Home Manhattan Video: Inside the South Ferry/Whitehall station

Video: Inside the South Ferry/Whitehall station

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA just released raw footage of the flooded South Ferry/Whitehall station. The city’s newest subway station is under significant amounts of water and debris. It’s unclear how much damage the station has sustained or what repairs will entail. Take a look at the dramatic video below:

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Eric October 30, 2012 - 5:13 pm


John-2 October 30, 2012 - 5:25 pm

The Whitehall R platform looks in better shape than the stairs down to the 1, which looks as if you’d need scuba gear to access. They may be dusting off the old South Ferry loop station for temporary service if there really is that much water down at the lower level (on the other hand, now you can’t tell the difference between Sandy’s damage and the water leaks from the original crappy construction work, so it’s good news for Schiavone Construction).

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 5:41 pm

The Old South Ferry loop station is flooded as well.

John-2 October 30, 2012 - 5:52 pm

But it’s only one level underground. That could make it easier to pump out (I’m guessing the Whitehall water drained into the Montague tunnel. The South Freey lower level water had noplace lower to go).

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 7:10 pm

It doesnt matter, the New York Bay flooded the Lower Manhattan area. Water is there in the tunnels. They have very difficult task to get it out.

John-2 October 30, 2012 - 8:29 pm

But you can tell Whitehall on the R has drained — the water may be just down the hill in the Montague tunnel, but it’s not on the station’s infrastructure anymore.

South Ferry on the 1, in contrast, is still under about 40 feet of bay water — the tracks back to Rector are uphill, and so the water just stays there. The old South Ferry station is on roughly the same level as the SF-Whitehall upper mezzanine (and sits above the South Street-West Street connecting vehicle tunnel); no doubt the flood affected it, but there’s about 40 feet less water that needs to be pumped out.

The MTA would still have to fix the signals, as well as reactivate the moving platforms in the station, so the logistics of using the old station as a short-term fix may not be viable. But the SF loop would be easier to drain than the new station that’s three times the depth and about three times the station volume.

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 9:23 pm

The R line tunnel under the East River is flooded. The station has water damage. Hopefully the station does not grow mold.

The 1 line is not fully cover/ shield from the World Trade Center site. Hudson River went in there anyway.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 11:49 am

John-2 you are wrong….

South Ferry old loop station… FLOODED. BTW, if that old station reopens…. the gap-filling movable platforms may not work at all for safety on passengers since it closed more then 5+ years.

John-2 October 31, 2012 - 2:28 pm

Again, 20 feet beneath the surface of the street requires less pumping to clear out water than 60 feet beneath the street — if they pump the Joralemon Street tunnel, the upper South Ferry loop is also going to be cleared, because the 4/5 tracks run below it to get to Bowling Green. But the new SF station on the 1 is below the 4/5 tracks — it’s the most invasive place for water in the zone, and has no downward tunnel to drain the water out of the station without massive pumping.

You seem to be thinking I’m saying the old South Ferry station is in pristine condition after Sandy. I’m not — I’m just saying it’s going to be in better condition than the new station due to its higher elevation. And I already noted yesterday that the status of the moving platforms could make re-opening the station on a temporary basis problematic. But we’ll see what the MTA’s options are when Con Ed finally gets the power back below 39th Street.

Irving October 30, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Around the 2:10 mark, at the stairs leading to the 1 train platform – is the water at the staircase top level? Is the 1 tunnel completely submerged?

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 7:44 pm

Yes, it is.

Marc Shepherd October 30, 2012 - 5:32 pm

Yes, it looks like the #1 tunnel is completely submerged. This isn’t going to be a quick fix. All of the electronics will need to be replaced, and there is a real danger of mold.

Someone suggested re-activating the old loop station, but of course, it’s probably not squeaky clean either.

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 5:43 pm

Chambers St south to South Ferry is flooded. In combination of 9/11 memorial site flooded through the tunnels.

Phantom October 30, 2012 - 6:03 pm

Thanks for sharing. You provide a superb public service.

Yeah, the Whitehall St / R train tracks look fairly normal, which bodes well

alek October 30, 2012 - 6:27 pm

Maybe they could reroute the (1) to New Lots Ave until the problem can be cleared. As for the (R) maybe can run via the (Q) until it can be fixed.

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 7:20 pm

Except there is water in the subway tunnels under the East River including the (2)(3) train line.

This will take MTA to do some creativity….

Anonymous October 30, 2012 - 7:31 pm

This does not look good at all. With 7 subway tunnels and the 2 LIRR tunnels also flooded (I doubt the Amtrak tunnels fared better, the North River tubes might have been lucky due to the fact that they start on the other side of the Palisades — does anyone know anything about them?) plus all the other damage, this will end up costing in the hundreds of millions. I would guess $500 million to $1 billion to just get the MTA system back into the same state it was before the storm. That is a lot of money the MTA does not have even if the Feds chip in …

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 7:47 pm

Amtrak has confirmed that the North River tunnels and Amtrak’s East River tunnels have flooded. There is no ETA for restoration of NY Penn Station service.

I suspect the North River tunnels flooded from the Manhattan side. LIRR has confirmed that the West Side Yards also flooded, despite the attempt made to protect them. The same floodwater path is probably what got into the North River tunnels.

anonymous October 31, 2012 - 11:23 am

im sure if there were a few executive bonuses slashed theyd have more than enough money..

John G October 30, 2012 - 7:50 pm

Has this amount of flooding ever happened in any of NYC’s subway, train or auto tunnels? Is this completely unprecedented?

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 7:53 pm

This is completely unprecedented. There were, however, many warnings for decades that something like this could happen, so you can’t say we weren’t warned.

Justin Samuels October 31, 2012 - 1:07 am

Well, you were right, Nathanael. This is something the nation as whole is going to have to address, infastructure needs, population, etc.

We need a federal government willing to 100% cover disasters like this as well as long term solutions. If not, NYC is finished if we get another another storm like this, or heaven forbid, worse.

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 7:52 pm

I haven’t seen any information on the Harlem River tunnels or the situation with the Bronx or northern Manhattan subways, except for:
– one comment here about the 107th St yard being flooded
– a statement from the MTA that they think all the subway cars are OK (not clear whether this is actually true)

It might be possible to restart services from the Bronx to Manhattan pretty quickly, if there has been *any* luck.

I’ve also seen nothing about the Queens subways or the Queens-Manhattan tunnels (except for the #7, which is flooded). Here’s hoping the tunnels further north on the East River were better protected, and that the Queens Boulevard line didn’t flood out. It might be possible to reestablish Queens – Manhattan service quickly if that’s the case.

Quick Brooklyn-Manhattan service restoration depends on the state of the approaches to the bridge routes. The tunnels are going to be out for a LONG time.

MichaelB October 30, 2012 - 8:27 pm

For whatever it is worth, as of about 2pm today there was no water in Vernon Jackson station at all on the 7. The 53rd street tunnel likely did not get much, if any, flooding from the Queens side at 21st street Ely. That’s based purely on walking around the area and talking to people who saw the storm surge come in last night. That makes me cautiously optimistic in both cases.

mike d. October 30, 2012 - 9:19 pm

The 7 line tunnel is fill with sea water.

53rd Street tunnel, 60 Street, and 63rd Street Tunnel is ok at the moment.

Spendmore Wastemore October 30, 2012 - 10:12 pm

Where did that come from? Isn’t the 7 portal well above ground, descending from an el, or do I have that mixed up with the N-R-Q?

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 11:45 pm

Not sure about that (I’ve never taken a good look at the Queens portal for the #7), but the Steinway Tubes have been famously prone to water, so there’s got to be some source. They may simply not be sealed properly the way more modern tunnels are; it may be infiltration only. They’re normally pumped out — but the outflows for the pumps may have been underwater (which happened with some other tunnels including the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel).

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 12:55 am

East River leaks in the tunnel. MTA has a video on 7 line tunnel in youtube explains why…

MichaelB October 31, 2012 - 6:50 am

Long Island City around Vernon Jackson and especially closer to the river got a lot of water. 50th Street, where a big fan and a lot of ventilation grates are had several feet of water on it. I suspect it mostly came in there.

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 11:46 pm

That is definitely good news about the 53/60/63 tunnels. If the Queens Boulevard line is all right, then Manhattan-Queens service should be able to restart quickly.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 12:54 am

That depends if rain did fall enough to cause flooding in sections between 36 Street (Queens) to Roosevelt Av-Jackson Heights…. then 71 Avenue to Van Wyck Blvd on Queens Blvd line…. Plus Jamaica Yard lead in. Im sure it did not get flooded easily.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 1:36 am

53rd Street tunnel (E)(M) is flooded as well.

(G) train “Newtown Creek” tunnel is flooded as well.

FLOODED tunnel list…
G – Newtown Creek
E, M – 53 St
7 – Steinway
NJ Transit/LIRR/Amtrak – East River
L – 14 St
F – Rutgers St
A, C – Cranberry St
2, 3 – Clark St
N, R – Montague St
4, 5 – Joralemon St

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 3:17 am

4, 5 – Joralemon; R – Montague tunnels are being pump out and maybe in service sooner depending on the situation.

Eric October 31, 2012 - 9:52 am

I haven’t read anything about the 53rd St or 14th St tunnels being flooded.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 11:06 am

I have a source that the 53 St tunnel is flooded but not as bad.

14 St is flooded, NYT mentions….

Eric October 31, 2012 - 11:18 am

Thanks for that article. Very bad…

Evan October 31, 2012 - 11:23 am

Any news on Queens Blvd. or any other outer boro line?

Heard personally that signals on 7 el are finished.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 11:51 am

#7 line el is not in great shape to be in passenger service.

Queens Blvd line looks to be ok for a moment from my sources.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 1:41 am

Manhattan Bridge – NO POWER

Larry Littlefield October 30, 2012 - 9:15 pm

The question is “what about the interlockings?” Replacing the automatic signals and power is a lot easier and cheaper than replacing interlockings. Most of the interlockings are around Chambers Street.

Nathanael October 30, 2012 - 11:59 pm

It looks like Flood Zone C was untouched and there was relatively a little flooding in Flood Zone B. Comparing the flood zone map to the subway map, I’d say that bodes well for all the lines except the 1 — but of course the subways are underground and we don’t know how far the waters backed up within the tunnels.

It really looks as though the lines feeding the bridges will be OK, though.

Justin Samuels October 31, 2012 - 1:09 am

Well, that’s good news, so at least the B, D, N, and Q can be made operational in a comparatively short time…………….

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 1:45 am

Not so fast…there is damage equipment on B, Q lines in Brooklyn… flooded in the open-cut, trees down, wires down, its a mess.

N line in Brooklyn is unserviceable with flood in the open cut section.

Justin Samuels October 31, 2012 - 4:35 am

So then it will be awhile, major damage to most, if not all lines.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 11:08 am

Citywide, there is lot of damage to the signal, 3rd rail, tracks, flood, etc… it will take a 4 to 5 days to get it up safely.

Sandy Update: No timetable for subway return :: Second Ave. Sagas October 31, 2012 - 12:59 am

[…] « Video: Inside the South Ferry/Whitehall station Oct […]

Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog New York City October 31, 2012 - 9:00 am

[…] Video: Flooding at South Ferry/Whitehall Station (2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Someone October 31, 2012 - 12:05 pm

This is why platform screen doors are useful to prevent debris from getting on the tracks.

mike d. October 31, 2012 - 1:12 pm

Platform screen doors are useless. Water can still go through the ventilation grates from the street level, also substation which it has hundred of tubes and open air that water goes in and do some damage.

Someone October 31, 2012 - 4:33 pm

At least larger pieces of debris will not get onto the tracks. With the platform screen doors, the wind from outside wouldn’t blow the signalling equipment away like it did at 145th Street.

Video: Inside the South Ferry loop :: Second Ave. Sagas April 3, 2013 - 6:15 pm

[…] With the reopening of South Ferry set for tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., the MTA has released a seven-minute video of B-roll footage from the loop station. Take a trip through the tunnels, watch gap-fillers in action and enjoy the pan through the gussied-up station. Meanwhile, for a trip down memory lane, the last time we had video from South Ferry, it looked like a bunch of scenes out of a disaster movie. […]


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