Water Tunnel No. 3: Labor and Infrastructure

Our initial map series catalogued the cognitive understanding of Water Tunnel No. 3 over time as more information became public. Our next maps will examine the tunnel in section (at both the urban and the regional scale) and consider the monetary inputs and time spent at different points of construction. We have submitted a FOIL request to the NYC DEP and reached out to the Mayor's Office for more specific information on municipal spending.

As we wait for more information to emerge, we have taken a step back to consider the broader context of labor and infrastructure within which our narrative is situated. We had the opportunity to speak with Professor Stephanie Luce at the CUNY Murphy Institute. Professor Luce focuses on global labor movements, labor standards, labor-community coalitions, and regional labor markets. She had several insights that shed new light on Water Tunnel No. 3.

Interestingly, most of the long-format articles written on the Water Tunnel focus on the valiant and dangerous work the the Sandhogs performed. It is this romanticization of manual labor that Trump has used to garner support for infrastructural and economic development that will ultimately benefit large corporations. In a society that values the hardworking man above all else, where does women's work fit in? The work of minorities who have been systematically exluded from unions performing this work? The 20th Century witnessed a major shift from an industrial economy preferencing white able-bodied men to a more inclusive service economy. Our tax dollars should be going to fix infrastructure that our lives depend on, most definitely. But if we are to value that, we must also value the other social services that make urban life possible for 8.5 million New Yorkers.

Water Tunnel No. 3 is obviously an important project, but we must recognize that attempts to validate solely by honoring the history of heroic work that Sandhogs have put into it undermines the other (physical and social) labor that has gone into the tunnel and larger fresh water supply system. Community advocates, researchers, social workers, politicians; all of these roles should be considered as forms of labor in the construction of our tunnels and city at large.

To see the full interview transcript, please click here.

Show Comments