When money is tight in NYC, cut spending on critical water infrastructure

All big cities need water but when budget priorities were determined, New York City chose to delay building some key water infrastructure:

Mayor Bill de Blasio has postponed work to finish New York’s third water tunnel, a project that for more than half a century has been regarded as essential to the survival of the city if either of the two existing, and now aged, tunnels should fail…

But last year, Mr. de Blasio’s administration, eager to keep a lid on water and sewer rates that had grown by an average of 8 percent annually under Mr. Bloomberg, moved financing for the third tunnel to other projects, Amy Spitalnick, a de Blasio spokeswoman, said.

The city intends to finish the remaining portions of the tunnel sometime in the 2020s, but it has not set a date for completion nor allocated money in the budget to carry out the work. For the foreseeable future, the $6 billion tunnel will remain dry in the two largest boroughs, where well over half the city’s population lives.

“You look back over the last 50 years, whenever there were fiscal pressures, the unseen world of the municipal water system is where weak city leaders turned to cut spending,” said Kevin Bone, a professor of architecture at Cooper Union and an editor of “Water-Works: The Architecture and Engineering of the New York City Water Supply.” “I’m disappointed to hear that they’ve deferred it. It is symptomatic about planning for the future in America.”

Let’s hope that this doesn’t lead to disaster: imagine Queens and Brooklyn without water for three months (which would happen if aging Tunnel 2 fails). This is one of the issues with infrastructure and why the public would be furious if something happened: people don’t pay attention to this stuff until it fails but the issues are largely preventable as long as communities keep up with the necessary maintenance and new construction.

Imagine New York City, the top global city, being incapacitated by not having enough water because city leaders didn’t have enough foresight…

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