billion plant, capable of treating up to 290 million gallons a day, under a driving range at the Mosholu Golf Course in the park.
At a news conference in Brooklyn today, Mayor Bloomberg said he feared that time was running out to act on the plan, one he said would create thousands of jobs, renovate parts of the Bronx and allow savings of $200 million that could be used to build parks in other parts of the borough or enhance existing ones.
"We have to build a plant," Mr. Bloomberg said. "We either build it where we proposed, underneath a golf driving range, which would then be restored and you wouldn't even know it was there, or we build it elsewhere. If we build it elsewhere it will cost an awful lot more money, and if it goes outside of New York City it will cost jobs in this city."
He added: "It would be a very bad thing for this city if we didn't do it now because it would probably never be done."
City officials later asked the Assembly to send the bill to the governor's office, and Assembly officials said they would. "It will most likely be sent this week," said Eileen Larrabee, a spokeswoman for Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker.
The Legislature's approval of the plan followed years of public debate on the need for a filtration plant and appeared to satisfy a Court of Appeals decision about where to put it as well as a federal Environmental Protection Agency consent decree on public health rules.
Until a plant is operable, the city cannot guarantee that water from the Croton system, which typically supplies about 10 percent of its daily needs, will continue to comply with health standards.
Whether Mr. Pataki will sign the bill is another matter. At a news conference Monday, the governor said he was concerned about construction of the plant, but he declined to say what the concerns were.
"When the bill is sent to us, we'll take a look at those concerns," Mr. Pataki said.
Suzanne Morris, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pataki, later said in an e-mail message that the governor had been conferring with environmentalists and leaders in Norwood, the Bronx neighborhood that would be affected, about their opposition to the plan.
Some people, including Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat whose district includes the park and its surrounding neighborhood, and some environmentalists, are hoping Mr. Pataki's consternation means he will veto the bill despite the city's appeal for his signature.
City officials and a legislative official in Albany say the governor has been unhappy with the legislation because it leaves him out of the process of doling out $200 million to build more parks in the Bronx or to spruce up existing ones, perks to community groups as compensation for the disruption it will cause to their neighborhood and parkland.
Under a memorandum of understanding, Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Silver and Joseph L. Bruno, the State Senate majority leader, will decide on distribution, and Pataki administration officials say that memorandum essentially allows the mayor and the legislative leaders to decide who gets the money.
"He wants to be relevant even though it is a city park," said a legislative official.
Other city officials speculated that the governor, left out of the deal as he was left out of the state budget deal, wants to be able to put his name on it.
City officials said they wrote to the governor today to try to answer his concerns about the money. "The mayor has written to the governor and said he would work to ensure that the governor is included in the selection process," said Chris Ward, the city's Department of Environmental Protection commissioner.
But a senior Pataki administration official insisted that the sticking point was not the money but concerns over the environment and the integrity of the water system, a priority of Mr. Pataki's. The official said there had not been an environmental impact study that compares the Van Cortlandt Park site with two alternative sites, something Mr. Ward said the Albany bill provides for.
"This was a deal cut by the city with the legislative leaders, Democrats and Republicans, to get a bill passed and without taking into account the process and the integrity of the process, and that gives us real concerns," said the official, who said the governor wanted to work with the city and lawmakers to fix the problem.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
July 11th, 2003, 05:56 AM
July 11, 2003
Forward on Filtration
Just before its summer recess, the State Legislature authorized New York City to build a $1.3 billion water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. This dismayed the park's devoted friends but delighted City Hall. The city is under a court order to filter water from the city's oldest reservoir system, the Croton, which typically supplies 10 percent of the city's daily needs.
The bill does not mandate Van Cortlandt as the plant's site. Indeed, it calls for an environmental review that, if done properly, will require the consideration of alternative sites. From an engineering and financial perspective, however, the Van Cortlandt site is superior to any other the city has looked at.
Unfortunately, Gov. George Pataki has been conspicuously unenthusiastic about the bill. The governor worries that the environmental review process is too vague. He is also deeply annoyed that the city and the Legislature failed to include him in the negotiations that produced not only the bill but also a critically important side agreement promising the Bronx $243 million for various park-related projects in exchange for allowing the plant. He has a legitimate beef. Watershed protection and water quality have been among his signature issues over the years, and for the city and the State Legislature to have ignored him in this case was plainly ill advised. He should also have been consulted on the promised largesse to the Bronx.
None of this, though, is reason enough to veto the bill. Starting all over again with new legislation would be a mistake — the filtration debate has gone on long enough. Mr. Pataki should be invited to review the side agreement and to request reasonable amendments, including, if necessary, a more detailed environmental review. That done, he should sign the bill, keeping the Van Cortlandt site on the table.
We sympathize with the concerns of Van Cortlandt's friends. We also believe that their discomfort will be modest and fleeting. Construction would involve only a small part of the park, and nearly all of the land would be restored to its original condition because the plant would be underground.
The city has also promised not to use the filtration plant as an excuse to abandon watershed protections in the larger Croton system north of the city. Indeed, it pledges even stronger efforts to safeguard wetlands, purchase open space and enforce environmental laws. Throw in the $243 million in new parks projects for the Bronx, and this strikes us as a win-win deal for everyone.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
July 23rd, 2003, 12:44 AM
Pataki Okays Construction Of Water Treatment Plant In The Bronx
JULY 22ND, 2003
The construction of a massive water filtration plant that boosters say will keep millions of dollars and thousands of jobs in New York City will likely go ahead, after Governor George Pataki cleared the way for the project Tuesday.
Less than two hours before the midnight deadline, Pataki approved legislation authorizing the city to build the Croton watershed water treatment facility within Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
The governor had expressed concerns about the plant's environmental impact on the park, but he was lobbied heavily by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and numerous unions, who wanted the plant to be built in New York City rather than on an alternate site in Westchester County.
"I would like to express my deepest thanks to Governor Pataki for signing (this) legislation," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Not only will this allow us to meet the Environmental Protection Administration's ten-year-old mandate that we filter water from the Croton Reservoir system, it will also allow us to invest $243 million in park improvements in the Bronx and prevent us from loosing this important project to the suburbs."
In his own statement Pataki said he decided to approve the project "based on commitments made by Mayor Bloomberg, and discussions with Bronx Borough President Aldolfo Carrion, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, environmental advocates and community leaders."
The city Department of Environmental Protection has said it will save up to $600 million if the plant is built in the Bronx instead of Westchester County.
The plant will be constructed under a driving range at the Mosholu Golf Course. Bloomberg says that once construction is completed, the park will be returned to its present appearance.
Copyright © 2003 NY1 News. All rights reserved.
July 23rd, 2003, 11:00 PM
July 24, 2003
Officials Face Tough Part of Water Deal
By KIRK JOHNSON with JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Gov. George E. Pataki's approval late Tuesday of legislation authorizing a $1.3 billion water-filtration plant in the Bronx broke a logjam that had kept New York City water system administrators, environmentalists and public health officials holding their breath for weeks.
But what comes next, water experts say, could be just as exhausting: the details.
The engineering of the plant, which will filter about 10 percent of the city's supply and require a deep excavation into the bedrock below Van Cortlandt Park over five and a half years of construction, is only the beginning.
What must also be worked through are the conditions and promises by which the city was able to get the measure approved by the Legislature and then signed by the governor. They include a new environmental impact study that looks at alternative sites for the plant, and the creation of a process by which the $243 million in capital money for Bronx parks is to be distributed.
New deadlines for the various phases of the project will probably be set within the next few weeks, but city officials said construction could not begin until early to mid-2005, even if all goes smoothly from here.
"We'll be meeting next week to discuss the milestones," said Charles G. Sturcken, the chief of staff of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, which operates the water system. "Every step of the way is a negotiation."
Mr. Pataki, in his down-to-the-wire negotiations on Tuesday night, insisted, for example, that the Bronx borough president, Adolfo Carrión Jr., be included in decisions about the fund for Bronx parks. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's agreement on that point, aides to the governor said, was one of the final pieces to fall into place.
Officials at the Department of Environmental Protection are also on record with a promise to include extensive new protections of the watershed lands around the Croton Reservoir, mainly in Westchester and Putnam Counties, that will feed into the filtration plant. And the big environmental groups that signed on this year as allies in supporting filtration in return for that promise said they would be watching closely to ensure that the promise was kept.
New York is under court-monitored consent order to build a filtration plant, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and has been trying for years to resolve the issue by building in Van Cortlandt Park. In 2001, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, said the State Legislature would have to specifically authorize taking parkland.
Mr. Pataki's signature on Tuesday means that that authorization is in hand. That will allow the city to say to the court what it has been saying for years — that it believes Van Cortlandt Park is the best choice in both engineering and cost concerns.
Opponents of the Van Cortlandt Park plan say the pressure to move forward in the park will make an environmental review meaningless.
"It is disingenuous of the city to say that they're going to do an open-minded and fair site selection process when in their public statements they say they're delighted that they can go forward and build the plant at Van Cortlandt Park," said Elizabeth Cooke Levy, the president of Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.
Some environmentalists who have supported filtration said, however, that the new environmental impact statement would force city officials to lay out in detail why they believe the park site is the best.
"The city has said that Van Cortlandt Park is best from an engineering and cost point of view," said James T. B. Tripp, the general counsel at Environmental Defense, a national conservation group based in New York. He said the supplemental environmental impact statement "provides an opportunity to show that in writing."
But there were other issues on Tuesday night. Mr. Pataki was not happy with the filtration bill, his aides said, because it left no role for him in determining how the parks money would be spent in the Bronx. Instead, Mayor Bloomberg had forged an agreement with the two legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, under which they would jointly decide the distributions.
The governor also wanted the city to compare the environmental impact of the latest plan for the water treatment plant in Van Cortlandt Park to similar plans at two other sites — one on the Harlem River and the other in Westchester County. And he insisted that Mr. Carrión be given a say in where the money for parks is spent within the Bronx.
Aides to Mr. Pataki say Mr. Bloomberg agreed quickly on the first two demands, giving the governor the ability to veto any disbursements and expanding the environmental review.
But state officials said Mr. Bloomberg was adamant that Mr. Carrión, an influential Democrat, not be included in the process. It was the disagreement about Mr. Carrión's role that kept negotiations between the governor's office and City Hall going late into the night.
Finally, at 9:53 p.m., Mr. Bloomberg and his lawyers sent Mr. Pataki a fax formalizing the compromise, including a recognition that the governor would consult with Mr. Carrión in monetary decisions.
The letter was legally binding, according to the governor's office, and gave Mr. Pataki what amounted to a seat at the table. It also ensured that all of the parks fund money will go to the Bronx, something the original legislation did not guarantee.
Finally, it left open the possibility, though slim, that the city could still find one of the other two sites preferable to the Van Cortlandt Park site, after the environmental statements are laid side by side and studied.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
December 22nd, 2003, 06:27 PM
Greener Pastures: A History of Bronx Parks, 1888-2001 (http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/attractions/public_art/arsenal_gallery/2001_pages/jun_01/photo_gallery_home.html)
March 25th, 2004, 01:14 AM
March 25, 2004
By ANTHONY DePALMA
The proposed site of a water plant in Van Cortlandt Park.
On the surface, it looks like a simple problem with a straightforward solution. On the surface.
On certain days, the drinking water that comes into New York from a dozen reservoirs just north of the city is cloudy, smelly or spiked with midge larvae. The city has been ordered to clean it up.
The $1.2 billion price for a water filtration plant is not an issue. Neither is engineering.
The stumbling block is a classic New York obsession - location - even though some of the real estate being fought over is subterranean.
The city's preferred site is below the surface of the southeastern corner of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, a chip shot from the last stop on the No. 4 elevated subway and about half a block from the edge of the working-class Norwood neighborhood.
The idea is to put the filtration plant - the size of a small factory - in a big hole in the ground where there is now a utilitarian golf driving range.
The city has burrowed under parks before, most notably in Central Park, where it has buried four huge valve chambers, the last one about 25 years ago. People walking, running or picnicking above it now have no clue there is machinery beneath them.
City officials promise that once the treatment plant is built in the Bronx, it will be covered with a layer of soil and grass, and the driving range will be back in business.
But Paul Sawyer, who lives near Van Cortlandt Park, doubts the city will keep its promises. "We do not trust D.E.P. with their projects in our parks," said Mr. Sawyer, who is executive director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.
He and other residents fear that the traffic and tons of chemicals that will come with the completed plant will make it very visible, and intrusive. They worry that exhaust from the underground operation will turn the grass yellow and contaminate the air.
Most of all, residents and some local officials worry that the eight-year construction period, during which 28 acres of the park would be unusable, would overburden a poor, hard-working neighborhood.
"This project will destroy the neighborhood we've been fighting to save for 30 years," said Lyn Pyle, a longtime resident and community organizer. "It will destroy the community and the web of people's lives."
While 90 percent of New York's drinking water comes from the distant Catskill Mountains, the rest flows down from the Croton system, east of the Hudson River. Federal environmental officials have given the city a waiver from building a filtration plant for the Catskill water, so long as it stays clean. But in 1998, the city had to agree to treat the Croton water.
In a little more than three months, Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, will have to make a final decision about where to build the treatment plant.
He said that if Van Cortlandt were selected, the city would simply be borrowing the parkland for a while, during construction. The city would have to blast a hole about the size of ground zero to fit the 290 million-gallon-per-day treatment plant. The area around the Jerome Park reservoir would also have to be excavated for connecting tunnels.
But when the main plant work was done, Mr. Ward said, except for a small office and a loading dock for the filtering chemicals, the plant would be as unobtrusive as the valve chambers and underground tanks that the city has built in other parks.
The city has committed $43 million to restoring the park. And to compensate the community for ripping up that corner of the 1,146-acre park, the city has promised to kick in an additional $200 million for an extensive upgrading of other parks throughout the borough.
"The D.E.P. has demonstrated that it can build big infrastructure in very sensitive locations," said Mr. Ward during a tour of a huge valve chamber beneath Central Park. While substantially smaller than the proposed project in the Bronx, it is in a much more conspicuous and jealously guarded spot in the city. For security reasons, Mr. Ward asked that the exact location not be revealed.
The chamber, 160 feet down, is capped by a maze of pipe and valves that required 1.2 acres to be fenced off and dug up for much of the 1970's and 1980's. On a recent morning, schoolchildren were sledding on top of the chamber, apparently giving no more thought to what was underneath them than to the classes they were missing because of the late winter snow.
But the restored Central Park landscape is little comfort to some Bronx residents. Fay Muir, a longtime resident and leader of the Mosholu-Woodlawn South Community Coalition, recalled that the city built a valve chamber in the northern section of Van Cortlandt Park more than 10 years ago and still had not fully restored the area.
"It's not a matter of not trusting the D.E.P.," Ms. Muir said. "We just go by their record."
Mr. Ward, clearly frustrated by the opposition, fears what would happen if community groups derailed a project to protect the health of millions.
"Should local, not-in-my-backyard community opposition stop such an important project?" Mr. Ward asked. "This is a huge water supply decision that will be in place for the next 100 to 150 years. A bad decision will have a serious impact on everyone."
Under city laws, Mr. Ward will have to respond to community comments by June 30. He then will issue what is called a commissioner's finding, in which he lays out the rationale for selecting a site from among the current alternatives - Van Cortlandt, a part of the Harlem River waterfront or 83 acres of city-owned industrial land in Westchester County.
Then, following a 15-day notice period, the preferred site will be formally designated. Officials expect a legal challenge.
The city prefers the Van Cortlandt site because it is in New York rather than in Westchester County, where the city would have to pay property taxes on the building.
The Westchester site, in the town of Mount Pleasant, has been set aside for the construction of a huge filtration plant for the Catskills' water, should the federal government ever order the city to filter the bulk of its drinking water. Before it could consider the Van Cortlandt site, the city had to get approval from the New York Legislature to allow parkland to be used for construction. As part of the deal, the city agreed to provide the $243 million in park improvements in the Bronx.
Ms. Muir said that in doing its environmental study, the city failed to adequately study such critical issues as the impact that construction trucks would have on the busy intersection of Jerome Avenue and West Gun Hill Road. She also worries that so much blasting would create dust that would worsen the asthma that is a problem for many neighborhood children.
And though the driving range is fenced in now, she said children often crossed it or played there when golfers were not around. The city plans to incorporate ventilation louvers into a new fence around the perimeter of the driving range. It would also build a 14-foot-high sound barricade fence along Jerome Avenue that would also be a waterfall.
The city considers the water wall an aesthetic amenity. Ms. Muir considers it an obstruction. "We're not going to be able to even see the park," she said.
Building at the city site in Westchester County makes more sense, Ms. Muir said, because no one lives nearby and building above ground is cheaper than going below the surface. And Westchester County residents who buy water from the city would pay a part of the construction costs, keeping water rates for city residents about 20 percent lower than if the plant was built in New York.
City officials said building in Westchester County would deprive the city of needed jobs and would not necessarily be cheaper because Westchester residents could challenge attempts to pass along building costs. Opponents of the city's plan bristled at the suggestion they were putting their needs above the city's.
"It's not Nimby," said Anne Marie Garti, president of the Jerome Park Conservancy, which had been involved in an earlier fight against the city's plans to build the filtration plant near the Jerome Park reservoir in the Bronx. "There's a better site, and not only would it cost everyone in New York 20 percent less, it won't set a precedent for building industrial facilities in parkland, and that's everybody's concern."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
April 1st, 2004, 12:13 AM
April 1, 2004
Bronx Filtration Plant
To the Editor:
"Water Hazard? Plan to Put Filtration Plant Under Park Angers the Bronx" (news article, March 25) cited only one example of the confluence of parks and water-related facilities.
In fact, the city's 28,722-acre park system is married to the water system. Silver Lake Park in Staten Island was dug up in the 1960's for a 58-acre reservoir, part of it underground. In Flushing, Queens, a vast underground combined sewer overflow tank will be covered by a large indoor recreation center and new ballfields.
The Bronx filtration plant is different from earlier projects because of its unprecedented mitigation package. The $243 million in improvements will rebuild Bronx parks in a renaissance unparalleled since the 1930's. Among the projects being advanced by neighborhood groups and elected officials are the completion of the Bronx River Greenway, new waterfront parks and reconstruction of athletic facilities.
The need for clean, safe drinking water and a federal court decision compel the construction of a filtration plant. The temporary inconvenience of its construction will be outweighed by the "giveback" of new and improved parks for Bronx residents and all New Yorkers.
Commissioner, Department of Parks and Recreation
New York, March 26, 2004
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
July 2nd, 2004, 08:53 AM
July 2, 2004
City to Build Filtering Plant Under a Park in the Bronx
By IAN URBINA
The city will move forward with plans to construct a disputed $1.3 billion water filtration plant under Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the city's environmental commissioner said yesterday.
"From the perspective of security and cost, the Van Cortlandt site is by far the best option," said Christopher O. Ward, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, after releasing the final draft of the department's environmental impact study. "The data could not be more clear on this."
The city considered three possible locations for the filtration plant: under Van Cortlandt park, on a waterfront section along the Harlem River, and on 83 acres of city-owned property in Eastview in Westchester County.
Last year, environmental protection officials expressed a clear preference for the Van Cortlandt location, but they agreed to study the matter more closely.
The Van Cortlandt option would involve excavating a 28 acre-section of the Mosholu Golf Course in the southeastern corner of the park, which is about half a block from the working-class Norwood neighborhood.
Residents living near the park oppose the plan, arguing that it will create health problems, ruin precious greenery and worsen traffic in the area.
"It's also just a huge waste of money," said Gil Maduro, a professor of economics at Baruch University who lives several blocks from the proposed site. "The Van Cortland option is about $309 million more expensive and it poses steeper engineering challenges than Eastview because it has to be built underground."
But Mr. Ward said that the numbers being cited by critics were outdated. The most current studies reveal that the Van Cortlandt option would cost $1.3 billion whereas Eastview, the next cheapest option, would have cost $1.8 billion, he said.
Mr. Ward also pointed out that an additional $243 million worth of park amenities had been included in the Van Cortlandt plan - $43 million of which will go toward improving Van Cortland and the rest for other parks in the Bronx, he said.
"The Van Cortlandt site has the added advantages that it is closest to those who need the water most, and it is within city limits, thus saving the city from paying unnecessary property taxes to Westchester County," Mr. Ward explained.
"The city already pays $83 million in local property taxes for city facilities that are situated outside the five boroughs," he said.
During a news conference on Staten Island on Wednesday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expressed his support for the Van Cortlandt option. "Everybody is a winner," he said. "The city will have a better water supply. And the people of the Bronx will benefit dramatically from this."
Lyn Pyle, who is the director of The COVE environmental justice committee, a neighborhood association in the Knox Gates neighborhood of the Bronx, calls the decision "an outrage." The plant will involve trucks bringing chemicals in and carrying sludge out, she said. "This also opens the way for the city to start turning parks into industrial zones."
To construct the 290-million-gallon-per-day treatment plant, the city will have to blast a hole several hundred feet deep and about as long as two football fields. City officials have promised that once the treatment plant is completed, the golf course will be restored to its original condition.
The city has burrowed under parks before, most notably Central Park, where it has buried four huge valve chambers, the last one about 25 years ago.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
July 17th, 2004, 01:26 AM
July 17, 2004
Web Poll Results on Filtration Plant Raise Tampering Issue
By SETH KUGEL
Many people are skeptical about polls on the Internet, which are widely considered unscientific.
But if technicians at News 12, a news channel run by Cablevision in the Bronx, are correct, somebody in city government cared enough to stuff the virtual ballot box for a recent online poll the station conducted about the city's decision to build a water filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park in the northwest part of the borough.
On Monday, News 12 reported that more than 200 of the 390 votes cast in support of the city's decision were generated from computers at City Hall. The final count tallied 107 votes opposed to the city's plan.
State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, one of the few Democrats from the Bronx who oppose the Van Cortlandt Park site, sent a letter on Thursday to the city's Department of Investigation asking it to check into the online poll.
"It's sleazy," Mr. Dinowitz said yesterday. "It's an attempt to a create a false picture of what's going on in the Bronx. I've never heard of anything like this in my life."
Deborah Koller-Feeney, a spokeswoman for the News 12 Network, which operates Cablevision news channels throughout the metropolitan region, would not disclose the exact identification numbers, or so-called IP addresses, of the computers that provided the flurry of yes votes. But she said, "We are confident they come from City Hall."
Later yesterday, Ms. Koller-Feeney, in another interview, changed her statement, saying she had meant to say the "City Hall complex," which could include the offices of City Council members.
Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and Steve Sigmund, a spokesman for the City Council, said they could not look into the matter without more specific information.
The plan to build the filtration plant in Van Cortlandt Park was strongly supported by the Bronx Democratic County Committee.
Opponents of the plant said they were upset at the possibility that the online poll had been tampered with. "City workers are not supposed to be using computers to do other than city business," said Karen Argenti, a spokeswoman for the Friends of Jerome Park Reservoir. "They're not supposed to influence the news in that way."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
July 23rd, 2004, 02:35 AM
The Filtration Plant In Van Cortlandt Park (http://gothamgazette.com/article/parks/20040723/14/1064)
September 29th, 2004, 09:28 AM
September 29, 2004
Council Agrees on Deal to Put Water Plant in Bronx Park
By WINNIE HU
At a raucous session, the City Council signed off yesterday on an agreement between city and state officials under which a $1.3 billion water filtration plant would be built in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. In return, the borough would get more than $200 million for parks projects.
The plant was approved 45 to 5, with one abstention, despite angry protests from several Council members and outbursts from spectators in the balcony. One man was escorted out of the meeting after yelling out, "It's not good for all New York."
Several Council members from the Bronx said the agreement would not only create jobs in their struggling neighborhoods but would also beautify their parks. But others from across the city criticized the plant's environmental impact, and what they said was a largely secretive process in which state and city officials doled out the parks money.
"You will not enjoy a job if your lungs are filled with pollution," Councilman Charles Barron, from Brooklyn, said as the spectators cheered and clapped loudly.
In a growing legislative battle with the Bloomberg administration, the Council also overrode two mayoral vetoes to push through laws requiring long-term city contracts for sidewalk pay-phone franchises and to ban the sale and installation of certain audible car alarms that are already illegal to use in the city. That brings the total number of Council overrides to 21 since 2002.
The change to longer pay phone contracts resulted from months of lobbying by the telecommunications industry and requires future contracts to run for 15 years. Bloomberg administration officials had contended that requiring such long-term contracts will tie their hands in a fast-changing field.
The Council speaker, Gifford Miller, said the longer contracts ensured that all the companies would be treated equally.
Mr. Miller also reiterated his support for closing a loophole in a 1993 law that banned the use of car alarms in the city but did not specifically make it illegal to sell or install them. Bloomberg administration officials had said the legislation would create a double standard since it would not affect car alarms installed at the factory.
"These are two particularly misguided pieces of legislation," Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said yesterday after the Council's overrides.
During an unusually busy meeting, the Council also passed a package of public safety bills that imposed stricter inspection standards for the city's electrical equipment, banned the sale, rental and leasing of motorized scooters, and significantly increased penalties for people caught drag racing.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
October 11th, 2004, 12:22 PM
Congress Acts to Protect New York's Water
by Ed Towns
October 10, 2004
While many know New York City as the cultural hub of the country, the financial and media capital of the world, or as "the city that never sleeps," it is also known for the exceptional purity of its water -- the champagne of drinking waters. This often comes as a surprise to visitors who did not already know this. Such quality water usually is not associated with a big city.
New York City's water supply flows from 19 upstate reservoirs, a watershed that spans more than 2,000 square miles. It covers eight counties, 60 towns, and 11 villages in the Catskill Mountain region and the Hudson River Valley. The effective protection of this essential natural resource poses an enormous challenge. I am pleased to report that Congress has just taken an important step to help protect this essential natural resource.
The effort began many years ago. To safeguard the area and the water, environmental groups in 1977 came together with New York city and state officials, upstate communities and the federal government to create the New York City Watershed Agreement. This historic accord guaranteed the continued and long-term protection of New York City's drinking water, while safeguarding the economic viability and environmental quality of the upstate communities in the watershed.
While the historic and landmark Watershed Agreement laid the groundwork for protecting the largest unfiltered drinking water supply in the country, it could only be successful if it was accompanied by an effective water quality monitoring and surveillance program. And so in 1996, Congress authorized funding for seven years for projects to protect and enhance the waters that provide New York City's drinking water. Without the commitment of federal funding, the Watershed Agreement could not have been signed or implemented.
Over the past seven years, Congress has appropriated $31 million to implement a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance program, matched equally by grant recipients. In fact, New York City and New York State have leveraged those federal funds by committing over $1.6 billion to protect the New York City drinking water supply.
Authorization for federal funding of the Watershed Agreement expired September 30, 2003, leaving its future in jeopardy. The entire New York delegation worked to solve this problem, getting behind a bill, H.R. 2771, to reauthorize the New York City Watershed Agreement at its current funding levels through 2010. The effort has been completely bipartisan and fueled by both city and upstate members. I testified, along with a member representing several upstate counties, in support of the bill during the committee process. These efforts succeeded in getting this bill passed by the House of Representatives in May, and just recently, after much delay, the legislation passed the U.S. Senate. The bill is now awaiting the president's signature to be signed into law.
This initiative is crucial to maintaining the safety of New York City's water supply as well as the economic security of upstate communities. The city must already build a filtration plant – currently slated for Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx – to filter the water it gets from Westchester and Putnam counties. But, without the success of the Watershed Agreement, New York City would have had to construct a far more massive water filtration plant to handle water from the Catskill Mountains area farther upstate at a cost estimated between $6 billion and $8 billion. This is money that we cannot afford and that could be put toward better use such as homeland security, education, or health care.
I am pleased that we will not have to use such funds for a filtration system now that the federal government has recommitted itself to protecting New York City's vital water supply. This shows that the New York delegation, when working together, can accomplish great things for the entire state.
Ed Towns, a Democrat, is the U.S. representative from the 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
Gotham Gazette -
With autumn color at peak in the Catskills, now is a good time for New Yorkers to visit the watershed, and see where all that good water comes from.
Schoharie Creek one month ago
October 16th, 2004, 08:02 PM
Schoharie Creek one week ago.
From this point on Rt 23A near Lexington, the creek flows northwest, away from NYC, and is dammed about 6 miles downstream forming the Schoharie Reservoir. The 18 mile long Shandaken Tunnel through the Catskill Mts takes the water south to the Esopus Creek and the Ashokan Reservoir. The Catskill Aqueduct takes the water from Ashokan to the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester. The Catskill Watershed system was completed between 1915 and 1926, and supplies 40% of NYC water.
The Delaware watershed was completed between 1951 and 1965, and supplies 50% of NYC water.
The Pepacton Reservoir near Rt 206.
Rt 30 bridge across the Pepacton Reservoir
The Pepacton is the largest reservoir in the system.
One of the requirements for the selected sites was bedrock beneath the valleys, so the water doesn't drain away.
The Neversink Reservoir from the top of the dam (Rt 55) that holds back the Neversink River.
The highest in elevation at 1400 ft, the Neversink also has the purest water, so it's the benchmark.
The water is taken from here through a 6 mile tunnel to the Rondout Reservoir, which collects water from the other three. The Rondout was chosen because it's in the Hudson River drainage area, and the water can flow naturally to NYC. The 85 mile Aqueduct Tunnel (longest continuous underground structure in the world) delivers all the Delaware system water to the west Branch Reservoir. At its deepest point, the tunnel is 1500 ft below ground.
The Catskill/Delaware watersheds cover about 1.2 million acres. By comparison, NYC land area is 205,000 acres. The city owns the reservoirs and about 7% of the land around them and along important water sources. the state owns about 23% of the watershed. By comparison, the watershed that supplies Boston is 50% government owned.
As part of the 1997 Watershed Agreement, the city must, over 10 years, contact the landowners of 350,000 targeted undeveloped acres with requests to purchase at fair market value. I think an average of 8000 acres per year have been bought.
February 19th, 2007, 08:44 AM
February 18, 2007
On the Water Front
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
By ELIZABETH ROYTE
ON a raw winter’s day, the water riffling over the spillway of the Ashokan Reservoir looks icy and pure. Set at the eastern end of this vast artificial lake in Ulster County, the spillway curves and drops like a wedding cake, in four tiers, before sending its flow through a narrow granite passage flanked by evergreens. The setting is grand, as befits an enormous public work, a manipulation of nature for the benefit of humanity — or at least for the 8.2 million residents of New York City, 100 miles to the south.
If the Ashokan is not the one true source of the city’s drinking water, akin to Perrier’s Vergèze or the original Poland Spring, it is still evocative shorthand for the sprawling upstate waterworks that have long quenched New York’s thirst. The city has the largest drinking-water system in the country, an engineering feat on a par with the Panama Canal, delivering 1.2 billion gallons of water a day through 300 miles of tunnels and aqueducts and 6,000 miles of distribution mains.
Moreover, as city officials, water connoisseurs and native boosters have long declared, New York tap water is among the world’s purest and tastiest. It is praised in foreign-language guidebooks, and some city bakers credit its mineral content and taste for their culinary success.
“It’s delicious,” said Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The upstate water is of such good quality, in fact, that the city is not even required to filter it, a distinction shared with only four other major American cities: Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore. New Yorkers drink their water from Esopus Creek, from Schoharie Creek, from the Neversink River, straight from the city’s many reservoirs, with only a rough screening and, for most of the year, just a shot of chlorine and chasers of fluoride, orthophosphate and sodium hydroxide.
But that state of affairs may not last. In late spring or early summer, the United States Environmental Protection Agency will decide whether New York water is still pure enough to drink without filtering. Development in the city’s upstate watershed areas, as well as the increasingly stormy weather that comes with climate change, is threatening the water’s mythic purity. If the federal agency does conclude that city water is too sullied to be consumed directly, New York will have to spend huge sums on filtering, close the book on 165 years of filter-free taps — and absorb a major blow to its hometown pride.
When the Dutch arrived in Manhattan four centuries ago, they drank from the same creeks and springs as the Algonquin Indians who preceded them. As the colony grew, these local sources became polluted. Residents collected rainwater for drinking, but the preferred beverage during those years was beer.
In 1666, the new English governor of New York dug the city’s first public well. Wells would provide water for the next two centuries, but the water, distributed through wooden mains, was brackish and hard. Eventually the wells became contaminated by industrial byproducts and by animal and human waste; in the 18th century, New York was desperate for a new approach.
For decades, city planners squabbled over alternative sources of water, looking as far away as Lake George in the Adirondacks and the Housatonic River in Connecticut. Finally, in the 1820s, they decided to impound the waters of the Croton River in northern Westchester County and send 90 million gallons a day through an aqueduct to the city. But by the time the system was completed in 1842, Manhattan already needed more water.
From that point on, the water system grew just as New York did. The city expanded its watershed into the Catskills, built immense aqueducts and relocated thousands of people, and even graves, to create huge reservoirs like the Ashokan.
Today, New York water originates in watersheds that sprawl over nearly 2,000 square miles, filling 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. The aesthetic and mechanical beauty of the system — 95 percent of which is gravity-fed — causes some officials to wax sentimental. “It’s miraculous that the system replenishes itself,” Ms. Lloyd said. “And if we take care of it, it will provide drinking water for New York forever.”
Whatever the fabled deliciousness of New York’s water, its residents, like other Americans, are drinking more and more of the bottled variety. “I think it’s convenience more than anything,” Ms. Lloyd said about the trend. “New Yorkers spend very little time at home — they’re the great grab-and-go eaters and drinkers.”
Or perhaps they are just suckers for ads that equate glaciers with purity and tropical islands with smooth taste. In 2003, Brita ran an ad campaign in the subways claiming that its filters turn “even New York tap water into drinking water.” Incensed, Christopher Ward, then the city’s environmental protection commissioner, accused the company of fear-mongering, at which point the company withdrew the ads.
But the fact is, over the years New York has not delivered consistently good water. In the last five decades, so much of Westchester has been paved over, sending fertilizer, sewage and road salt into reservoirs, that at certain times of the year Croton water has had an odd color, taste and odor. From 1989 to 1999, the city had to increase the amount of chlorine it added to the system by 35 percent.
To deal with the problem, the city in 1998 committed to building a filtration plant for this “East of Hudson” system, under Mosholu Golf Course in the northern Bronx. The plant will begin operations in 2011, and Croton water will once again flow to the city — but it will be filtered.
Meanwhile, New Yorkers continue to drink unfiltered “West of Hudson” water, also known within the department as “Cat/Del” water, short for the Catskill and Delaware Watersheds. But is Cat/Del water clean? And is it as clean today as it was 10 years ago?
“It’s better now,” said Steven Schindler, the city’s director of drinking water quality control. “Before 1997 when we adopted new regulations, construction, development and land use in the watershed were much looser.”
For instance, so much phosphorus from dairies reached the Cannonsville Reservoir that the city used copper sulfate to combat the growth of algae and the taste and odor problems it produced. After the local wastewater treatment plants were upgraded and farms’ management practices were improved, the amount of phosphorus declined and the copper sulfate was no longer considered necessary.
Nevertheless, the city faces challenges in the West of Hudson system. “City water is still blue-ribbon quality,” said Alex Matthiessen, executive director of Riverkeeper, an environmental group. “But,” he added, “we can’t let our guard down.”
The biggest challenge is cloudiness, or what scientists call turbidity. Tiny particles in the water may seem harmless, but they can interfere with chlorine disinfection, and they serve as food for disease-causing organisms.
The city has long controlled occasional turbidity by adding to the water a substance called aluminum sulfate, which makes particles clump and sink. But alum is no panacea. Heavy use of alum can make water more acid, and acidic water can corrode pipes and make it hard for fish to breathe. Moreover, alum is accumulating on the bottom of the Kensico Reservoir, in Westchester; the city plans to clean up that sludge, which is six feet in some places and is smothering aquatic life.
Natural conditions make the city’s job harder. The clay soils and steep topography of the Catskill watershed are the root cause of the water’s cloudiness. Engineers noted the turbid character of the clay-bottomed Esopus Creek as far back as 1903, and to compensate they designed the Ashokan with two basins. Turbid water entering the reservoir from the creek settles in the western basin, where it sits until the sediment sinks. Then, a low dam between the basins drops, and clearer water flows into the eastern section. After a few weeks’ further settling, it flows into the Catskill Aqueduct, and from there into the Kensico Reservoir.
The two-basin system worked fine until recent decades, when developers began clearing more land, paving more surfaces and building more roads, all of which increase erosion and speed the flow of sediment into creeks and streams. Climate change, in the form of stronger and more frequent storms, has made the problem worse. Between September 2004 and last June, four major storms dumped highly turbid water into upstate reservoirs.
The Five-Year Jitters
There are plenty of certainties in New York’s water future. In 2011, the Croton filtration plant will begin operating. In 2012, the city is scheduled to open its third water tunnel — a 60-mile conduit, 50 years in the digging — and that would finally enable it to take water tunnels 1 and 2 offline for repair and cleaning. And, perhaps the greatest future certainty of all, the city will need to secure new sources of water, as it did when the English governor dug that first well in 1666. By the year 2020, about 9 million people will be living in New York City. They’ll all want something to drink.
But filtering is a question mark. Every five years, the city’s environmental officials sweat out the federal decision over the quality of New York water, and this is one of those years. The federal environmental agency will either issue another permit allowing the city to avoid filtration, or it will order the city to build a huge filtering plant for the Cat/Del system. The ruling is preliminary, and will be followed by a monthlong comment period and then a final federal pronouncement.
According to Ms. Lloyd, avoiding an order to filter is both easier and harder than it has been in the past. It is easier because the city agency has a track record of protecting the watershed. It is harder because the regulations have gotten stricter and technology allows finer monitoring of water quality.
For example, since 2002, when the city got its last E.P.A. ruling, the federal agency has required cities that drink unfiltered surface water to use two disinfection methods instead of one. In addition to chlorine, which New York already uses, it will soon be running its famous water through the world’s largest ultraviolet-light plant.
“It’s a belt-and-suspenders approach,” said Alan Steinberg, the federal administrator whose region of responsibility includes New York and New Jersey. Ultraviolet light adds another level of protection to water quality by killing cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite that can cause disease but is resistant to chlorine. Reliance on ultraviolet light will also let the city use less chlorine, which can contribute to the formation of possibly carcinogenic organic chemicals in the water.
To win another five-year reprieve from filtration, the city, working with federal officials, has drawn up a detailed plan to regulate the upstate watershed. It includes managing farms and forests to keep manure and fertilizer out of streams; controlling erosion along stream banks; chasing migratory waterfowl from reservoirs; buying land within the watershed to prevent development; repairing leaky septic tanks on private land; and cleaning the water in sewage treatment plants even more thoroughly before it is discharged into the watershed.
“I’ve heard of plant operators drinking it on a tour,” said Mr. Schindler, referring to the last plank of the plan. That’s reassuring, but more than two dozen of the roughly 100 wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the city’s watershed still use a suboptimal cleaning process.
‘A Spray of Silver Beadies’
Then there is the matter of stronger storms, which will continue to dump vast quantities of silt into the reservoirs. To keep the city’s water clear, Ms. Lloyd’s agency is closely studying its reservoirs and streams, and contemplating several engineering fixes that would hold the water longer in the west basin of the Ashokan and give the sediment more time to settle. If the problem isn’t fixed upstream, where it occurs, it will have to be remedied near the end of the line — with filtering. And that, said Ms. Lloyd and others, is a far less attractive option.
“If you are able to keep the drinking water at high quality with minimal treatment, without using all that energy and chemicals, that’s better than having to bring it back to high quality,” Ms. Lloyd said.
That ounce-of-prevention job is not one big task but many small ones. “You want to limit phosphorus, reduce turbidity and prohibit human and animal waste from entering the system,” said James Tierney, the state assistant attorney general charged with enforcing environmental laws within the watershed. “It’s not a silver bullet that will take care of the system; it’s more like a spray of silver beadies.”
What if the beadies miss their target, and federal officials order New York to filter its water? The city would not be unprepared. A preliminary design for a plant, to be located in Mount Pleasant and Greenburgh in Westchester County, already sits in a drawer; the plant would cover an area larger than 15 football fields and be capable of filtering 2.4 billion gallons of water a day.
But, financially speaking, a federal directive to filter West of Hudson water “would be like a bomb going off,” Mr. Tierney said. The plant would cost more than $6 billion to build, and the cost of staffing, operation, maintenance and debt service would reach $1 billion annually.
Ms. Lloyd, however, refuses to cast filtering as a failure. “It’s my primary responsibility to deliver the best drinking water I can to New York City,” she said. “If filtering is the best way to go, that would have to be the decision.”
Elizabeth Royte is the author of “Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
February 19th, 2007, 08:45 AM
February 18, 2007
The Water Detectives
By ELIZABETH ROYTE
SO what is coming out of the tap?
You might not want to know. The water comes out of streams in which fish have sex and pine cones rot. New York’s watershed does not exist in an aseptic vacuum: people drive around reservoirs, acid rain falls everywhere, and mud tends to slide downhill.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection monitors it all. It samples water at 500 locations throughout the distribution system, and at 965 monitoring stations within the city. In 2005, technicians working around the clock drew 33,200 samples from little silver boxes on the streets, measuring such things as temperature (warmth can indicate stagnant water), chlorine, specific conductance (a measure of mineral content) and level of orthophosphate (added to create a film on pipes to prevent lead contamination).
After recording all the data on the streets, from the backs of their white sport utility vehicles, the technicians converge on a high-rise in Corona, Queens, the agency’s urban nerve center. They wheel their plastic coolers full of samples to a lab on the sixth floor and hand the day’s catch to a team of 30 chemists and microbiologists.
It’s the microbiologists’ job to find bacteria in the water. And make no mistake, they are there, many different types, including the occasional E. coli, which can cause severe illness.
But if the chlorine is working, those bacteria are dead. Federal law allows the presence of live bacteria in up to 5 percent of samples; the city is consistently between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.
In 2004, it was revealed that New York’s water also contains microscopic crustaceans, called copepods, which are found in fresh water and pose no threat to human health.
After excruciating debate, Talmudic scholars decided that observant Jews — forbidden by the Torah to consume creeping creatures without fins and scales — need not filter out copepods. But if they chose to filter, doing so on the Sabbath would not violate the prohibition against work.
After the microbiologists do their work, the chemists check for substances like calcium, magnesium, sodium, nitrate, sulfate, chloride, silver and zinc.
Any odd results uncovered by these scientists will trigger investigations and perhaps alerts. The city has not had a boil-water alert since 1993, when there were three. Each time, E. coli was found in small areas of the city. And in June 2005, the Health Department issued a “health advisory” when source water was briefly cloudy.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
July 31st, 2007, 05:28 AM
July 31, 2007
No Filtration for City Water
By ANTHONY DePALMA
Federal environmental officials announced yesterday that New York’s drinking water was so pure that it would not need to be filtered for 10 years if the city maintains its efforts to protect the water supply. The announcement, held at the reservoir in Central Park, means that New York can avoid paying an estimated $8 billion to build an enormous plant to filter nearly one billion gallons of water a day from its Catskill Mountain reservoirs. Officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency said the city would have to continue its land protection efforts in the Catskills and its program to upgrade the sewage treatment plants of watershed communities. New York is still required to filter water from the Croton system by building an underground plant in the Bronx that will cost more than $2 billion and is scheduled to begin operating in 2012.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
July 31st, 2007, 01:38 PM
The Croton plant in Van Courtland Park continues-$ 2 billion and counting.. But what about the UV plant in Eastchester-they have only done the foundation work.
April 24th, 2008, 04:41 AM
For Bronx Water Plant Being Built 10 Stories Down, a Towering Price Tag
By ANTHONY DePALMA
Published: April 24, 2008
In a city of big projects, it ranks among the biggest. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection is building one of the largest water filtration plants in the world in a 10-story-deep hole it blasted out of bedrock in the Bronx. When completed in 2012, the plant, capable of purifying 300 million gallons of water a day, will be buried there.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/24/nyregion/24water_650.jpgSuzanne DeChillo/The New York Times
Work continues for an underground water filtration plant in the Bronx.
But the plant, which will filter water from the Croton watershed in Westchester County, is no Bronx treasure chest. Even as construction moves forward, questions about soaring costs and delays continue to plague the project.
The cost is now estimated at nearly $3 billion, a huge jump from the $660 million city officials estimated when they announced an audacious plan in 1998 to build the plant below the surface of Van Cortlandt Park. They vowed that the park would be made as good as new, even if that meant replacing whatever was lost during construction. They now plan to rebuild a driving range on top of the buried plant.
Some officials and others fear the final tab could climb even higher, and in the process push up water rates. On April 1, the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr. (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/william_c_jr_thompson/index.html?inline=nyt-per), announced that he was starting an independent audit to determine whether city officials understated the original price, to get the plant built in the Bronx rather than Westchester. Besides scrutinizing the complicated accounting, Mr. Thompson will have to sort through accusations by some residents and officials of deliberate distortions of costs, and intimations that the project has been tainted by mob influence, though nothing has been proved.
His would not be the first effort at monitoring the expenses since work on the big hole began in late 2004. The city’s Independent Budget Office (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/i/independent_budget_office/index.html?inline=nyt-org) examined the project and came up with a cost estimate last September of $2.8 billion, significantly higher than the Bloomberg administration’s last previous estimate of $2.1 billion. The budget office is now comparing its cost estimate with the city’s earlier projections and is expected to report on it in the next few months.
The city’s Department of Investigation hired a law firm, Stier Anderson L.L.C., last year to monitor the progress of the construction. The law firm is now affiliated with Thacher Associates, a fraud detection company. Keith Schwam, a spokesman for the department, said the firm was keeping track “of various contractors, subcontractors and personnel” at the Bronx site.
While the plant’s opponents concede that it is too late to stop the work in Van Cortlandt Park, they say that shining more light on the project’s financing will reveal whether there was any wrongdoing in the site selection process.
“We were blindsided by the whole thing,” said Karen Argenti, a resident of the Bronx and a longtime opponent of the project. She, like many other residents, says that city officials deliberately underestimated costs to make it seem that building the plant underground in the Bronx would be cheaper than building it above ground on land the city owns in Westchester.
“Intuitively, no one ever believed that it could be cheaper to dig a huge hole and build it here,” said Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz of the Bronx, who for more than a decade has fought against putting the plant in the borough.
“When we look back at this project years from now, it will rank up there with the Tweed Courthouse as a monument to municipal incompetence and worse.”
City officials say the original figure of $660 million was the “roughest of estimates” and should not be used in any evaluation of true costs. They say the starting point should be the $992 million that was included in the project’s final environmental impact statement in 2003.
“I can understand how this comes as almost a surprise,” said Steven W. Lawitts, first deputy commissioner of environmental protection.
“Unless you spend a good part of your time tracking this market, tracking the trends,” he continued, “it comes across as, and often is portrayed as, the D.E.P. underestimated the project.”
Mr. Lawitts said the $992 million estimate was in 2003 dollars, not adjusted for inflation, and was labeled as such in the document.
But in several places, the final environmental report, available on the department’s Web site, clearly states that the $992 million estimated cost of building the filtration plant in the park was “based on a 2.75 percent annual inflation rate.” Community residents have accused city officials of deliberately misleading the public with contradictory explanations.
Mr. Lawitts said the $992 million construction cost was, in fact, not adjusted for inflation. The annual inflation rate of 2.75 percent was applied to the cost of operating the plant over 30 years. He did concede that charts in the 2003 statement were confusing and that the footnote about the inflation rate was misplaced.
But the inflation factor does not fully explain the cost increases. The city’s explanation, outlined in several meetings with Bronx residents in the past year, is that the cost of concrete, steel and other raw materials, and the cost of labor, have gone up by as much as 14 percent since the environmental statement was completed.
Mr. Lawitts said that the city has continually updated its estimates, but that no one anticipated the building boom for big projects in the metropolitan region, like the sports stadiums under construction, which has driven up the prices of materials. With four more years of construction ahead, the costs may well continue to rise above even the best estimates now.
On the nine-acre construction site, a vast amphitheater has been blasted out of an ancient stone called Fordham gneiss (pronounced nice), which now forms the pit’s 10-story-high walls. Trucks carrying concrete — behemoths when they rumble through city streets — look like toys inside the pit. The pipe that will bring in untreated water from the Croton reservoir system is 12 feet in diameter. The two outflow pipes have 9-foot diameters. The water will be purified in a “stacked dissolved air flotation system”; that, said the project manager, Bernard J. Daly, is standard technology and uses several layers of filters to remove impurities, but is being done here on a gigantic scale.
The city was forced to build the plant because water from the Croton watershed did not meet federal standards for safety and purity. Although the Croton system can supply nearly 30 percent of the city’s 1.1 billion gallons a day of drinking water, generally it supplies just 10 percent, mostly in the Bronx and northern Manhattan. The rest of the city’s water comes from the Catskill Mountains and the Delaware River, and is so clean that the city last year won a 10-year exemption from federal regulations requiring that all surface drinking water be filtered.
Opponents of the Bronx plant have also expressed concern about the federal indictment in February of a key manager for the Schiavone Construction Company, which was the principal contractor responsible for digging the pit and putting in the water tunnels. The company’s offices were raided by federal agents, who seized files, and the manager, Anthony Delvescovo, was charged with having committed extortion beginning in February 2005 — around the time that work was beginning on the Croton project.
Mr. Delvescovo’s lawyer, Avi Moskowitz, said he would fight the charges.
“The government has produced hundreds and hundreds of hours of consensually recorded conversation, none of which involve him, and we expect that at the end of the day, when he has his day in court, he will be completely exonerated,” Mr. Moskowitz said.
Officials say the indictment of Mr. Delvescovo has not had any effect on the project, and the Schiavone company continues to work on the tunnels.
Mr. Dinowitz has called for an independent investigation by the Bronx district attorney and others into every aspect of the filtration plant, saying the cost of the project has a direct impact on water rates. Officials announced this month that they would ask for a rate increase of 14.5 percent, higher than expected, to take effect July 1.
“There may be nothing here, but it smells,” the assemblyman said. “And the people who in the end are going to have to pay the price are the ratepayers.”
Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)
August 29th, 2008, 07:35 AM
After Delays, Underground Water Plant Takes Shape
By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press | August 29, 2008
It requires enough concrete to build a sidewalk from New York to Miami (http://www.nysun.com/related_results.php?term=Miami) and enough pipe to reach the top of the Empire State Building (http://www.nysun.com/related_results.php?term=Empire+State+Building) 140 times over. Workers carved out enough dirt from the ground to fill more than 100,000 dump trucks.
The colossal effort is a water filtration plant being built 10 stories beneath a Bronx (http://www.nysun.com/related_results.php?term=The+Bronx) driving range, a one-of-a-kind project intended to become a nearly invisible part of the city's infrastructure.
But the plant has been anything but hidden so far.
The plant's completion date has been pushed back six years, and its price tag, which early estimates put at $660 million, is now $2.8 billion. Costs, delays, seven-figure fines, and a brush with a high-profile Mafia case have sharpened criticism of the city's handling of a project that three city watchdog agencies and a group of community leaders are monitoring.
"The bottom line is that to build this water plant, the taxpayers are getting soaked," a state Assemblyman, Jeffrey Dinowitz, said. "It's like government at its worst."
Despite the problems, officials say they will not be deterred from building what they see as the latest far-reaching project in a city full of grand monuments to civic imagination. Officials say they are making good progress despite a late start, and the cost increases are an unavoidable reflection of an industrywide trend.
"The need to complete important projects like the (water) plant has not diminished," the deputy mayor for operations, Edward Skyler, said. "We can't sit back and let others worry about the future."
The federal government has ordered the city to build what will be its first drinking water filtration facility, and the project is believed to be the first subterranean water plant in the nation. Its magnitude is hard to overlook: The pit at Van Cortlandt Park is so deep that large cranes merely peek above the rim.
By 2012, if the schedule holds, a 12-foot-wide tunnel will feed the plant up to 300 million gallons of water a day — about a quarter of the city's supply. The water will run through a complex set of steps that filter out contaminants: a chemical that makes unwanted particles clump together, air bubbles that push them to the surface to be skimmed off, and a barrier of sand and anthracite coal that strains out still more contaminants. Finally, ultraviolet light will kill bacteria and viruses small enough to have squeezed through the various filters.
New York is one of the few big American cities that doesn't filter its drinking water, long a point of pride here. It does add chlorine to disinfect its water, fluoride to help prevent tooth decay, and other chemicals that reduce acidity and prevent metals such as lead from leaching from pipes.
Most of the city's water supply, piped in from rural upstate areas more than 75 miles away, will remain unfiltered. The Bronx plant will treat the 10% to 30% that comes from closer, more suburban reservoirs in what is known as the Croton watershed.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (http://www.nysun.com/related_results.php?term=U.S.+Environmental+Protec tion+Agency) ordered the city in 1993 to filter the Croton water, saying development near the reservoirs was raising the risk of contamination.
After a 1997 federal lawsuit accused New York of dragging its heels, the city paid a $1 million fine and agreed to build the Croton plant by 2006. A lawsuit over the plant's location, a wait for needed state legislation and the loss of a key contractor have since extended the completion date to 2012, but the city still rang up another $4.7 million in EPA fines for getting a late start last year.
Meanwhile, the project's price tag has skyrocketed. So has resentment among critics, who say the project is at best mismanaged, and at worst muddied by building-industry influence. They question whether the city understated the cost of building underground in the city — and not aboveground in the suburbs 20 miles to the north — in the face of heavy lobbying from city-based labor unions and construction industry groups.
"I have never understood how putting a building underground is cheaper than putting a building aboveground," a local community board chairman, Reverend Richard Gorman, said.
But the city Department of Environmental Protection said the Bronx location provides more security, more city jobs, and will indeed be cheaper to build — largely because it requires shorter tunnels to the water supply.
"All other things being equal, it may be more expensive to have the plant underground than at the surface level, but it wasn't all other things being equal. The length of tunneling that was required at the respective sites was a significant factor," the DEP deputy commissioner, Steven Lawitts, said.
The spiraling costs will have an effect on water rates. Mr. Lawitts said the water plant construction accounts for about 7% of water users' bills, a figure comparable to those for other large-scale projects.
Mr. Lawitts attributes the project's rising price tag to a widespread rise in construction costs that he says mirrors what is happening across the industry. Critics say those claims are exaggerated.
The city's Independent Budget Office is examining what factors may have driven up the plant's price, and the city comptroller is auditing to determine "whether DEP is carrying out construction effectively." The city Department of Investigation has a full-time monitor at the site.
© 2008 The New York Sun,
March 4th, 2009, 09:25 AM
Nation's largest green roof atop Bronx water plant
doubles as driving range
Images Courtesy Grimshaw
Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx is one of a dozen run by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Its compact layout is typical of New York’s urban courses—nine holes, tree-lined fairways, the odd sand bunker—save for one highly unusual obstacle: the $2.1 billion drinking water treatment facility under construction on what used to be the driving range.
When this heavily secured compound is completed in 2012, it’s due to be topped by far more than just new turf. Grimshaw and landscape architect Ken Smith have designed one of the largest and most intensive green roofs to date, which is also a fully functioning driving range. And an irrigation system for the golf course. And an integrated security program for the facility below. Think Pebble Beach meets the Biosphere meets Rikers.
“The distinction here is it’s not just a green roof, but a performative green roof that needs to provide all these functions,” Smith said in an interview. “I think we’re pushing both the design of the green roof and the design of the golf course in new directions. We’re working to see how far we can push the diversity of the ecology and still adhere to the constraints of the golf course.”
This quietly radical project is the result of more than a decade of debate over whether or not water from the Croton Reservoir, the smallest of the city’s three, needed treatment after more than a century of going without. That was followed by battles with Bronx residents over which and even whether the borough’s parks would be torn up to make way for the new plant. The city finally broke ground on the facility in 2004, and the driving range has moved to a temporary site while the complex roofscape takes shape.
The clubhouse and range will seamlessly extend Van Cortlandt Park.
The engineering challenges are formidable. At nine acres, the $95 million driving range is the largest contiguous green roof in the country. So when it rains at the range, it pours, which creates a paradoxical hazard for the plant below. “It’s of paramount importance to the City of New York that this building stay dry, despite being full of water,” said David Burke, the project architect at Grimshaw. So to handle the millions of gallons that can accumulate on the green roof during a storm, the design team has devised a natural filtration system to collect, process, and store the runoff.
The range’s unique topography not only provides green-like targets for golfers, who tee off from the perimeter of the circular structure, but helps channel rainwater into the collection basins, where it meets groundwater pumped in from the plant’s four sump pumps. The water then travels through a series of ten cells that ring the range, each one modeled on a different native ecosystem to serve different filtration purposes. It takes up to eight days for water to travel through the cells, at which point it’s collected and used to irrigate the golf course.
“We’re not just dumping it in the sewer,” said Mark Laska, president of Great Ecology & Environments, one of two ecological designers on the project. “It’s a true display of sustainable green design in an urban environment.”
The design team wanted to convey such sustainable lessons to the public, especially the kids enrolled in the First Tee outreach program at Mosholu, and so the cells were left in plain view. Furthermore, because they are sunk ten feet below grade, they serve as a moat of sorts that helps protect the city’s water supply, which is seen as a potential target for terrorists.
To that end, Grimshaw has also designed the guardhouse and screening buildings that security constraints required, in addition to the new clubhouse and tee boxes on the range. (Grimshaw is not designing the plant, however, which is the work of a specialized engineering firm.)
It's an unlikely commission, to be sure, but one the architects embraced. “It’s very fitting for Grimshaw,” as Burke put it. “We tend to gravitate toward these oddball projects.”
The clubhouse, sporting a green roof of its own, is sited along
the perimeter of the range.
Copyright © 2003-2008 | The Architect's Newspaper, LLC.
January 16th, 2011, 07:06 AM
For Water Tunnels, Age Is Just a Number
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/16/nyregion/16TUNNEL2/16TUNNEL2-articleLarge.jpg Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
BIG DRINK The city has spent years digging three tunnels to supply water from the new Croton filtration plant, which will clean as much as 30 percent of the city’s drinking water.
By MANNY FERNANDEZ (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/f/manny_fernandez/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: January 14, 2011
IT took seven years for workers to build the 8,558-foot Holland Tunnel in the 1920s. Bernard Daly and a team of 150 have spent the last four years digging three tunnels that together span 8,881 feet in the northern Bronx. And while the Holland Tunnel was built for cars, Mr. Daly’s tunnels are for something more basic: water.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/16/nyregion/16TUNNEL3/16TUNNEL3-popup.jpgFred R. Conrad/The New York Times
The plant’s main arteries were carved, drilled and blasted out of rock more than a billion years old.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/16/nyregion/16TUNNEL4/16TUNNEL4-popup.jpgFred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Workers inside the tunnel.
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2011/01/16/nyregion/16TUNNEL1/16TUNNEL1-popup.jpgFred R. Conrad/The New York Times
OLD AND NEW A joint connecting two tunnels of different eras.
The three tunnels will carry water to and from the Croton filtration plant, one of the most complex, costly and controversial construction projects in city history. The $3 billion plant, in Van Cortlandt Park, which is scheduled to be in operation by the end of next year, will filter and disinfect up to 30 percent of the city’s drinking water — from the city’s most polluted reservoirs, those in the Croton watershed east of the Hudson River. The plant’s main arteries — three water tunnels roughly 180 feet below ground — were carved, drilled and blasted out of rock more than a billion years old.
Water tunnels are measured by their timelessness. “City Water Tunnel No. 1 went on line in 1917, and that tunnel is still serving a big part of the city today,” said Caswell F.
Holloway, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which is overseeing construction of the Croton plant. “Nobody’s been in there since it went on line.”
As the Croton water tunnels near completion, Mr. Holloway led a tour of them last week, offering a glimpse of the other-worldly realms that usually only hardhat-clad sandhogs get to see.
Mr. Holloway and Mr. Daly, the agency’s project manager, took a steel-cage elevator down into one of the tunnels. It is 880 feet long and will deliver up to 290 million gallons of water a day to the plant for filtration. A mere trickle of groundwater flowed past their rubber boots along the cast-in-place concrete. The dimly lighted tunnel, some 12 feet in diameter and strewn with shovels and hoses, was a portrait of a construction site as a perfect circle.
“This is history,” Mr. Daly said.
It was not an exaggeration. Around the corner, at a T-shaped intersection, the tunnel connects with the New Croton Aqueduct. The name is deceptive: the aqueduct was built in the 1880s, brick by brick. In the dark, Mr. Daly and Mr. Holloway traced with their flashlight beams the line where concrete met brick.
“This is where the 1800s meet the 2000s,” said James Roberts, a deputy commissioner.
February 16th, 2012, 11:19 PM
Driving range on Croton filtration plant sets new standards.
A rendering of the new driving range on top of the Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx.
After years of controversy, debate, and cost overruns, the Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx is expected to be complete next year. The city’s first filtration plant was originally estimated to cost $1.3 billion but is now approaching $3 billion. The plant will be able to process 250 million gallons of water a day and is capped by a 9-acre driving range that complements the Mosholu Golf Course adjacent to it in Van Cortlandt Park. In the coming months, final aspects of the park design will be vetted at community board hearings while the Department of Design and Construction continues to oversee the construction of what will be the largest contiguous green roof in the nation.
Designed by Grimshaw, the filtration plant and park needed to balance complex infrastructure and a highly public parks program; intense security was also a factor. The project is being delivered in phases, starting with below-grade infrastructure for the plant and followed by surface work including a green-roofed driving range, the security entrance, and a chemical fill station.
Diagram of the security, recreation, and irrigation elements at the new driving range
The actual filtration plant was engineered in a joint venture between plant engineers Hazen and Sawyer, and AECOM. Grimshaw worked closely with the Department of Environmental Protection for the most sensitive aspects underground. A security building with state-of-the-art 3-D X-ray machines will screen arrivals. The buildings for chemical deliveries are about the size of two 18-wheeler trucks. Four one-foot-thick security doors protect the interior. An impressive concrete pavilion processes workers and visitors going underground. A clubhouse and irrigation pond are also part of the plan.
The park design is akin to fitting a round peg atop a square hole. The plant is square, and the driving range is a grand circus that seems to screw down into the existing landscape. The driving range/rooftop includes turf conditions found on your average course, including undulating hills and sand traps. Nine to twelve inches of topsoil are layered over geoform mounding and drainage management systems; only organic fertilizer will be used. While the public will be able to hit balls onto the grass and access the clubhouse, channels of water, like moats, will keep golfers off the green. No one except highly-vetted Parks employees will have access to the roof for maintenance.
The 100-foot depth of the plant creates a regional low that requires sub pumps to keep out groundwater from nearby wetlands and water runoff from the driving range. The circular moats that surround the site for security also store excess water. The moats are complemented by huge nets that keep golf balls in and interlopers out. The captured water is then used to irrigate Mosholu’s 9-hole golf course. At Croton, the green roof is meant to send a message about responsible water management.
The site of the future driving range atop the filtration plant
Copyright © 2003-2011 | The Architect's Newspaper, LLC
February 17th, 2012, 08:55 AM
I am wondering though (I did not delve too deeply), when they say "filtration", is this just another way of calling it a wastewater processing plant? Floc tanks et all?
While this is a GREAT use of space, I would just be worried about the methane and other...less palatable gasses being released that would be "experienced" by the players.....
February 17th, 2012, 09:26 AM
Nothing to do with wastewater.
New York City water supply (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/drinking_water/wsmaps_wide.shtml)
The Croton watershed supplies 10% of city water. A court mandate required the city to filter this supply.
The Catskill-Delaware watershed supply doesn't need filtration, because the area is more rural and the city owns much of the land around the reservoirs. However, an ultra-violet treatment plant (http://www.lohud.com/article/20120130/NEWS02/301300041/UV-water-soon-tap-Westchester-may-link-NYC-plant-build-its-own) for the Catskill-Delaware supply is under construction in Mt Pleasant (a little NE of the Tappan Zee Bridge).
February 17th, 2012, 09:35 AM
UV only gets rid of biohazards, which pretty much do not last long if the water is kept free of biological contaminants (food).
I would have to do some research to see what prompted the disinfection requirement.....
February 17th, 2012, 10:39 AM
The Catskill system didn't require any treatment at all. It's a proactive measure to kill biological contaminants.
The Croton system is in a more dense area, and the reservoirs are subject to runoff contaminants, which include chemicals. Suburban areas with nice green lawns look clean, but most people use non-organic lawn care products, which are a threat to the water supply.
They should be banned.
February 17th, 2012, 10:55 AM
True... but does UV treatment do anything for that? Or am I confusing things here.
February 17th, 2012, 12:07 PM
The UV kills organisms, viruses and bacteria. It doesn't filter the water. The Catskill Watershed doesn't need filtration.
The Croton Watershed was judged to be under threat of chemical contamination. UV treatment can't kill chemicals, so the Croton water must be filtered. That's what the Bronx plant will do.
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