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Croton Water plant advances

Bronx Times

The controversial Croton Water Filtration Plant has crossed another milestone – construction of a complex distribution chamber beneath Van Cortlandt Park.

It still doesn’t erase ten years of cost overruns, court injunctions and a series of letdowns as far as Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz is concerned.

“It’s probably the biggest boondoggle in New York City history,” declared Dinowitz, who’s spent years opposing the building of the plant at Van Cortlandt Park.

Officials with the city Department of Environmental Protection unveiled the newly-built, $50 million chamber, burrowed below ground near the Jerome Park Resevoir.

It’s considered a key piece to the country’s largest underground water system that will clean and pump 290 million gallons of water each day when the long-awaited project finally wraps up this year.

Water flowing from the Croton Watershed in upstate New York will funnel into the aqueduct, diverting it to the chamber and releasing it to millions of Bronx homes at an appropriate pressure.

The $50 million price tag on the chamber is just a fraction of the $3.2 billion cost of the project. The whole project is roughly a billion dollars over budget, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.

“The money is still adding up,” said Dinowitz.

But the city had little choice in building the site, as a federal mandate ordered water to be filtered and not just disinfected as the city currently does.

“The Croton Filtration Plant will play a critical role in ensuring that New York City has an adequate supply of high quality drinking water for decades,” said Tim Timbers, a DEP spokesman.

Crews excavated eight acres of the park that were once home to a driving range, digging 90 feet below the surface to build the facility complete with pumps, tunnels and treatment tanks.

The overall project has been a money pit of sorts, with labor costs skyrocketing and delays marring the facility’s construction.

It’s also been a sore point for the Bloomberg administration, which promised $200 million in park improvements as part of the deal for borough City Council members to pass the DEP’s application for the plant.

A report by Comptroller John Liu’s office found it delivered over half of that since the measure was passed in 2004. The Department of Parks and Recreation balked at Liu’s figures, since they didn’t include park upgrades that were finished but not yet billed to the city.

It also cost property owners more in their water bills, according to Dinowitz.

“I think the doubling of the water rates is a result of the enormous cost overruns,” he said, adding Bronx jobs and park improvements “never materialized.”

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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