THE WATER SUPPLY OF NEW YORK
Excerpts From The Message of Mayor McClellan.
In a message of 50,000 words Mayor McClellan devotes a fairly large share to the subjects of the fire protection and water supply of New York city. These two—especially the water supply— he sets down as essential requisites in the life of the citizens. As might have been expected, the mayor devotes much greater space to the subject of water supply than to that of fire protection. The latter he dismisses in a few words and includes either among the structural changes of the year or in his allusion to the installation of the high-pressure system in Manhattan and its operations in Brooklyn. He points out that in Manhattan the installation brought about a reduction in insurance premiums on December 9, which will mean an immediate saving in premiums of $500,000 a year, and is to be followed by another reduction. In Brooklyn, where there has been a great reduction in insurance rates, due to the improved water supply, about $250,(XX) of that reduction is “directly due to the installation of the high-pressure system, so that this great improvement has already earned at least three-quarters of a million dollars’ return annually to the taxpayers. The system (the mayor adds) is, therefore, not only to he regarded as a primal protection to life and property, but, also, one of the most productive investments of the city.”
Speaking of his efforts to abolish the Croton aqueduct commission by suitable legislation, Mayor McClellan says: “I have no reason to change my recommendation of last year that this commission be abolished. What little work there remains to be done can be done more effectively by either the department of water supply, gas, .and electricity or the board of water supply. In the hands of either of these departments a great financial saving can be accomplished. Under the amended law which permits the commission to exist until its work is completed, it is apparent that the members contemplate perpetual life. Although the new Croton dam was completed in 1906, and the Cross river dam was finished a year ago, neither has yet been turned over to the control of the local water department, which is the proper superintendent of maintenance. Plans for a new storage-reservoir in the northeast corner of the Croton watershed, at a cost of $3,500,000, have been prepared by the commission, without as much as consulting the department of water supply, which is responsible for the supply and for any necessity which may exist for it. Other expenditures are also in contemplation by the commission, and it is impossible to escape the conviction that these works are planned for the sole purpose of keeping the commission in existence. If this bipartisan commission has the power, as it apparently has, to involve the city in numerous unnecessary expenditures without consulting the local authorities, then it should be wiped out without delay. It is my purpose again to recommend such legislation at this session.”
As was natural. Mayor McClellan adverts to the new Catskill supply. He deprecates all criticism on the subject, and insists that “criticism of the work of obtaining an additional water supply in the Catskill mountain-shed should not be that it is extravagant and unnecessary, but that the city of New York should have begun the work long before it did. We should be actually getting water now from the Catskills, or some equally good source. Our shortage today would be far more serious but for the plentiful rainfall of 1907. The water-shortage danger is an ever-increasing one, not only because of the demands oi a constantly increasing population, but because of the indications of a diminution in the abnormally abundant rainfall of recent years. On account of this situation, the city is not only hastening the construction of the Catskill aqueduct between Ashokan reservoir and the Croton watershed, but is working on the temporary development of a supply from sources cast of the (Hudson river.” He estimates that the amount of water to be supplied by the Catskill system and the Suffolk county well system will furnish 1.000,000,(XX) gal. of water daily. With respect to the borough of Queens, Mayor McClellan deems the acquisition of the Cord Meyer Water company in that borough “advisable.” With reference to the water supply in general, he says that in no other respect has the improvement been so marked within the last five vears. Of the Jerome Park reservoir and the proposed filtration plant there, lie says: “In my last annual message I called attention to the fact that the engineers of the department, assisted by the most eminent experts in the United States, had made an exhaustive study of this question. Their conclusion was that the best place available was the east basin of the Jerome Park reservoir, and accordingly all other construction wrork there was stopped. This has led to some criticism on the part of persons ignorant of the city’s plans for this property. There has been some delay, caused by the preparation of plans for the work and by the city’s financial condition. The situation at present is that the commissioner of water supply has made application for an appropriation of $4,000,000 for the masonry part of the filtration plant, including the basin for the treated water, that the board of estimate, following the usual custom, has referred the matter to the department of finance, and that that department has not yet reported on it. The water department is prepared to start work as soon as the money is available.” The budget for 1909 contains the item : Department of water supply, gas and electricity, $1,711,291—an increase of $3,762 over the same item in 1904.
In alluding to the city’s fire protection, Mayor McClellan says that among the other structural changes of the four years are the provision of 42,602 new fire-escape balconies, the provision of 4,930 skylights, and the cutting of windows in 24,543 dark interior rooms. During the present year to November 30, 5,941 fire-escape balconies have been provided and 2,070 skylights, while 12,401 windows have been cut in dark rooms. In connection with the existing methods of fire protection, the mayor thus speaks of the auxiliary high-pressure system and of the fire service in the city in general:
“No other city in the world possesses a system of fire protection equaling ours in magnitude and efficiency, and it safeguards, among others, our drygoods district, with its enormous values, a bad fire in which has long been the dread of merchants and fire insurance companies; since such a conflagration would bankrupt every large fire insurance company doing business in the United States. * * * The system in Coney Island protects an area of about 146 acres, and has 8,500 feet of mains. The cost of installation was $100,000. Salt or fresh water may be used. The Brooklyn system protects the drygoods and liighoffice-building district, covering an area of about l’.400„acres* * * The cost of the system was m,400,IX), and it is now complete. The Manhattan system comprises an area of about 1,456 acres.’ I he system is to be extended in each case.
Of the actual work of the citv’s fire department the mayor speaks thus: “Some idea of the activities of the department may be gained from these statistics: From January 1, 1904. to October 1, 1908, the department responded to 43,316 alarms in the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx, and Richmond, and to 20,143 in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.” The appropriation for the department for 1909 is $2,071,265— $4,553 above that for 1904.