Inside City’s Water Tanks, Layers of Neglect - New York Times - 1/27/14
Getting Water to New Yorkers Is a Family Business - New York Times - 12/17/12
10/25/12- Rooftop Icons
The wooden tanks on top of buildings all over the city are a quirk of New York's infrastructure. Wooden water tanks were vital in the early twentieth century, as the city grew skyward. They're the way many of the city's older buildings get their water supply, and have enough water stored to feed the sprinklers if there's a fire. They use wood because just three inches of wood insulate the tank as well as 24 inches of concrete would.
Rosenwach is the last company to make them in the city. It has been in business for almost 150 years doing something that's now almost obsolete.
The company is still around because while their market is disappearing, it's disappearing very slowly.
"We're in a dying business," said Andrew Rosenwach, whose great-grandfather started the company. "When I was looking at joining, my father told me 'If you join the family business and they stop putting tanks up, you'll have enough business taking the tanks down,'" he said.
- Business Insider
Approximately 10,000 to 15,000 tanks reside on roofs across the boroughs, and the number of wooden tanks prevails over the more modern pump systems. The enduring advantage of these decades-old tanks is that wood is a natural insulator, the tanks can easily be built on the scene and cost less than other kinds of tanks that still hold a similar amount of water.Untapped Cities
While many are more than 30 years old, even new ones look old because they are made of wood that isn't painted or chemically treated (so as not to taint drinking water).
Though the technology has become more efficient, the concept of gravity delivering water from a wood tank hasn't changed in decades.
And while steel tanks are an option, they are more expensive, don't provide as much insulation, require more maintenance and take longer to construct. The average wood tank holds 10,000 gallons of water and costs around $30,000. A steel tank of similar size could cost up to $120,000. But different buildings have their own specific needs. -
Prior to the escalation of skyscrapers and multi-storied buildings, the water would naturally rise to the height of six floors due to the natural pressure of the street mains system. However, with increasing urbanization, a solution quickly arrived - the rooftop water tank.
In short, the municipal water supply system delivers water to a basement pump which then sends the water to the roof. There, rings made of galvanized steel encircle the barrel and apply pressure in order to prevent leakage. Without any type of adhesive, these tanks can last 30-35 years.
How it works:
- A water tower is a simple device that uses gravity to provide water pressure.
- They provide water for domestic uses and fire supply.
- Most municipalities have tanks that can hold a day's worth of water for their population.
- Many New York City buildings exceed the height the infrastructure's water pressure can handle.
- Most structures taller than six stories need some sort of water tower and pump system of their own.
- Water is fed to buildings through pipes in the basement.
- Electric pumps push the water from the basement to roof.
- It takes 2-3 hours to fill the average 10,000-gallon tank.
- From the roof, gravity sends water to pipes throughout the building.
- As tenants use the water, the level in the tank goes down and, just like in a toilet, a ballcock lets more in.
For 12 weeks next summer, New Yorkers will be encouraged to look up when the city's redwood water tanks get an artistic makeover. The public art organization Word Above the Street will collaborate with a diverse group of artists, including Jay-Z and Jeff Koons, to come up with the designs on handmade vinyl wraps. Good
New York Water Towers withstand Sandy's fury - Interview with great grandson of Rosenwach Tank founder
How did New York's rooftop water towers, some over a hundred years old, fare as Sandy wreaked havock across the city? We asked Andrew Rosenwach, great-grandson of Harris Rosenwach who started Rosenwach Tank in 1896.
According to Rosenwach, while some buildings fell, all the water towers withstood hurricane Sandy's wrath. "Some of the tanks are still full of water," he says."That's a plus in New York's current situation."
However, the towers are powered by electrical pumps and several need repairs in the aftermath of the storm.
"There is no gas in the city. Can you send me some?" he says. "Some stations are charging $12 a gallon. I sent my crews home until Monday."
Rosenwach also says that the National Guard has been sent in to make sure there are no riots at gas stations where tempers are flaring.
About his great-grandfather, Rosenwach says" I never met the guy."
Harris Rosenwach, was an immigrant carpenter from Poland. He bought the firm for $55 from barrel maker William Dalton's widow whose husband had hired Andrew two years earlier. The family business has put up some 10,000 water tanks
across the five boroughs of New York, most of which still stand today.
According to Rosenwach, most of the towers were built in the fifties for tanneries and wine producers. Most of them are made of wood but some are made of steel, but he does not like those.
" People leave them up
now because it landmarks the building," he says.
While the city slowly picks up the pieces after Sandy, Rosenwach says he's aok. He has great respect for 'Bama as he calls him.