The US northeast has been buckling under this year’s winter weather, in part because America is running out of road salt. Gizmodo wanted to see what the country is dealing with ourselves, so we visited three of the biggest salt sheds NYC’s five boroughs have to offer.
On the water, at the very end of 32nd Street in Sunset Park, sit a massive, dilapidated salt shed and white-caked drop off zone. Thursday afternoon, two dump trucks had just left piles of salt to be moved into the shed and two front end loaders began the arduous moving process.
Lower East Side
Tucked away under the Manhattan Bridge, the Lower East Side salt shed was also very busy Thursday afternoon. Two city trucks had just arrived with mountains of salt in two but because there’s no unload area here, front end loaders have to pull the white stuff out of the back of the trucks directly.
Then, up in East Harlem, a white-domed salt shed hides in an entanglement of on and off ramps for the RFK Triborough Bridge. This one — by far the largest of the three — is also the coolest looking, way more unique than its just-your-average-shed brothers.
Salt and barbed-wire defenses to ward off…salt thieves?
There are a few more salt sheds throughout the city that I didn’t get a chance to visit; one on the Hudson river in plain view of the West Side Highway and another all the way at the top of Manhattan in Inwood. There’s even a facility on Staten Island, where salt arrives by boat to supply the metropolitan area.
Perhaps what’s most interesting to note about all these salty sheds is their proximity to the waterfront. Delivering salt through the beating heart of an urban metropolis is a headache worth avoiding until you’re actually dropping it on roads.
And despite the fact that these sheds are just sheds — stupid simple buildings from a functional perspective — they’re strangely fascinating. Built into bridges, tucked away in off-ramps, carefully worked into the city’s obscure corners.
Crazier still is that even though there are trucks and front-loaders filled to the brim, and miniature mountains a dozen feet high, that’s a shortage. It’s more salt than I’ve ever seen in my life and yet it’s not enough. And hopefully the weather will dry up before these salty sheds’ supplies do.