NEW YORK—The South Ferry subway station, completely flooded and wrecked by Superstorm Sandy, will not be restored for at least six months, and possibly up to a year.
Located on the edge of Lower Manhattan, with a main entrance just across from the Staten Island terminal, South Ferry sustained millions in damages when water broke through a barrier placed at the main entrance prior to the storm.
Wooden barriers and sandbags were placed in front of 14 stations in the Lower Manhattan area before the storm hit. But debris—principally plywood and 2 by 8s—broke through the barrier at South Ferry, letting water rush in.
The severe impact was still evident on Dec. 5, more than one month later. Empty, without trains or passengers, it smelled like must. Random pieces of debris remained on a stairwell, which led under a wall and sheetrock ceiling that had come down, ending up at the station platform, which was covered in a thin layer of mud.
The station cavern ceiling, 20 feet high in some places, was entirely full of water during the storm. Water also exceeded that height and rose into the mezzanines.
There’s thousands of pieces that will have to be eventually replaced.
—Joseph Leader, chief maintenance officer
South Ferry opened in March 2009. The estimated $600 million in damages is about as much as the station cost initially, and includes a ruined employee room, racks of relays in several electrical distribution rooms, and elevators and escalators, according to Joseph Leader, vice president and chief maintenance officer with the Department of Subways at MTA’s New York City Transit. The toll for the entire subway system from the storm is an estimated $5 billion.
“There’s thousands of pieces that will have to be eventually replaced,” Leader said during a tour of the station Wednesday, adding that many components “were basically rendered useless.”
On the night of the storm, at around 8 p.m., Leader had gone into the station via the north entrance to see what was happening. He moved down a flight of stairs and across the mezzanine, past the turnstiles. He began going down another flight of stairs but stopped about three-quarters of the way, seeing water surging.
How fast was the water coming?
“I would say within the minute or so I was here, it was a step at a time,” he said, standing on the same step he had stood on then. “I knew at this time I couldn’t stay.” It was an eerie feeling with no lights, he recalled, adding that he backed up and left.
The authority began seriously examining and working to improve its system-wide flood protection after three storms during 2006 and 2007, but the agency was not prepared for a storm of Sandy’s size.
“It’s amazing,” said Leader. “What this storm actually made me realize is how powerful the sea is.”
MTA officials are not planning to strengthen the station internally, per se. Instead they will focus on building a bigger and better barrier at the entrance. Most barriers nearby worked well. They are also still in the preliminary planning stages after the storm and aren’t set yet on what will be built or constructed in the future for better storm protection, said Leader.
South Ferry, the 33rd busiest station in the system on weekdays, won’t be open for six months to a year, according to spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. Meanwhile, the damage from flooding through the entrance continues to be felt by R train commuters, because trains are still not running through the Montague Street Tunnel. That tunnel and the electrical components in it are being inspected in four phases, with phase one underway, said Leader. The MTA expects it will open back up before January.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
Please send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org