On the corner of Williams and Liberty Street, a new 30-story apartment building is going up, but before the luxury apartments are habitable, the construction workers must go underground and rip apart the city’s guts – electrical cables, water pipes, gas mains, and sewers lines, replacing the crumbling pipes with new ones. It is a precarious and disruptive project. Many of the old metal pipes are literally falling apart from years of rust. Workers with welding torches and saws crawl on their hands and knees through the tangle of pipes held up by ropes tied to wooden beams. New Yorkers rarely think about the hidden systems that keep the city running, until a huge construction project gets in their way, a water main breaks, or until – like, most spectacularly, last August – the lights go out and everything shuts down. In 1988 the Williamsburg Bridge was declared unsafe. The decades of neglect proved costly: Engineers estimated that if the city had done regular repairs over the bridge’s 100-year history, it would have cost about $190 million in today’s dollars. Instead it ended up costing more than $600 million. Read the entire article here.
Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.