by Kevin Walsh

I’m informed by Gravesend historian Joseph Ditta that this large mystery object on the west side of Ocean Parkway and Avenue U in Gravesend has finally been removed by the city after it was plowed into by a vehicle. photo: Lisanne.

It’s big, it’s ornate, it’s rusting, and I hadn’t a clue what it might be. It’s on the northeast corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue U. It looks like a decorative torch that may have been one of many placed along Ocean Parkway, but wear, tear and pollution have taken their toll. From Lisanne’s photo, it does seem that it has been painted recently.

In 2003, Ditta reported:

This is from Oscar Israelowitz’s “Flatbush Guide” (Brooklyn, NY: Israelowitz Publishing, 1990; page 39):

“The unique cast-iron tower located on the northeast corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue U is the air vent for the sewage pumping station beneath that intersection.”

The question is, is the sewage pumping station still there and do the local denizens know about it?

ForgottenFan Rob Firriolo:

Yes, it is still there, and indeed they know about it, at least those who lived there back in the late-1980s did. At that time, I was the resident field inspector with NYCDEP and had daily oversight over the extensive reconstruction project of that pump station. (I worked out of the DEP field office trailer located on-site.) The project took a couple of years, during which the entire station area was dug-up, along with sections of Avenue U heading toward McDonald Avenue.

The dry well (where the control room and pumps are located) is directly under the pedestrian island and is accessed via a Bilco door (one of those silver plates on the ground).

The wet well (where the sewage collects for pumping) extends out beneath Avenue U, and the sewage is pumped up into a force main that extends several blocks down Avenue U (to around E. 2nd street–I forget exactly how far it went when we slip-lined the old cast iron pipe with a plastic pipe). From there the sewage flows by gravity (downhill) toward the large, aboveground pump station on Ave. V between 86th and W. 11th Sts.

The vent tower was not the only structure at that location. Prior to the reconstruction, there was a small brick and stone structure that served as the entrance to the station. It looked like a small shed, with a door and a peaked roof, and, as I recall, a stone cornice above the door. Beyond the door was nothing but a stairway that led down into the old station. The structure was demolished and replaced with the Bilco door. I recall discussion about preservation of the structure prior to its demolition, but it was ultimately decided there was nothing that could be done with it. If you locate historic photos of the corner, you will see the entrance structure.

With the pump removed, does the pumping station survive in 2022? Questions….

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Mike Olshan July 5, 2022 - 10:06 pm

I always wondered what it was and guessed it might be a ventilator for something underground.

Joseph Ditta Jr July 5, 2022 - 10:26 pm

The New York Public Library has this great shot from 1978:

Lisanne Anderson July 6, 2022 - 10:42 am

I see vehicle tracks on the horse path.

Draco July 5, 2022 - 11:02 pm

Ha! I’m vindicated! I was walking past that thing in the 80’s with a friend when I let out a HUGE and absolutely toxic SBD. When my friend complained about my fart, I improvised and told him that thing was a sewer vent and thus the source of the stench. I really had him convinced. Who knew that 35 years later I’d find out that what I said in jest would actually turn out to be true!

Nunzio July 6, 2022 - 5:24 pm

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! 😀

RAY Palermo July 6, 2022 - 6:16 am

If the object was removed and there’s no temporary vent, it’s a safe bet there’s no longer a pump beneath. But, needed or not, I hate when these things are “disappeared” rather than restored and left as a historical artifact.

Edward P OBrien July 6, 2022 - 7:33 am

ultimately decided there was nothing that could be done with it.

chris July 6, 2022 - 4:19 pm

Does that mean that it used to discharge a lot of methane gas?Like the kind you light
your farts with?So if someone threw a cigarette at it…..

William Mangahas July 6, 2022 - 6:44 pm

How would Ed Norton of the Honeymooners react ?

Mark Peck July 9, 2022 - 3:33 pm

I was a paramedic with NYC EMS(later FDNY) and our ambulances are deployed to various street corners around the city. My ambulance was stationed at that corner in the 80’s and 90’s. We would sit on the service road on the corner awaiting assignments, and almost daily we would see a DEP truck pull up and the driver enter the “little brick booth”

One evening we stopped the employee, asked what it was, and he invited us in. As the article described, it’s a pumping station. The first level down was a small office with a desk, recliner, and even a TV- probably a relic of the time staff spent more time there.. I thought it was quite clean and cozy, no unusual odors and I jokingly wondered how we might turn it into an ambulance station so we didnt have to sit in the ambulance between calls.
The next level down was the pump motor and monitoring equipment. Below that was the actual enclosed chamber/pipes for the waste water. The daily visit was simply staff insuring proper operation and maintenance..


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