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City Water Tunnel No. 3 Open Spaces: Dream On

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It's been the dream of ever-hopeful downtowners that new green spaces would someday replace the lots where the city has been constructing shafts for the humongous Third Water Tunnel (the biggest capital project in NYC history). This week, community board 2 called an informational meeting to talk it over and interested locals showed up en masse. They asked questions and let their wishes be known for possible future uses, ranging from playing fields to dog runs to "multi-generational use." Lots of good ideas, but not so much space available. There are three sites of varying sizes: one in Greenwich Village South on Hudson Street at West Houston (25,000 sf), a second in Noho on East 4th Street just west of the Bowery (7,500 sf) and another at the edge of Soho on the NW corner of Grand and Lafayette (12,500 sf). Back in 2004, the Department of Environmental Protection—the agency in charge of this project (and the folks who supply us with our water)—agreed to acquire the sites, forever maintaining control of 4,000 square feet at each to allow access to the shafts. DEP also committed to "work with a community group following completion of construction so it may eventually be used as open space." Slowly but surely, that time approaches.

The first phase of construction, where shafts were bored to connect to the tunnel 500 feet down, is complete and the lots have been cleared of construction equipment. But the sites remain fenced off and the surfaces covered with chunks of unfriendly rubble. And there's still big work to come involving installation of valves and connectors, all requiring heavy equipment and room to stage the work. That phase is scheduled to start in June 2010 and won't be fully completed for three or so years beyond that. That takes us into 2013.

Meanwhile, questions remain as to who will pay for and maintain any publicly accessed open space. According to the paperwork [PDF] approved by City Planning, for each site, "DEP will provide financial assistance in the form of a contribution of at least $400,000 to the “Percent for Art” Program, which is administered by the Department of Cultural Affairs." While work continues the locals are hoping that some interim uses can be allowed on parts of the sites. DEP, while non-committal, agreed to think it over. Discussions, of course, will be on-going.
· Engineering Marvels: City Water Tunnel No. 3 [NYC DEP website]
· West Houston Mystery Solved: It's a Water Tunnel! [Curbed]
· Revenge of the Machines on East 4th [Curbed]
· CPC Calendar No. 15 - C 040135 PCM [NYC CPC website]

142 Grand Street, New York, NY