Last Updated on June 3, 2020 by Lawrence Berezin
Will you be issued an NYC parking ticket for parking within 15 feet of these 2 fire hydrants?
I spoke with two wonderful members of the NYC driving community about receiving parking tickets for parking in front of two objects they claimed were not NYC fire hydrants. I asked them to send me pictures of the imposters, which are displayed above:
Back to the Future of NYC fire hydrants
Now I’m hooked. I put on a new pair of sneakers and prepared for a dash through the history of NYC fire hydrants to uncover the answer to this mystery. I stumbled upon a super wonderful website that tells the story of NYC fire hydrants, firehydrant.org. Here are some interesting factoids:
- New York City installed its first fire hydrant in 1808 at the corner of William Street and Liberty Street
- By 1817, the first regular iron hydrants were being installed throughout the city. These were most likely flip lid hydrants. The known brands of “flip lid” style fire hydrants that the city employed were “A B & C Company” hydrants and Hotchkiss Field & Co fire hydrants. Of the latter, original hydrants have been found and documented.
- During the latter part of the 1800s, the city presumably began phasing out the more obsolete “flip lid” hydrants and began to employ different makes and models of modern style hydrants ranging from manufacturers such as Ludlow Valve, Rensselaer Valve, Eddy Valve, R.D. Wood, and A.P. Smith. Some of these models of hydrants were still in use in the city as late as the early 1940s.
- Starting in 1902, the city began buying mainly one style of a fire hydrant, it was the “O’Brien” model hydrant supplied by A.P. Smith Mfg Company, located less than 30 miles away in East Orange, New Jersey
- Because of the interchangeability of the parts of this hydrant commonly known as the “Series S”, it is not uncommon to find a hydrant with parts from over one manufacturer and hydrants with no identifiable markings.
Current Specifications of NYC fire hydrants
“New York City’s current hydrant specification consists of two models of fire hydrants. The most common of these models is the design based on A.P. Smith’s 1902 ‘O’Brien’ hydrant [See, below left]. This model is also a common hydrant in many major cities throughout the United States.
The second model specified by the city is based on Dresser Industries’ “Traffic 500” model hydrant [See, below right].
One trademark of all the current NYC Spec hydrants is that they have one single hose nozzle (2.5″) and one single pumper (4.5″). Because these hydrants are no longer locked by patent laws, any manufacturer of that model receiving the city’s lowest bid may produce each model. These two makes of hydrants are located throughout the city (including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Hart Island, City Island, Roosevelt Island, Ward’s Island/Randall’s Island).
In specific areas throughout the city, hydrants not conforming to the current specification can be found, however.
In conclusion, I don’t think the two wonderful members of our NYC driving community have a reasonable chance of defeating their parking tickets for parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant. I suggest a key takeaway here is if you see a pole busting through the sidewalk that resembles a fire hydrant (albeit with mix-and-match parts) treat it with the same respect you’d show any NYC fire hydrant. Even when a fire hydrant is not operational, it is still tough to beat a fire hydrant parking ticket.
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