Day 1145

Reflections in the snowmelt

February 17th, 2015

The road at right, on which the Toyota SUV is traveling, is Conduit Avenue, named for the conduits that used to carry Brooklyn's drinking water westward to the Ridgewood Reservoir along the route that the road now follows.

The original plan for Brooklyn's water supply system called for the eastern portion of the aqueduct connecting the various water sources to be an open canal rather than an enclosed conduit. It would have initially been cheaper to go with a canal, but those savings would have been outweighed by a number of problems — dead animals tossed into the canal by disgruntled countryfolk, for instance — as pointed out by an 1858 letter to the editor of the NY Times, partially reproduced here:

With such an exposed surface, so wide-mouthed a ditch, continuing so long a distance, the water will be subjected to quantities of filth, partly intentional, partly unintentional. The country people along the line are, from one cause and another, bitterly opposed to the canal, part of the Water Works project, and as it passes through such a frequented part of the island, the thought of what would be cast into it, (dead animals, for instance,) arouses anything but pleasant feelings. Trouble would arise also from quantities of drift sand, leaves, &c.; and, in Winter, (the grade being two-tenths of a foot only to the mile,) the water would freeze, or half-freeze, and the flow would be, at times, altogether impeded. . . .

On all sides, too, it is conceded, that if the canal is adhered to, it will unquestionably have to be changed to a masonry conduit within a short time. That odor of dead cats and decaying dogs will stick to the whole work, and cast ridicule upon it until the change is made.

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