Just in time for summer: Water-on-the-Go comes to Brooklyn Bridge Park



By Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

If there’s a symbol for the busy New Yorker on the go, it’s probably a plastic bottle of water, along with a pair of sneakers.

The city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) doesn’t like this, especially because of the amount of plastic waste these bottles create.

DEP also wants to advertise the facts that “New York City is one of only five large cities in the country permitted to run a largely unfiltered drinking water supply” and that “DEP performs more than 1,000 daily tests of the city’s drinking water.”

To this end, DEP yesterday chose Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 to announce the third season of its Water-on-the-Go program, which brings portable drinking fountains to public plaza, parks, busy street corners, and public events such as concerts.

Although the fountains rotate among locations according to the day of the week, Brooklynites will be able to see Water-on-the-Go this summer at Borough Hall Plaza, Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6 of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Grand Army Plaza and Williamsburg (Bedford Avenue between North 6th and North 7th streets).

Asked why he chose Brooklyn Bridge Park, DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said, “Because it’s beautiful.”

Many people probably expected to see high-tech-looking fountains, but the Water on the Go units basically resemble portable sinks with six nozzles, hooked up to a fire hydrant by a tube. There are also bowls for pets.

Strickland urged people to download a Water-on-the-Go app that will allow them to “check in” at fountains using Foursquare. Those who check in regularly will have the opportunity to win a free reusable NYC Water bottle, and those people with the most check-ins will be declared “mayor” of their Water-on-the-Go station.

The fountains are staffed by DEP workers, and when asked how much the program cost, Strickland said, “just a few hundred thousand dollars, and some of it is funded from outside sources.”

Regina Myer, president of Brooklyn Bridge Park, said, “As a waterfront park, we pride ourselves on being a destination that offers something for everyone, and we’re happy to add the possibility of becoming Foursquare mayor of the park’s Water-on-the-Go station!” Brooklyn Bridge Park participated in Water-on-the-Go last year as well.

Many of the program’s location are inside parks. NYC Parks Department First Deputy Commissioner Liam Cavanaugh acknowledged that although the city’s parks have their own water fountains, “those fountains are stationary, and Water-on-the-Go can be moved anywhere.”

What he didn’t mention was the constant problems faced by the Parks Department in maintaining these water fountains and the large number that are out of order as anyone who grew up in Brooklyn or one of the other four boroughs knows.

According to Meghan Lalor, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, there are 3,114 fountains in the city's parks, with 43 plumbers and plumber's assistants to fix them. "Approximately 1,000 are inspected each years, and of those 86 percent are fully working an an additional 6 percent are working but in need of minor repair," she said.

James Yolles, spokesman for New Yorkers for Parks, a non-profit advocacy and research organization, commented, “We have been surveying the conditions of a host of parks and beach features for almost a decade as part of our Report Card series. Drinking fountains have consistently scored at or close to the bottom.

“Keeping the city’s 3,114 fountains in working order is no small task, but it’s incumbent upon the city to keep them working, especially as the Bloomberg administration rightly encourages New Yorkers to drink tap water and reduce plastic bottle waste.”

Portable water fountains aside, Myer of Brooklyn Bridge Park also commented on the new, $199,000 above-ground wading pool that will be coming to Pier 2 in July.

The pool, she said, is 3.5 feet deep and will be at Pier 2 for five years. Reminded that some people can actually swim in 3.5 feet, she responded, “Yes, but not tall ones.”

Asked about the “Floating Pool Lady” that visited Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2006 and 2007, Myer said it was popular and many park users have asked for it back.

However, philanthropist Ann Buttenweiser, who funded the pool, wants to take it to several different parts of the city where it is needed. The floating pool is now in the Bronx.