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NYC’s aging water mains cost $400 million to fix every year

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Plus, a major makeover for JFK Airport’s Terminal 4—and more intel in today’s New York Minute news roundup

Water Main Break in New York City
The aftermath of a water main break on the Upper West Side on January 19.
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to New York Minute, a roundup of the New York City news you need to know about today. Send stories you think should be included to

A water main breaks every day in New York City

In the past few weeks, New Yorkers have dealt with the nasty after-effects of water main breaks in their neighborhoods, including one on the Upper West Side on January 19 that snarled subway service for almost an entire day. Just yesterday, an eruption on the Lower East Side flooded streets around the FDR Drive for hours.

While incidents that cause commute-ruining delays are outliers, problems with the city’s water mains are not: According to the New York Times, the pipes that transport water below New York’s streets break down with some regularity—one breaks every day—and they cost $400 million to repair every year. (If you think that sounds bad, it’s actually pretty good for big cities in the U.S.—only Boston has fewer breaks per 100 miles of pipe every year.)

Still, given the age of NYC’s pipes (the average one is 66 years old), and the fact that they share space underground with electric cables, steam pipes, and other infrastructure, a permanent fix is necessary. And, the Times notes, the city is working on that: The de Blasio administration will spend $800 million over the next two years to upgrade the ailing system.

But in the meantime, the maintenance will continue, with crews often determining when a break is about to happen by listening for “a distinctive whooshing sound” from pipes. (Good to know!)

And in other news…

  • JFK Airport’s Terminal 4 is getting a massive makeover—and once it’s done, Port Authority will shutter the nearly 60-year-old Terminal 2.
  • The City Council passed the “reckless driver accountability act” introduced by Park Slope councilmember Brad Lander, which will force repeat offenders (those who’ve accrued 15 speed camera violations or five red light violations within a year) to take a safety course.
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio is not happy about the state (see: Gov. Andrew Cuomo) forcing the city’s hand to close the NYPD tow pound at Pier 76, but now, Cuomo has an ally: City Council speaker Corey Johnson.
  • Speaking of de Blasio, he signed several new bills aimed at reducing lead paint exposure and targeting landlords who don’t fix lead-related issues in their buildings.
  • The retail corridor near Penn Station will be hit with two big closures soon: Both the KMart on 34th Street and the Pennsy, the food hall next to Madison Square Garden, will shutter.
  • The Times’s “Living In” column travels to the tony Yonkers enclave of Park Hill, which is just over the Bronx border and has “a mix of turreted mansions and modest postwar houses.”