What is this black pipe in the East River?
June 20, 2005 5:04 AM   Subscribe

In the East River (in New York City), just south of the Queensboro bridge, there's this black pipe-like thing floating in the water. It doesn't appear to be a solid piece, and it looked like it wasn't even water-tight. There are platforms with some weird-looking uprights on them every 20 feet or so. As far as I could tell, it didn't look like it was going to or from anything at all. What is it?
posted by Plutor to Grab Bag (7 answers total)
platforms for shooting off upcoming 4th of July fireworks?
posted by papercake at 6:00 AM on June 20, 2005

Possibly, but not likely. The info says "Four barges stationed between 23rd and 42nd Streets in the East River" will be shooting them off, and calling this a barge would be an odd use of the word. Plus I took these photos around 50th, looking north.
posted by Plutor at 6:09 AM on June 20, 2005

Sh. Homeland Defense.

No, it does look like the fireworks barges.
Macy's 4th of July Fireworks® Ignites Lady Liberty, and the New York and Jersey City Skylines [...]

At approximately 9:20PM EDT, thousands of shells will simultaneously burst into the night, igniting a fireworks extravaganza that is sure to fill patriotic hearts across the country. Behind the artistry, brothers Gary and James Souza and the entire Sousa Fireworks team from Rialto, CA have once again designed a show like no other by bringing the world's most unique and technically advanced pyrotechnic shells to the Big Apple skyline. The 30-minute pyrotechnic celebration will be fired from a total of six barges; with three barges located at the traditional East River site between 23rd and 42nd Streets, two barges at the South Street Seaport, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge and one barge between Ellis and Liberty Islands in celebration of the reopening of the Statue of Liberty. [...]

The six specially rigged barge configurations, each measuring from 350 to 500 feet in length and powered by a tugboat, are equipped to handle an extensive number of shells and electrical set pieces needed for this year's show.
posted by pracowity at 6:19 AM on June 20, 2005

It looks like a dredging rig of some kind (though it may well be a dredging rig which has been jerry-rigged to shoot off fireworks, or missiles, or whatever).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:28 AM on June 20, 2005

I'm not entirely convinced. The black thing is certainly the right size, and could conceivably be used for shooting off fireworks. But it's at least 10 blocks from the nothernmost location. After some searching, I remembered these photos were taken from the benches in Peter Detmold Park accessible by crossing the footbridge over FDR at the end of E 51 St. You can see the pipe in a couple of the photos on that page. They're timestamped 11/24/2004, so this thing has been there for at least six months. I suppose this could be a "storage" location?

On the other hand, Macy's map has exaggerated the placement of the streets and Queensboro bridge so much that maybe I am convinced.
posted by Plutor at 6:30 AM on June 20, 2005

It's a "bumper" to protect the temporary detour of the FDR drive that goes out over the river. (They're repairing the section of the drive that goes underneath several apartment buildings, which are just held up just by aging/rusting pillars). From watching them install the last set, the angeled extensions off of the top are the mounts for the piles/anchors that are driven into the riverbed to hold them in place.

There's already a substantial piece of identical pipe that was put into place last summer; I wondered what it was going to be as I drove past it every day, and then it made sense when they put in the temporary detour right next to it. I'm sure they were worried that one runaway ship/barge could take out a whole swath of major road during rush hour without this sort of protection.

I believe there was also an article in the NY Post or Times as it went in, but my google-fu isn't turning up anything on it, I'm afraid-
posted by bemis at 7:08 AM on June 20, 2005

You're right, bemis: "The $28 million system consists of a 10-ft.-diameter floating fender beam "guardrail," in sections 250 ft. long, connected by 13 floating barge-like "dolphins." These 18-ft.-deep, 20-ft.-wide, and 20-ft.-long structures, encased in metal with a hardened black plastic exterior, stay in place amid changing currents and tides thanks to four rock anchors, some running 120 ft. deep, tied to each one with chains. Divers did a lot of the heavy anchoring work, Vosseller said."

And this press release about the construction mentions a "Protective Fender System installed in the East River to protect the ODR from any possible wayward marine vessels".
posted by Plutor at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2005

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