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If the goal is simply to eliminate all unauthorized uncappings of hydrants, the solution most assured of success would be to eliminate the hydrant altogether. In Australia and England, firefighters access water supply mains in sidewalk vaults. Drivers would certainly be happy to claim a few more parking spots along the street and any effort to conserve water is a positive step from an ecological perspective.

However, the community gathering that an open hydrant can galvanize is worth preserving. The active sidewalk life fosters casual interaction among neighbors and reinforces neighborhood fabric, perpetuating a dynamic atmosphere in the city’s largest public space — the sidewalk.

A multi–pronged approach expanding upon the city’s existing efforts is recommended:

  1. DEP’s outreach program (H.E.A.T.) would continue to engage the public, increasing community commitment to the spray cap alternative to the full–on uncapping.
  2. DEP and/or the NYFD can proactively install a spray cap on every hydrant in the district.
  3. Active community intervention in the case of full–scale unauthorized uncappings (that is, without a spray cap) would mitigate the number of illegal uncappings.

Nonetheless, recognizing that there are neighborhoods in New York with limited or difficult access to parks, pools, street trees, or the river, an alternative form of relief (or release) must be provided.

By adopting the same spirit that motivates the uncapping public today — an attitude that envisions the streets as more than conduits for taking people from point A to point B — city streets and sidewalks can become integral components of public green space.

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