History Hidden in Plain Sight

Valley Stream Historical Society: The Brooklyn Waterworks


If you’ve had the pleasure of strolling through our Village Green you will surely stumble upon two extruding cast iron pipes. These pipes were once connected to the Ridgewood Aqueduct, commonly referred to as The Brooklyn Waterworks.
The Aqueduct was constructed in 1858 in response to Brooklyn’s dire need of water. The masonry conduit, with an interior lining of circular hard-burnt brick originally transported water from Jamaica Pond and Cornell’s Pond. The water was then pumped up into the Ridgewood Reservoir in Jamaica for distribution. By 1862, the Aqueduct had extended its reach to Hempstead. “The total length of the conduit is 12.39 miles and 10 feet wide, sufficiently large to drive a carriage through with ease,” wrote George Brainard in the 1873 publication, “The Waterworks.” But, by the mid-1880s, Brooklyn’s consumption outpaced the output, and driven wells soon extracted water from the aquifer and into the conduit.
Brooklyn needed more water, however. In 1909, a pipeline was constructed to pump water from as far east as Massapequa. Although Brooklyn eventually connected to the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts, they also continued to tap into Long Island wells with this pipeline. By the 1920s, many of the ponds were transformed into state parks and in 1929, Sunrise Highway was built over the original conduit. In 1959, the wells were shut down, but the reservoir continued to operate as a backup source until 1989 when it was decommissioned. It has since reverted to its original condition – wetlands.
Location: southeast corner of the Village Green (Hicks Street)