Water tower 7367

The water tower on the evening of Dec. 15.

In November 2017, Hastings residents voted to save the village’s iconic riverfront water tower. The general plan since then entailed dismantling it and storing the parts at the Tower Ridge Yacht Club, during remediation of the site where it has stood for a century.

But Village Trustee Morgen Fleisig, an architect, believes that dismantling and storing the steel structure, which has long served as the unofficial symbol of Hastings-on-Hudson, could render the components of the tower unusable when it comes time to reconstruct it. 

Last month at a Village Board meeting, Fleisig floated an alternative plan: let the Village find an alternative location that it owns on the waterfront, and move the entire water tower there. “Float” is the operative word since a crane on a barge would be used to move the water tower to its temporary location, where it would stay until the remediation is over.

The 28-acre former Anaconda Wire & Cable property, where manufacturing ended in 1975, is owned by BP-ARCO. Remediation of the contaminated waterfront is due to begin in about two years, so the Village would have to remove the water tower before that deadline or BP will demolish it. 

The work to remove toxic materials from under the ground and offshore — principally PCBs, a byproduct of coated-wire production at the Anaconda factory — would take another five to sevenyears. When that project is completed, under the original plan the Village would transport the water tower in parts to its permanent home on what will become a Village-owned waterfront park. Fleisig, however, has he doubts about that process. “It would be too hard to put [the water tower] back together again, like Humpty Dumpty,” he remarked.

Leaving the tower in place during the remediation is out of the question. The structure stands in the northwest corner of the property, atop one of the most concentrated pockets of PCB pollution on the site. Soil will have to be removed. Cleaning up around the tower would be insufficient. Digging below the structure is not an option.

“I have become more and more convinced that the tower does not have to be dismantled to be moved,” Fleisig told the Enterprise. He said the plan described by the engineers who inspected the structure had involved cutting the tank off the legs, and dividing the 90-foot tall legs into sections. 

“The tank is quite large,” Fleisig added. “It’s 22 feet in diameter and 20 feet tall, plus the bell on the bottom and the cone on top — about 40 feet total. The worst-case scenario is the tank would have to be cut into pieces too. Then everything would be painted and stored.”

Fleisig was skeptical about whether the structure could survive being taken apart and stored under conditions over which the Village would have no control, since it would be stored off Village property. He said in a Dec. 15 interview that if the tower is dismantled and left there for years under less than ideal conditions, the Village could end up paying to store “a bunch of rusting junk.”

A clause in the amended Consent Decree between Hastings and BP provides for the corporation to pay up to $1.35 million in matching funds for restoration or replacement of the water tower. Fleisig didn’t know the exact cost of moving the tower in one piece, but he said it could be within the cost of the original plan to take apart the tower. The original plan would still entail lifting pieces of the tower off the site with a crane. If the new alternative is chosen, specialists in rigging huge structures for removal, such as R. Baker & Sons, would be hired and a company such as Weeks Marine would provide the crane barge. 

“Those riggers are amazing,” Fleisig said, noting that they were responsible for craning the Space Shuttle Enterprise in 2012 to transport it from JFK Airport to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. 

The water tower’s journey wouldn’t be nearly as long — Fleisig estimates the transport could be completed in one day — less time than it would take to crane multiple pieces of a dismantled water tower to its new location,

The Village would have to decide on a temporary location. Before moving the tower, sometime during the next two years, the remaining lead paint would need to be abated from its surface while it stands on the BP property. This would be done either by removing the old lead paint (problematic from a health and safety viewpoint because of the potential to release dangerous particles into the air) or by encapsulating the lead paint with a layer of paint suitable for that purpose.  

The Village will also have to identify an appropriate piece of land for the tower’s temporary home. “We’d have to do borings to determine site conditions,” Fleisig said, noting that much of the “land” that makes up the Hastings waterfront is landfill. 

The chosen location would have to be accessible via a marine crane barge that can get close enough to the shore to lower the tower into position without crashing into any underwater obstacles. “We may have to get an underwater survey done,” Fleisig said. 

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