Spring is here: turning on the parks’ drinking fountains

I spent last Tuesday morning with a few plumbers from the Parks Department. They were turning on the water in a couple of parks in Queens, and invited me to join them. The resulting story was featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal‘s Greater New York section this past weekend.

I had a great time with the staff – Gus Menocal, the supervisor of Queens plumbers; James Schmitt, the plumber responsible for southwestern Queens; and Robert Rivera, an assistant. Also with me were Vickie Karp from the Parks media department and photographer Steve Remich.

A few paragraphs had to be cut for the sake of length. Here are a couple:

Mr. Schmitt had forgotten about one winterizing valve, though, which became apparent when a puddle started forming on the other end of the park. “Not a big deal,” remarked his supervisor. ”This is a brand-new park for us, so there’s a learning curve.”

Before turning the water on, the plumbers missed one of the "winterizing valves", which bleed water from pipes over the winter to prevent freezing.

Before turning the water on, the plumbers missed one of the “winterizing valves”, which bleed water from pipes over the winter to prevent freezing.

At the 77-year-old Windmuller Park, which sits atop a hill in Woodside, one winterizing valve proved hard to find. Mr. Schmitt probed at the leaf-covered ground with one of his valve keys, listening for a ping. “We leave ourselves clues,” Mr. Menocal explained. “Here we made a mark on the pavement” – he pointed to a red hash sprayed on the pathway – “but still the valve got lost under the debris.” He fetched a metal detector from his van; even with the technological assistance, it still took him a full minute to find the cover.

The hidden winterizing valve.

The hidden winterizing valve.

Fun fact: plumbers refer to drinking fountains as “bubblers” due to the bubbling nature of the water when the head is removed.

Again, you can read the full story here. More of my own photos follow.

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