NYC Water Tunnel No. 3

By Piyawut Koomsiripithuck, Shih Liao, Gwendolyn Stegall, and Mayrah Udvardi

Labor, environmental concerns, and public opinion all pull from different datasets. The most available data on labor, specifically the involvement of the Sandhogs, came from Local 147 Union archives. Environmental data, including drought and land ownership information, came from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Information about air and water quality 311 service requests in the last 5 days came from Thinking critically about the data that is not made readily available will be important for us moving forward.


Local 147, the Sandhogs Union, has diligently kept record of past projects in order to ensure their monopoly on tunnel digging work and rights are met. Paul Delany's 1983 book on Sandhog History includes tables of all City projects Sandhogs have been involved in (meaning all tunnel projects since 1870), who the contractors were, and whether worked happened under compressed air or free air conditions. The data represented below shows that the majority of digging projects were completed within 1-2 years, the shortest but most numerous projects being undertaken were subway and sewer projects, and that projects are largely split between free air, compressed air, and combined air (indicating the depth of the operation). It would be interesting to see what the correlation between community complaints and free-air projects are. It would seem obvious that people would be more upset about digs happening closer to the surface where they are more likely to disrupt the urban skin.

The bar graphs below start to break down the number of projects per mayoral term and then project type by era, to see what the correlation was between political leaning and infrastructural investment. The first bar graph shows that the majority of mayors have been democratic, with most infrastructural investment happening in the years leading up to the Great Depression and again in the years immediately after World War Two. The second graph shows that subway projects were well-funded before the Great Depression, road projects took priority in the years leading up to WW2, and sewer and freshwater projects (likely maintenance repairs) were prioritized following the War.

Future investigations might include finding information on projects since 1983 and distinguishing further between new infrastructure versus maintenance projects. It would also be interesting to map these projects onto the city to see where more capital investment is going, and where certain infrastructures (ex. sewer vs. subway) are being placed in the boroughs.

Public Opinion:



Overlay of best map we have so far of Water Tunnel No. 3 (Source: and 311/Community Board data, showing that the tunnel goes through almost every community board in Manhattan, including two with large numbers of open complaints. Knowing where the tunnel is planned could help anticipate complaints about this project in other community boards.

Environment (Local & Regional):


The Charts above are showing water consumption in NYC and per capita from 1979-2015, in relation with drought event those happened through the history. According to The New York City Drought management plan, drought can be categorized into three phase, Drought Watch, Drought Warning, and Drought Emergency. The Drought Emergency phase is further subdivided into four stages with increasingly severe mandated use restrictions. Each phases are defined by probability of storing water in two main reservoirs(Delaware and Catskill) those feed New York City.

Land ownership comparison

The charts show the increasing owenership of NYC DEP Department.



People to interview:


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