Water Tunnel Work Gets Underway

July 29, 2017

Construction at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection site, located just north of the  Octagon soccer field, is under way and is proceeding on schedule, according to Mike Russo, Engineering Consultant for the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC).


The DEP is working on City Water Tunnel 3, which runs under the Island. The project began in 1970 and, when complete, will serve as a backup system to allow the City to inspect and repair City Water Tunnels 1 and 2 for the first time since they were put into service in 1917 and 1936, respectively.

“It’s going really well,” said Russo at a RIOC Operations Committee meeting on Monday.

 City Water Tunnel 3. Image by NY DEP


Island Impact


The first stage of the work is expected to take eight months and will require the construction or modification of two access roads.


The primary one, identified as “Road A”, runs between the Octagon soccer field and the Community Garden and should be complete in several weeks, according to a DEP spokesperson. A second roadway (Road B), will run along the promenade behind the Octagon and  will require the removal of several small trees and barbecues. New trees and barbecues will be planted and installed nearby. Construction on Road B is anticipated to begin in August.


Original plans also called for a low concrete wall and fencing but these are no longer required. “Smaller vehicles come through the Octagon,” explained Russo, “Larger ones are in the front by the gardens.”


Gretchen Robinson, Compliance and Internal Controls Officer for RIOC, said Road A was part of an agreement DEP negotiated with former operators of Roosevelt Island, New York State Urban Development Corporation, years ago. “This will not disturb people from gaining access to the Community Garden or impede activities at the soccer field,” said Robinson. Of Road B, Robinson said, “The other access road already exists by the Octagon. DEP plans to shift some of the barbeque grills and trees to a nearby location in the same area so that their trucks may access the site safely and without obstruction.”


Because the two roads are considered easements – meaning the land is not owned by the DEP, but they have a legal right to use it for a specific purpose – Russo says the DEP will be required to return it to good condition when they are done. “At the end of the day, it will look parklike. We can’t plant trees, or install benches, or put anything permanent there, but it will look good.”


Russo credited RIOC General Counsel Jaci Flug for protecting RIOC’s stake in the long-term control of the land. “She went all the way back to the original letters and she built a record. It is an easement, it is not ownership.”


Chemical Use


The DEP affirmed that no chemicals are being stored on the Island. Their spokesperson said, “If it is determined that chemicals will be used at this site in the future, they will be brought in on the day of use, and all FDNY guidelines will be strictly followed.”


“I believe they have small tanks [of chlorine] but nothing is airborne,” confirmed Russo. “[All chlorine] is stored in double-contained structures. [The workers] go down, there’s a big crane to drop stuff 650 feet down. They have a lot of prep they are doing to clean the inside of the tunnel, and get it all ready.”


Russo said the project will have three phases, all with completely different crews. This first phase will take eight months.


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