New York City has always been a place where seemingly impossible things are made possible - in business, art, literature and so many other realms - because no other City can match the ambition, hard work, and perseverance of our people. This Thursday, these qualities were on full display in Central Park for the opening of the Third Water Tunnel - which represents the culmination of decades of hard work and sacrifice by thousands of New Yorkers.
In 1954, New York City recognized the need for a third water tunnel to meet the growing demand on its two-tunnel water supply system, which was then more than 150 years old. So in the early 1960s, we began planning City Tunnel Number Three - and in 1970, construction began. Over the course of the next 28 years, engineers and construction workers would build one of the most complex, vast, and intricate engineering projects in the world today - with state of the art valve controls and unprecedented depth, size, and length. It won't ever be as famous as the Great Wall of China - in part because it's underground - but this tunnel deserves to be recognized around the world as a wonder of modern engineering.
The new tunnel won't replace the other two, but it will greatly enhance the dependability of our entire water supply system, increase service and pressure, and allow our Department of Environmental Protection to inspect and repair the two older tunnels as necessary for the first time since they were put into service. It's a major step forward for the City of New York, and we owe our gratitude to the people who spent every day on the front lines of the project, excavating and building this incredible addition to our infrastructure as deep as 800 feet below the surface of the earth.
They call themselves "sandhogs" - and over the last 28 years, a total of 23 sandhogs and other tunnel workers lost their lives doing this very valuable, very dangerous work. Like other high-risk jobs of critical importance to the people of the City, being a sandhog takes a special kind of human being. Most New Yorkers wouldn't accept a job with so many risks and responsibilities. But the 23 men who died, and their colleagues, took this job because they understood that their expertise, and their energy, were of critical importance to the building of the tunnel. They knew that someone had to step up and answer this very important call.
One of the easiest things to take for granted in the modern world is the act of turning on a faucet or taking a shower. At times, some of us probably wish we didn't have running water at all so that we didn't have to call a plumber when a pipe breaks. But the fact is that a fresh, plentiful supply of running water is an essential resource for a healthy 21st Century society. And that water doesn't run through our faucets naturally. It gets there, and stays there, because of the planning, the will, and the work of human beings. There's an old Chinese saying - when you drink the water, remember the spring. I hope that when millions of New Yorkers turn on their taps from now on, they remember the people who have given so much of themselves - sometimes even their lives - to make our quality of life possible.