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Environment ∙ Public Health ∙ Jobs

Safeguarding New York’s Water Supply

New York City is at risk of failing in one of its most important obligations: providing clean drinking water. Andrew Yang is committing to completing water infrastructure projects and other critical infrastructure projects that have languished over the past several years 

New York City relies on two main tunnels to move nearly all of its water, known as Water Tunnel No. 1 and Water Tunnel No. 2. Neither of these tunnels have been inspected since they were put into operation in 1917 and 1936, respectively. Most people living in Brooklyn and Queens get their entire water supply from City Water Tunnel No. 2. Were Water Tunnel No. 2 to be shut down for any reason - a collapse, for example - millions of New Yorkers would be left without water for 3 full months.

In 1954, the City authorized work on a third tunnel, named City Water Tunnel No. 3, that would provide a back-up for the first two tunnels, and let the water department shut down existing tunnels for inspections. It was designed to have three phases. Nearly 70 years later, Tunnel No. 3 is still not complete. Phase 1, which services Manhattan, was finished back in 1998. The Bloomberg Administration made great progress on the Phase 2 of the tunnel, completing the first section for Manhattan, and completing all but two shafts for the second section serving Brooklyn and Queens. These shaft tunnels were listed in Bloomberg’s final ten year capital budget and were scheduled to be completed this year. But back in 2013, the de Blasio administration quietly halted the project. Three years later, in 2016, the New York Times reported that the project had been put on hold. The contract for the two shaft tunnels was awarded in February, 2021 and work will begin this coming July. Under current schedule, the tunnel won’t be online until 2026 at the earliest. 

As mayor, Andrew Yang will accelerate completion of Water Tunnel 3 to ensure New York’s water infrastructure is up to date and properly serving all New Yorkers. This is the biggest infrastructure project in the city’s history and among the most vital to our well being. Andrew will also ensure New York City’s water supply is safe and reliable for decades to come by inspecting and strengthening Water Tunnel No. 2 and starting work on the final phase of the new tunnel. 

Reducing bureaucracy and increasing transparency on infrastructure projects. 

The fact that Water Tunnel #2 was left to languish for years without public scrutiny is one of countless examples showing that the City’s capital budgeting and reporting system makes it almost impossible to understand when projects start, how much money has actually been committed, how projects are progressing, and when they are scheduled to be completed. With more transparency, journalists, elected officials and the public would have been able to track the project more closely and hold the mayor accountable. We need the structural reforms to speed up the process for construction, reduce bureaucratic hurdles to building and increase transparency in the process. That is why Andrew Yang is committed to creating a public dashboard that lists the top priority projects around the city and their status in terms of permitting and construction. The public deserves to know how their dollars are being spent - or not spent - to build a better New York. Andrew Yang will work with the state and federal governments to speed up permitting - and make sure the city does its part to keep big projects moving forward, whether for water tunnels or clean energy or improving parks. 

Over the past months, Andrew has highlighted several high priority projects, like a geothermal plant in Long Island City, distributed battery storage to support a clean energy grid, and the deployment of offshore wind via the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.

Prioritizing this work matters now more than ever with the Senate recently passing a water infrastructure bill and Biden’s larger infrastructure bill hopefully moving forward. New York City can’t miss this opportunity and Andrew Yang will move the city forward and beyond the status quo.