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Morning Spew

It’s Thursday, and We Need to Talk About Water

“Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” –Derek Zoolander

A close-up shot of crystal clear water

(Wesley Tingey / Unsplash)

Good morning—that strange, non-rhythmic tapping sound you heard on top of your air conditioner this morning was not only the condensation falling from the unit above it, but also, rain. It's been a dry summer in New York City, with the late afternoon summer thunderstorms mostly petering out in the unforgiving heat, or dumping a bucket of water on the very specific block you need to walk on and nowhere else.

Currently, about 45 percent of Manhattan is in a low-level drought, while almost 50 percent of the entire northeast is in a drought. But New York City isn't in any serious danger of running out of water, thanks to its extensive reservoir system, which is holding at 80 percent capacity. Compared to some other parts of the country, we’re still swimming in it. If you'd like to learn the history of why New York City isn't heading toward a Las Vegas-like water catastrophe, you should check out Lucy Sante’s enthralling and informative brand-new book, “Nineteen Reservoirs.” (And stay tuned to Hell Gate for more imminent reservoir coverage!)

But today, we're not only talking about how water gets to the city (be it from the sky, aqueduct, or massive, secret underground tunnel), but also what happens to water as it enters our home. 

New York City pumps delicious, clean drinking water to residences across the five boroughs. Once inside our aging housing stock, however, it sometimes gets an unhealthy mixer—lead. 

According to a new report out today from the New York City Coalition to End Lead Poisoning, over 16 percent of water service lines (which takes water from the city line into your home) are still potentially made of lead, while 27 percent of all water service lines in the city are of an “unknown” material. The report highlights why that’s a huge, hidden problem—82 percent of children under age six with elevated lead levels are Black, Latinx, or Asian, and 67 percent of those children also live in high-poverty neighborhoods. In NYC, lead pipes can still be found in older buildings, where some landlords haven’t replaced infrastructure from the 1950s. 

Last year, the City’s Department of Environmental Protection released an interactive map detailing where lead pipes and pipes of unknown material can still be found in New York City. Today, the groups behind the report are taking to the steps of City Hall to ask the City to actually do something about it—to replace the privately owned lead lines themselves) using federal resources already dedicated to lead abatement. On top of that, they want the City to figure out the status of the 27 percent of “unknown” pipe material that's taking water to people's homes. 

New York City’s water? Delicious. Also, possibly has lead. But hopefully not forever! (Update: You can order lead test kits from the city here!)

Here's some more stuff we're reading this morning:

    • It’s almost election time (again!) and things are heating up in the crowded NY-10 primary. The Daily Beast has a streeeeeetch of a hit piece on Yuh-Line Niou’s parents (who are heavily implied, in the article, to have laundered money along with thousands of others named in the Panama Papers leak). Niou issued a comment on Twitter, saying the piece was “rife with anti-immigrant stereotypes." There’s a lot of money being spent in NY-10, so expect more opposition research (insightful or not) to wind up in the pages of our beloved press. (, if you’re interested!)
    • In other election news, big real estate has made their pick in the race for an open seat in Queens and Brooklyn, and shocker, it’s Elizabeth Crowley and NOT DSA-Backed Kristen Gonzalez. That money’s already going to commercials sowing fear about the city’s over-hyped crime wave, but, of course, the Crowley campaign has nothing to do with any of it. “This group does not speak for my campaign,” Crowley told the CITY in a statement. “I do not condone the imagery nor content.”
    • The MTA is allegedly one large state authority. But within it, there are several fiefdoms—the Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, New York City transit, etc. And perhaps predictably, these different components (of the same authority!) don’t always play nice. At its worst, that means building a gigantic bazillion-dollar train station deep under Grand Central, because Metro-North doesn’t want to let those stinkin’ LIRR trains anywhere near their hoity-toity rail cars. At its most frustrating, that means a different app to buy tickets for its commuter components, and a different app each for train schedules. Now, they're being rolled together into one app, where you’ll be able to check the schedules AND buy tickets. Now imagine if they ever let one use OMNY on a commuter rail…perchance to dream.
    • A communications officer for the Department of Social Services alerted City Hall last month (against her boss’s wishes) that the City’s shelter system was breaking the law by having asylum seekers sleep inside of a City intake shelter and not in actual beds. Her reward? Termination. Don’t make the mayor’s friends look bad, kids!
    • Open Streets are in retreat across the city, where cars still dictate a LOT of policy. So, if you ever think Hell Gate is going to write about how an Open Street is “ruining your life,” please pitch the New York Post instead and take a long, long walk (preferably along an Open Street) into the East River.
    • We wrote yesterday about how the MTA had issued its congestion pricing environmental assessment, reducing car use in Midtown and lower Manhattan by up to 20 percent. (Strangely, the report found it would also correspondingly reduce the total number of complete assholes in Manhattan, weird!) Now, neighborhoods just outside the congestion zone want permitted parking, something they would have abhorred just months ago. The winds of change are stirring, my friends!
    • And finally, on this transit-friendly note—Iron Man, thank you.
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