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The creation of greater New York City in 1898 promised a solution to the problem of supplying Brooklyn and Queens with water. In the 1850s, the City of Brooklyn tapped ponds and streams on the south side of Queens County, and in the 1880s, dug wells for additional supply. This lowered the water table and caused problems for farmers and oystermen, many of whom sued the city for damages. Ultimately, salt water seeped into some wells from over-pumping. By 1896, Brooklyn’s system had reached its limit. Prevented by the state legislature from tapping the aquifer beneath Suffolk’s Pine Barrens, the only solution was to connect to New York’s supply from upstate, which was accomplished in 1917. The ponds and surrounding lands then became part of Robert Moses’s state parks system. In the 1950s, after the Delaware Aqueduct was completed, New York City shut down its Long Island pumps and wells.
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This work was originally presented at Brooklyn College in January 2014.