Figueroa-Levin: There's a better way to play with fire hydrants
Whenever there's a heat wave in the city like we had earlier this month, people try to cool down by opening fire hydrants. Someone comes down with a giant wrench, opens the cap, and the neighborhood youth frolic around the high-pressure blast exploding from the sidewalk.
It happens everywhere but is particularly popular in neighborhoods that lack play spaces for children. You can see it every couple of blocks, sometimes to the point where water pressure in the surrounding apartments goes down.
It should go without saying that opening fire hydrants in such a fashion is dangerous and illegal. Up to a thousand gallons of water are lost per minute when hydrants are opened at full blast. And in the event of a fire, we're all going up in flames because someone felt it was more important to create a geyser on the block than make sure there's enough H2O to fight a blaze.
Is it worth it? People potentially dying in a fire so you can turn your block into a river? Go to the beach, send your kids to the local playground sprinklers or one of the city's free pools, take a cold shower, stick your head in the freezer if you have to. Don't turn your street into a water park.
If your hydrant really is the only way to beat the heat, however, there are actually ways to open it safely -- and legally. Go down to your local firehouse and grab a sprinkler cap. That's the only officially sanctioned way to use a fire hydrant to cool down. The device limits the water released to only 25 gallons a minute, preserving pressure. And it makes the spray safer, because another risk of having hydrants open at full blast is that they're strong enough to injure children.
So if you come across an illegally gushing hydrant -- or just a leaky one for that matter -- call 311 to report it. The city has been trying to crack down over the past few years. You can also tell whoever opened the hydrant where to get a spray cap.
But you know what's more fun? Get your kids a bunch of super soakers or water balloons. Fill them up with the hose at the side of your building, and then have them go at it. Everyone cools off and nobody burns to a crisp. Unless you forgot the sunscreen.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.