Mark Groce: I'm Mark Groce and you're listening to an “In the News” podcast on TransitTrax, New York City Transit's podcast service.
Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of Lower Manhattan, and it was no more evident than in the South Ferry Station. Following the storm, the station was completely submerged in approximately 15 million gallons of water.
Joe Leader (Vice President and Chief Maintenance Officer of New York City Transit): From a station component standpoint, we lost every escalator of this station, we lost every elevator, we lost all the electrical lighting, we lost the AFC, we lost our PA, all our customer communications; from a track standpoint or Maintenance of Way standpoint, we lost all our signaling systems and power systems.
Mark Groce: After the initial assessment of the damage was completed, what they found was complete devastation.
Frank Jezycki (Chief Infrastructure Officer, Maintenance of Way): The elevators, the escalators, the lighting system, the electronic systems for customer information, train arrival, the signal systems, all of that needs to be entirely replaced. You need to keep in mind that the salt water, once it hits these systems, the electronics and the electrical systems get totally wiped out, get totally rendered useless, and they need to be replaced.
Mark Groce: Workers had to pull down walls and ceilings in every room, office, and the employee facilities in order to see the full scope of the damage. After the storm’s devastation, the commute to and from Lower Manhattan became a logistical challenge.
Customer # 1: I had to take the R train all the way up to 42nd St; and there was always a problem, every day. Sometimes I'd have to take it downtown from Whitehall to Brooklyn to transfer to an express N/Q train uptown.
Mark Groce: New York City Transit decided that the best way to alleviate the pain of rush hour was to recommission the old South Ferry Station.
Joe Leader: The first thing we did was, we performed an assessment of the new terminal (South Ferry); and when we started to realize that we were looking at a long repair period of multiple years, we realized that our customers coming from Staten Island needed better service. So we began to look at the alternative – opening up the old South Ferry Terminal.
Mark Groce: However, reopening the decommissioned station was not without its challenges.
Joe Leader: Since 2008, we had pinned the gap fillers closed, so we had to make sure they were somewhat operational. Once we got the gap fillers operational, the big thing was the entrances. We realized the old entrance was no longer in existence. So we had to open up that entrance, which meant opening up the wall behind us, which wasn’t there at one time. So right now, old South Ferry Terminal has two entrances and exits.
Mark Groce: After the cleanup, and before the restoration can begin, the MTA wants to make sure this kind of damage does not happen again; and in order to do that, many components of the station will not only have to be replaced, they will have to be completely redesigned.
Joe Leader: Well, first and foremost, we need to prevent the water from coming into the station. So, one of the ideas being tabled is redesigning the street stairways to incorporate some sort of barrier system that will allow us to, in essence, to seal it off tight; so that if the water does come up, or if there's a 2-foot surge, a 10-foot surge, or a 20 foot surge, it will prevent the water from coming down into the subway system itself.
Frank Jezycki: And we're going to try to do some mitigation work where we'll provide generator connections and maybe larger pumps, or some different type of control system where those pumps will continue to run, even if Con Edison shuts down the electric service to the station.
Mark Groce: Although the restoration process may take a while, commuters are just happy to have their South Ferry trains back.
Customer # 2: It cuts my commute about a half hour (to) Staten Island.
Customer # 3: I am so happy. It looks like the old with the new, now, huh?
Customer # 4: I really want to do back flips now, but I can’t... But it’s a good thing... I’m just glad it makes it easier for everybody.
Mark Groce: New York City Transit is doing all it can to get the trains back on the rails and get commuters back on track. For TransitTrax I'm Mark Groce thanks for listening, and thanks for riding with New York City Transit.