There was a big surprise this week in New York City, infrastructure-wise. This Wednesday, NYC learned of slightly terrifying news: should there be a breakdown, disaster, or other emergency, parts of Brooklyn and Queens could be left without water for at least three months. (See New Yorkers, just because Seattle may be earthquake-prone, we aren’t the only city that needs to worry about these things.) New York City currently relies on two aging water tunnels that date back to the early twentieth century: one for Manhattan and the Bronx, while the other serves Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been building a third tunnel—Water Tunnel No. 3—since the 1970s to supply reservoir water if the first two fail. The tunnel section that serves Manhattan and the Bronx is finished, but there are two tunnel shafts that have yet to be built that would connect the third tunnel to Brooklyn and Queens. According to reporting by The New York Times, the de Blasio administration had no budget set last year for the project, nor a timeline:
“The entire Brooklyn-Queens leg of the new tunnel was scheduled to be finished by 2021, with $336 million included in the capital budget in 2013 by Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, for whom completion of the third tunnel was the most urgent and expensive undertaking of his tenure,” The Times explained. “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.”
But now the city has spoken again, and in an awkward response hours later after The Times article was published, Mayor Bill de Blasio told the newspaper that his administration did in fact have a timeline and budget set—and that it was all just a big miscommunication:
“The mayor’s announcement came just hours after The New York Times reported that his administration last year had removed all money to pay for the tunnel and had also replaced the announced 2021 deadline for completion with a commissioner’s “guess” that it would be ready for service sometime in the mid-2020s. Those actions and statements, the mayor said, had been misunderstood as postponing the work. ‘There are times when my team does not do a good job of explaining something,’ he said.”
Now $336 million is earmarked to finish Water Tunnel No. 3.