One hundred feet below sea level, New York history is being made in the form of a $250 million soft ground tunnel known as the Staten Island Siphon project, a backup feed connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island that will bring up to 150 million gallons of water to the borough.
"If the Richmond Tunnel did go out this could actually supply all the water for Staten Island's needs," said Jim Garin with the Department of Environmental Protection.
The tunnel is built with 4,200 separate segments that interlock to form a ring -- almost like Lego pieces that snap into place, Garin said.
The project has been underway for years, but as segment 388 of the 4,200 was being locked in, Hurricane Sandy hit.
"We had sandbags and a pumping system in place to handle a 100-year storm," Garin said. "Unfortunately it got over-topped and that flooded out the tunnel."
Garin and his team at the DEP were able to fix the state-of-the-art tunnel boring machine and get back on track, not only securing water for residents but opening up water on the surface for an economic flow.
The Staten Island Siphon will replace two older siphons, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation says that means larger vessels carrying more cargo can come into the harbor.
"That will allow us to be competitive and efficient in terms of freight and prices that we pay for goods," said Seth Myers, executive vice president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
Meanwhile, Garin's team is starting see the light at the end of the multi-year project -- and they know they've all had a hand in history.
"This is the first soft ground tunnel done in the city," said Garin. "This is a once in a life time type of job."
Even with the Hurricane Sandy setback, the Staten Island Siphon project is coming in on budget and on target to wrap up next summer.