Steam grates and E J's Luncheonette on Sixth Avenue

Posted by Rick 
Hi guys!

Just have a couple of questions.

1. All around the city you see steam coming out of the grates in the streets. Now, I know that I am not street savy, so please enlighten me if you will: why is it necessary to have the pipes that are directly under the street? What purpose do they serve? How often are they serviced and do they malfunction on a regular basis or is it a extremely rare occurrence? And...

2. Last week, when my wife and I visited, we were trying to find E J's Luncheonette on Sixth Avenue. Took the train to within blocks of the area in which it was to be located and when we got to the address, there was a different business in where it was supposed to be. Did it move? Did we have to go inside and go to another part of the building. We were certainly disappointed that we did not find it, but we found down the street a great bistro, French Roast, that served excellent food at very affordable prices. Please help me with any info you can.
A bunch of buildings in NYC are actually heated by municipal steam. Malfunctions are quite rare, but when they happen they're spectacular (as with the explosion last week.) From Bloomberg News:

Manhattan is home to the largest district steam system in the world, according to the Web site of the city's Economic Development Corp. While most of the city's buildings have on- site boilers to provide heat during the winter, the Con Edison Steam Business Unit heats 1,800 buildings, serving more than 100,000 commercial and residential customers through a series of underground pipes running from the Bowery in lower Manhattan to 96th Street.

Consolidated Edison's steam network links many end-users to central power plants through a network of pipes carrying either steam or heated/cooled water under high pressure. The New York Steam Co. began providing such service in lower Manhattan in 1882.
I think that EJ's location has closed. There's one on Amsterdam between 81st-82nd and on Third Ave. at 80th St.
Thanks Red. Didn't know that the city heated that many businesses in the city; just assumed that all the buildings had their own.

Thanks Oracle. Guess the next time we have a place that we have our heart set on visiting, I should find out if it still exists.
Just a note about steam I read this weekend that 1 cup of water can generate 1600 cups of steam - hence its attraction in power plants such as the venerable steam railway engine, also if NYC's steam plant is like the one we had at an old factory in the UK, which used steam to drive motors and heat the vats as well as the buildings in winter, it will be stepped down to super heated water as well as hot water for radiators. Super heated it seems is very efficient as a heating system!
Thanks, David, for the info.

Always wondered about the grates; now I have a better understanding of how things work in the "Big A."

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