Home Manhattan Video: Water main break at 23rd St. snarls Broadway service

Video: Water main break at 23rd St. snarls Broadway service

by Benjamin Kabak

Just in case you haven’t gotten your fill of water-logged subway stations over the past few months, New York City’s aging utilities have decided to grace us with another one. This morning, a 100-year-old water main near Madison Square Park broke, flooding the 23rd St. station on the BMT Broadway line. The MTA’s Leonard Wiggins was on hand to record the above video.

Not surprisingly, as of around 2:45 p.m., the water main break has snarled service along the N, Q and R trains. There are no N and Q trains between DeKalb Ave. and 57th St., and there are no R trains along the Broadway line between Queens Plaza and Whitehall St. Rather, R trains are running on the F from 36th St. to Herald Square and then along the D to DeKalb Ave. In its understated way, the MTA urges customers to “allow additional travel time.”

Rush hour could be a bit bumpy. According to Matt Flegenheimer of The Times water topped the third rail for about 1000 feet near the 23rd St. station, and the MTA still has to clean up. Once the station is pumped dry, crews will inspect tracks and signals before running test trains. On the slightly optimistic side, at least this flooding was not an inundation of corrosive salt water. Whatever deposits sit in a century-old pipe must be somewhat less destructive than the ocean.

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Tom February 1, 2013 - 3:29 pm

Benjamin, this question is off topic, but I have been wondering about it for a while and it seems you might know the answer or that someone who reads this might know. Prior to unification in 1940, when the IRT, BMT and IND, were run as separate companies, were free transfer available between the lines run by those separate companies.


Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Nope. Free transfers between the divisions were established in, I believe, 1948. It took a few years after unification for that to happen even.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 3:36 pm

But wasn’t there a free transfer between the BMT and IRT at Queensboro Plaza?

Matthias February 1, 2013 - 3:43 pm

The Flushing line was built and run jointly by the IRT/BMT.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 4:58 pm

So that means that the entire Flushing Line allowed free transfers between the IRT and BMT, then.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 5:00 pm

the MTA still has to clearn up.

That must be a typo.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Sorry. I meant to put this in another post.

A Voice in the Widerness February 1, 2013 - 4:44 pm

I’m not sure. Both the IRT (coming out of both the Steinway Tunnel and over the Queensboro Bridge) and the BMT (coming out of the 60th Street Tunnel) ran trains into Queensboro Plaza. Abd I seem to remember that they had separate platforms there, with no transfer between them. But since both systems had service beyond Queensboro Plaza to both Astoria and Flushing, there would be no need to transfer anyway.

Jerrold February 1, 2013 - 6:37 pm

To “Voice In…”

It was slightly before my time, but in THOSE days, WAS there a 60th St. Tunnel?
Or did the trains go over the Queensboro Bridge?

John-2 February 1, 2013 - 6:44 pm

There was a tunnel, but the 60th Street trains went no further than Queensboro Plaza. Both the Flushing and Astoria lines past QBP had platforms set to IRT width, so while trains using the Steinway Tunnel and Second Ave. el trains could navigate either line, the wider BMT trains had to turn back, even though the BMT jointly operated the line with the IRT (hence why the BMT rebuilt their own narrower wooden elevated rolling stock into the Q cars for the 1939-40 World’s Fair).

Someone February 1, 2013 - 7:11 pm

Then how come there were connecting tracks from the 60 Street tunnel to the IRT Flushing and Astoria lines?

Anon256 February 1, 2013 - 8:22 pm

There weren’t. See http://images.nycsubway.org/ma.....evated.gif for what the track configuration looked like back then, showing no connection between the Astoria/Flushing (Corona) lines and the rest of the BMT. Queensboro Plaza was an eight-track station with four island platforms, with the northern portion belonging to the BMT and the southern portion (which is what remains today) belonging to the IRT. The modern layout came about in 1949; the northern portion of the station was demolished and the 60th St Tunnel was connected to the station tracks that had previously connected to the IRT Queensboro Bridge trackage.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 8:54 pm

I still don’t see how the BMT and IRT tracks aren’t connected. This is a track diagram of QBP showing the pre- and post-1949 configurations, showing the tracks from the 60 Street tunnel inter-running with the Astoria line.

John-2 February 2, 2013 - 8:48 am

The tracks connected, but the wider BMT cars only went past QBP to turn around — arriving trains on the upper level of the now-demolished side, Manhattan-bound trains on the lower level. The other track on the platform at both levels handled the BMT el cars.

If the cars using 60th Street tried to go any further north or east from the QBP turn-around, there would have been a lot of splintered wood at the 39th Avenue or the 33rd-Rawson stations.

Someone February 2, 2013 - 10:57 am

But that wouldn’t have been joint operation, then. That would have been a “transfer an pay another fare to go any further” operation.

John-2 February 2, 2013 - 11:55 am

They used BMT el cars as well as the IRT wooden and steel rolling stock. Just because el cars like the Qs were IRT width and terminated at QBP without entering Manhattan didn’t make them any less owned and operated by the BMT. That was why it was joint operation.

Jerrold February 1, 2013 - 4:37 pm

I wonder if it had something to do with the doubling of the fare from a nickel to a dime that year. (PERCENTAGE-WISE, it was the biggest increase ever.)
Maybe somebody decided that as long as every subway ride will now cost a dime, at least let’s not allow it to cost 20 cents.

Tom February 2, 2013 - 8:30 am

Benjamin, thank you for that information. Could tell me where you found out about that? Do you know of any newspaper articles announcing free transfers between the divisions for example?


Someone February 2, 2013 - 2:25 pm

The companies were consolidated in 1940, opening up some free transfers between the IRT and BMT; but all the transfers between the 3 companies were not inaugurated until 1948.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 3:35 pm

Whoopsie, New York’s 200-year-old system of sewage pipes seems to have failed NYC again.

Matthias February 1, 2013 - 3:44 pm

That’s a water main, not a sewer (thank God).

al February 1, 2013 - 3:57 pm

If a station is deep enough, some of the seeps contain sewage from leaking waste water lines and CSS mains.

BoerumBum February 1, 2013 - 4:05 pm

Thanks for the heads-up, Ben! Rerouting my commute accordingly.

John February 1, 2013 - 4:17 pm

Ouch, FASTRACK. Ouch.

Flatbush Depot February 1, 2013 - 11:08 pm

statement of the week!

Jerrold February 1, 2013 - 4:31 pm

Let’s HOPE that this water is “less destructive”.
It’s the same city water that we are DRINKING.

nb February 2, 2013 - 7:18 pm


Someone February 1, 2013 - 5:01 pm

the MTA still has to clearn up.
The word “clearn” must be a typo.

Benjamin Kabak February 1, 2013 - 5:02 pm

I got you the first time. There’s really no need to post these once, let alone twice. The contact form is a good place for reaching me about typos!

Someone February 1, 2013 - 7:09 pm

Oh, OK. Thank you.

Jerrold February 1, 2013 - 6:32 pm

It looks like Ben wants you to clam up about how he wrote “cleam up”.

Someone February 1, 2013 - 7:10 pm

“clearn up”

SEAN February 2, 2013 - 10:05 am

Come on guys, clearn up your act. This is getting out of hand!

SEAN February 1, 2013 - 5:03 pm

Anouncements were made at Jackson Heights Roosevelt Avenue at some point after Noon or so.

petey February 2, 2013 - 5:56 pm

btw, all those posts in there about the queensboro plaza connection were very informative. i never knew that stuff. thank yiz.


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