Guerrilla bridge-makers save New Yorkers from scum river

Post sez,

For several years, a leaky pipe on 33rd Street in New York beneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct approach has submerged more than a hundred square feet of heavily-trafficked sidewalk under a festering cesspool of standing water. Astoria Scum River, as it's called, stretches the entire width of the sidewalk, and as winter approaches, the river ices over and becomes particularly hazardous to cross. Astoria Scum River Bridge was constructed to offer Astorians an opportunity to safetly cross this hazard. The unauthorized bridge is a gift to the pedestrians of Astoria in the absence of successful municipal efforts to ameliorate the problem.

The bridge was made at zero cost entirely from recycled materials: an old work bench found on the curb, rescued screws from a disassembled desk, and a metal plate from an expired electrical component. It was installed and dedicated on December 30th, 2009.

On January 25th, 2010, Astoria Scum River Bridge was the subject of a commendation from the office of NYC Council Member Peter F. Vallone, Jr., accompanied by a pledge to work with Amtrak to re-route Astoria Scum River off the sidewalk.

The bridge remains in place as this work progresses.

(Thanks, Post)



  1. Umm… Is this another New York in Haiti or so or why in heaven’s name doesn’t get that pipe repaired?

    1. Not Haiti. Just a place where tourists never go, so the city government doesn’t care about minor inconveniences such as this. Astoria is great, though. (I happen to live there at the moment.)

  2. I just can’t get over New Yorkers. They make a simple duck board over some sewage and they have a dedication and rhapsodize that they made it out of recycled materials. Well la dee da. That city is on another planet.

    1. Well, when you live in New York, anything you do there is automatically being done in the most awesome way possible. So, any steps taken to ameliorate the the very real conditions of living in New York (poor municipal services, decaying infrastructure, filth) must be extra awesome!

  3. While I praise the DIY effort to improve the neighborhood, it makes me sick that this pipe been broken for years, and yet the city hasn’t fixed it.

    Hell, when a city council member praises the bridge, this deserves a municipality entry on .

    My god, I hate our infrastructure. It’s just old and falling apart. Hopefully some of the stimulus money will be used to fix this stuff.

    1. Yes, ARRA money is being spent to repair infrastructure. If your city didn’t go after these funds, start voting out your government and get a petition started to fire your city manager. The ARRA loans for 1Q10 have 40% principal forgiveness and if combined with DWRF funds (since we’re talking about water here), have 2.5% interest on whatever remainder of the 60% that your city needs to finance. Add in the desperation of contractors to just get back to work before all the equipment is repossessed, and there hasn’t been a cheaper time for a city to repair infrastructure since the New Deal.

      Now let me apologize for getting all serious on an obviously snarky post.

  4. You’re damn right this city is on another planet. Between Portland & Western Mass, I don’t think I’d physically witnessed another person simply wad up a McDonald’s bag and DROP it to the ground without a batted eyelash. I saw this happen twice in Chelsea yesterday. Astonishing.

  5. Now see if that were in Seattle, you’d probably get written up and fined for building without the proper permits and then they’d tear it down only to have the mayor announce a tax hike to fund a massive study to figure out whether they should repair the sidewalk build a boardwalk over the spillage.

  6. Visible on Google Earth Street View, sans bridge (just enter “Hell Gate Bridge.”)

    By the way, the bridge does not appear to be wheelchair accessible and I therefore find it despicable.

  7. A guerrilla ferry would be much cooler. They should probably change the name of the river if they want to make it a tourist/recreation destination.

  8. The stream is so narrow at the point the bridge crosses it that the bridge is not really performing much function since it seems a person could just step over it there.

  9. Keep in mind that this is 33rd Street in Queens, not 33rd Street in Manhattan. The city generally doesn’t care as much about stuff that doesn’t happen in midtown.

  10. Alternately, they should have gotten one of those bouncy ball ride toys (eg, deflated it, shoved it up the pipe as far as possible with an airhose attached via one of those basketball inflation needles, inflated it, and pulled the hose. The ball, being good thick industrial rubber, would completely block the pipe and whoever’s shitty infrastructure was leaking sewage would shortly be swimming in sewage and suddenly deciding leak repair was a top priority rather than someone else’s problem.

    1. Blocking it so it backs up: win.

      Blocking it with something so easily removed by the assholes who’ve already been letting it spray the sidewalk for years: lose.

      I say build a tank around it, so all the water sits against that wall, until the wall of the building falls in. That’ll teach ’em.

      1. Hmm, damn. Well, how about stuff a couple of bags of premix concrete up the pipe first. The balloon just holds them in place until it all sets nicely. They can cut the balloon up all they want after that. :)

  11. Hah! I suspect it cost more to log the commendation (it’s gotta’ be documented for posterity after all ;)than it did to build the “bridge”

    While I appreciate that someone did what they could to ameliorate the unsafe crossing, (Hooray for you Mr. DIYer) the drainage contractor in me is cringing like mad.

    That is a 4″ schedule-40 PVC PE drainage (i.e. it’s a stormwater runoff ya’ll, not sewer) pipe and the leak is either being caused by A: the pipe is simply cracked right there, or B: it goes into the stormwater mains at that point in the sidewalk and is clogged or crushed.

    In one day, a drainage contractor could cut into the system, either repair/replace the connection (if it’s simply a cracked pipe this would take about 30 minutes to do, fyi) or in a worst case scenario, cut the sidewalk, core the curb, run a drop into a 4″ 90, extend the line to the curb, Set a concrete patch (note: not asphalt) on the sidewalk, and then the water runs from the street into the storm mains. One day job. If you don’t have mechanicals for a foot beneath the sidewalk, that’s a thousand dollar job to have it done right and to last for 30 years. If you do have mechanicals they have to be routed around or under the drain line and the price goes up around 500 bucks.

    Of interest, this is the price to do that sort of job in Ohio, Michigan, or Illinois (Yes, even Chicago). I imagine even if I added a cost of business in NYC surcharge of say 3 grand, we are still under 5k max. Municipal funds budgets allot more money for goddamn Whiteout correction fluid (which virtually no one ever uses anymore) than that.

    Now, does that mean you could get a city-approved contractor to bid this job in NYC that cheaply? Even in these economic conditions, I bet the lowest you would see is around 10 grand.

    Guess what tho’? That is still less than a single tort lawsuit against AMTRAK (it’s their pipe) would cost if someone got hurt and sued. The nice thing about this is that hopefully the current “fix” and the associated public shaming that the “commendation” caused/is causing get AMTRAK and the City to fix this mess.

    Frankly, this looks like it was designed by either a plumber (No offense Fellas, you know your business and this ain’t it) or some “maintenance guy” who did what he could with the tools he had available.

  12. Cut and paste fail; what I meant to say it would have been less work to buy a short piece of pvc and two couplings and just fix it for them. But I guess that wouldn’t have been ironical enough for urban hipsterdom.

    1. That might have been a good idea when it first started leaking. At this point there’s a larger point to be made, which is that they should have taken care of it. Drawing attention to it is important for the general welfare, though just fixing it would be better in the single narrow case.

      Also, at this point they need to be punished, which is why several of us have been talking about how to block the pipe rather than just fixing the leak.

  13. Great but what about people with disabilities? They should re-design this to accommodate people of all types: able bodied and disabled alike.

  14. Why not just sever the pipe at the building and run a downspout to the curb. Hell a trough in the concrete would solve this problem immediately. A masonry chisel and 20 minutes work – about the same amount of time required to build the bridge – would resolve the problem – concrete isn’t terribly tough stuff when you go at it with steel.

    Bridge needs non-slip surfacing; someone’s going to get hurt when that wood starts to mildew (get slick) in this winter weather.

  15. I object to the use of the word guerrilla. Where I’m from the guerrilla BLOWS UP bridges. Call them what they are: responsible, concerned New Yorkers. It’s inspiring to see normal people relying less and less on government and taking matters into their own hands.

    1. Wow, you’re right. Bad idea. I guess the punishment aspect would have to be “save the water and dump it in their office,” and that’s going a little too far.

      I like hadlock’s idea, but you’d probably be arrested 5 minutes in. Reasonableness is not a virtue for which NYPD street officers are known.

  16. Its purpose is to draw attention to the fact that the pipe needs to be repaired. There’s a flickr stream showing Amtrak workers finally fixing the pipe.

Comments are closed.