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By ATWadmin On July 19th, 2007

Sorry to hear that someone has been killed and at least 20 others injured when a steam pipe exploded underneath a street in central New York during the evening rush hour. The explosion in midtown Manhattan sent clouds of steam, mud and rocks into the air and forced the evacuation of nearby streets and Grand Central Station. Millions of pounds of steam are pumped beneath the streets of New York to help heat and cool thousands of buildings. The 83-year-old pipe exploded sending people running from the scene as steam billowed up from the ground. A witness described it "like a volcano erupting" in the middle of the city. I’m sure it was a nightmare for anyone caught up in it – trust our New York readers all all OK. 

NYHEATING.jpgThe heating system that underpins New York City is a marvel, and those issues of steam that can be seen coming from the avenues and streets are a wonder to behold! It’s hard to imagine that such a fantastic and complex system was conceived back in the 1880’s by Birdshill Holly and that New York Steam’s first central steam boiler plant, located at Cortlandt, Dey, Greenwich, and Washington Streets, was completed way back in 1881 and included 48 boilers and a 225-foot chimney — at the time, it was one of the tallest features of the lower New York skyline, second only to the spire of Trinity Church. The district steam installation was so novel it was the cover story of the November 19, 1881 issue of Scientific American!

I suppose 83 year old pipes cannot be relied upon and I wonder what the programme is to make sure that the ageing physical infrastructure is modernised?

10 Responses to “A VOLCANO IN LEXINGTON…”

  1. Yeah,

    It sounded quite dramatic.

    David – this is the one area where the small state argument falls down in the US, and I suppose it will always be a tension.

    I think some level of tax or levy are a reasonable approach to maintaining essential infrastructure – I was always struct by the poor quality of roads in both California and Mass, especially when you get off the main routes. Mind you, the maintenance companies themselves should be completely private.

  2. JOC,

    Yes, I do see the point you make and it’s hard to argue otherwise.

  3. Its Bush’s fault, because he cut taxes…LOL

  4. David: Sound the Alls Well and tell Andrew he just missed me.

    The 41st Street entrance to my office is closed. The explosion was about 2 blocks away. I will say that there are few places on earth where the emergency personnel, firefighters and police are better trained to deal with the situation.

    In our current times one always first wonders if it is a terrorist attack. We have The UN, Grand Central Station, and the Empire State Building nearby. Thankfully, it is an infrastructure issue.

    A little grumbling was made here about the age of the pipes, but that is natural in a City. After all, people drive across the 1876 Brooklyn Bridge every day and use the subway lines which were also installed some time ago. Part of life in The City.

  5. ..and a great city it is! Glad you’re well!

  6. A little grumbling, lol. the onus on the right word Mahons good for you. Over here our services responded magnificently to a burst pipe that channels the Thames under central London roads – another victorian system par excellence and a skill of engineering. It wasnt long before the naysayers were out indulging a national hobby. The UK is at an end and London is doomed type of stuff. And again when a tube train derailed last week. Not a regular occurence – but part of the grimd a city has to endure when it is as loved and as used as this one. From one proud City lover to another – I salute you! 😉

  7. Cheers Alison and David. I am old enough to be amazed at how quickly news spreads these days thanks to the internet. Next thing I know David will be giving me tips on the best hot dog vendors near my office.

  8. Like you don’t know Mahons ? 🙂

  9. David: I knew you had access to surveillance cameras!

  10. crazy stuff…maybe they should change the name of lexington avenue to “steampipe alley”

    looks like a real “steam bath” out there.

    nyc’s new marketing campaign jingle changed from I Love new york to “We’ve got steam heat”.

    Ok that’s enough.