“Chelsea Water Towers” – New York

“Chelsea Water Tanks” - New York“He has made me wary of chronological snobbery. That is, he showed me that newness is no virtue and oldness is no vice. Truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern.”
― John Piper

One of the first things that I noticed while walking around New York was the wooden water tanks that topped most buildings, whether old or new. There are slight variations, some are metal but most are wood (which is apparently cheaper to build), of varying ages and roughly the same size, about 10,000 gallons. They seem like such an anachronism in this vast modern city. Yet, as I researched them, they are a very practical solution to an infrastructure that can’t deliver sufficient water pressure to buildings over six stories tall. In fact, there are 12,000 to 17,000 active water towers in service throughout New York and more are being built or replaced every year.

The towers work a bit like a toilet, whereby, when the tank level gets low, a valve is tripped and water is pumped into the tank from pipes in the building’s basement. Health concerns have been raised recently, since the water simply sits, untreated in heat and cold and can stagnate. Also, a layer of sediment builds up in the tank, which needs to be cleaned out annually, and is often overlooked. Out of sight, out of mind.

The image above shows both types, the wooden tanks in the foreground and a large steel tank on top of the condo. Once you notice them, it’s hard to tune them out, since they are such a unique feature that seems to define New York City.

Nikon D300
Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 @ 31mm
1/400 sec, f/10.0, ISO 400

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