jakedobkin.jpgOn Sundays, Gothamist runs opinion pieces on issues relevant to life in New York. The views expressed below are solely those of the author-- really, Gothamist couldn't care less.

I get a lot of email each week. Most of it is spam (best subject line of the last 24 hours: "Your dog can be the best learner you've ever had.") Occasionally, however, I get an email that's actually worth reading, and every so often, I'm going to select one of these and share it with you. The email below was a followup comment on the National Geographic diagram post I did last week-- Evan Bray wrote in and taught me something about the way steam power works in our city:

As I understand it, there was a new ConEd plant in Long Island City that went online in the seventies or some shit. Apparently, when one generates electricity on that scale it makes huge plumes of steam (read: eyesore). At any rate, ConEd figures, let's recycle the steam and sell it to buildings for heat; obviously there was significant costs associated with laying the pipe;initially they sold it dirt cheap. Then, after a lot of large class A office buildings bought into it--I would estimate a majority of them--they started to jack the price up periodically and now that they are all dependent, one can only assume, make a killing on a byproduct of electrical generation.

It is pumped into the City under extremely high pressure as evidenced by the occasional steam line explosion that usually leaves a big hole in the street and a few people dead. It actually makes sense to heat a million square feet of office space with steam. Obviously they have pressure reducing valves at the point of entry into the building so as not to risk blowing the building up and subsequently there is no boiler that can explode as you don't need it to generate the steam. Yay!

I honestly don't believe there is another city in the world that uses steam on such a vast scale and challenge anyone of your readers to prove me wrong.

So there you have it-- can anyone prove Evan wrong? I always wondered where all the steam was going! If you want to learn more interesting facts about ConEd, check out Breakdown, a game by the Gotham Gazette.

Jake Dobkin is the Publisher of the Gothamist network of websites. In his spare time, he enjoys photographing street art.