Topic: Around Town
Have you ever wondered why New York City streets leak steam, usually from manhole covers and occasionally from barricaded orange-and-white stacks? It’s an iconic NYC image, and lots of movies and TV shows have used a quick shot of people walking through street steam to establish location and a certain urban noir feeling. But what’s the steam doing there in the first place?

Powering the city, that’s what (or at least powering Manhattan up to 96th Street, which is why you never see the steam vents out in Brooklyn). Or as ConEd puts it:

Steam power from Con Edison is as much a part of Manhattan as subways and Times Square. The first steam generation plant began operating in 1882 – six months before the first electric service. Today, steam power has grown to play a major role in the life of the city. More than 100 miles of mains and service pipes make up the Con Edison steam system. The pipes deliver this clean, efficient energy source to about 2,000 customers from the Battery to 96th Street. In fact, the Con Edison system has become the largest steam district in the United States – larger than the next four U.S. systems combined as well as the largest steam district system in the world.