Home Manhattan Six months later, a hazy timeline for South Ferry

Six months later, a hazy timeline for South Ferry

by Benjamin Kabak

The system’s newest station will remain closed for a considerable amount of time. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

When last we checked in on the Sandy-ravaged South Ferry station, three months had elapsed since the storm, and the new southern terminal of the 1 train was in ruins. Work had yet to begin in earnest on the station reconstruction, and the photos were a stark reminder of the destructive power of salt water. Nearly every inch of the new station had been touched by the storm surge, and no one seemed to know when conditions would return to normal.

On the six-month anniversary of the storm, NBC News has again ventured underground to check out the conditions below the surface. Their piece — aimed at a national audience — rehashes a familiar story with with some small updates. Carlo Dellaverson offers up a tale of a station that needs to be rebuild nearly from scratch. “It’s a complete gut job,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. “Every component of the station needs to be replaced.”

The NBC producer has more:

As communities rebuild and residents return to their homes, dozens of workers at the South Ferry station are taking the very first steps toward getting the station back online, starting with scrubbing mold from virtually every surface. Before the storm, 30,000 people passed through South Ferry each day, shuttling between Staten Island and Manhattan and around the labyrinthine streets of New York’s financial district.

Now, the stillness of the station is unsettling. The 90-foot platform sits empty, with strings of construction bulbs lighting two tracks and tunnel walls still covered with debris and dirt from the storm. Drywall and tiles have been ripped up by construction workers to expose the film of mold that quickly built up in the dark, humid space after the storm hit six months ago. The air is thick and pungent.

But the greatest damage inflicted from Sandy is not visible. The salty ocean water that flooded the station eighty feet below street level corroded nearly every piece of equipment in the space, adding considerably to the cost of recovery. Over 700 relay components – devices critical to the signaling systems of trains – were destroyed. A separate room of signaling equipment at the end of the platform flooded to the ceiling and is now a “complete loss,” said Joseph Leader, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chief maintenance officer, who is overseeing the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the station.

The MTA has attached a $600 million price tag to the reconstruction efforts, but details on the timing and process are still being hashed out. When push comes to shove, the agency is likely to strip the station down to a bare cavern and start the construction process all over again. Engineers will have to figure out how to harden the station to protect against future storms and future storm surges, and straphangers will have to face the reality of the loop station for a few years at least.

For now, the top priority is mold abatement. When I was there in January, the smell of the water-logged station was pervasive. Soggy ceiling tiles marred crew rooms and fried computer equipment sat where the storm waters had deposited it. The recovery and rebuild will be substantial, and when it’s all over, the second round of $600 million spent at South Ferry should last longer than the first. Otherwise, we’ll just keep paying for this station with tax-payer dollars storm after storm after storm.

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Kevin Walsh April 29, 2013 - 9:03 am

Was the South Ferry loop station so bad? Just scrap the one destroyed by Sandy rather than spend $600M which can go to other things. A transfer was built to the BMT (R train) so do you need to rebuild the new one after all?

Chris C April 29, 2013 - 9:44 am

I’m not an expert on this but yes the old SF station was bad because

1. Of passengers having to be in the front 5 cars only to get on / off. That caught many a tourist (including me) out as well as a few inattentive locals.

2. Because of the extra time it takes to operate the gap fillers it restricts the number of trains that can operate through the loop leading to less service on the entire line

3. I understand that there are accessibility issues as well

Lady Feliz April 29, 2013 - 1:13 pm

Kevin, there’s a big difference between riding the train to South Ferry to take some Staten Island hikes on a Saturday morning as opposed to using the station at rush hour on a Monday. That little 1905 platform is downright scary when it’s crowded. Add to that the too-short platform, the need to disembark in the first five cars, the screeeechy noise from that tight curve, and the fact that the population of Staten Island (as well as the ferry tourist count) has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, and I’d say “hell, yes” the loop station was/is that bad.

Kevin Walsh April 29, 2013 - 1:53 pm

Saturday Staten Island hikes…you know forgotten-ny.com quite well…

Lady Feliz April 29, 2013 - 8:16 pm

I do, which is why I through that reference in there. I know you’ve been to Egbertville recently =)

petey April 30, 2013 - 12:57 pm

“Saturday Staten Island hikes”

… like i took with the boy scouts …

Alex April 29, 2013 - 3:12 pm

I’d also say it would be an egregious waste to have spent the time, money, and effort to build out the new station only to abandon it a few years later because it was damaged. Although how it costs just as much to repair it as it did to build it in the first place is beyond my comprehension. Even in NYC, construction costs can’t have gone up that much. And this time around they don’t have to do extensive engineering studies and excavation.

Andreas April 29, 2013 - 9:17 am

What I don’t understand is the price tag… I know that all the electronic equipment need to be replaced but the heavy structural is technically intact… Why is the price tag bigger than what costed us to build the thing from scratch?!

Frank B. April 29, 2013 - 11:19 am

Moving dirt requires less labor than ripping tiles off of walls, or rail ties out of the cement.

Matt April 29, 2013 - 12:00 pm

I think the key is that they’re tearing it down to the bare cavern. I guess demo of the existing station is roughly equal to the cost of excavating it in the first place? Mold remediation is not cheap.

The first version of the station didn’t have good waterproofing as built. Hopefully they take the opportunity to do better this time.

Bolwerk April 29, 2013 - 12:42 pm

Probably what Frank and Matt said.

It might have been better to consider just ripping out the whole complex and building from scratch – without either the new cavern or the old station there to hinder things. It would at least make it possible to do a lot of things right that they didn’t do the last two times.

Of course, maybe it really is too impractical to redirect South Ferry traffic.

John-2 April 29, 2013 - 9:28 am

The 90-foot platform sits empty, with strings of construction bulbs lighting two tracks and tunnel walls still covered with debris and dirt from the storm.

The 90-foot platform? Were they doing a story on the Bowling Green shuttle?

ChristianP April 29, 2013 - 9:43 am

I think they meant that the platform sits 90 feet below the ground.

Lady Feliz April 29, 2013 - 1:20 pm

I think they just got lazy. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see the platform is 500+ feet long.

Think twice April 29, 2013 - 10:57 am

Actual MTA plans for extending the old loop’s platform. Here’s hoping they’ll reconsider:


Shout out to kew gardens teleport on Subchat for finding this.

Benjamin Kabak April 29, 2013 - 10:59 am

They won’t. They have federal money dedicated to one thing and one thing only, and that’s restoring new South Ferry.

Lady Feliz April 29, 2013 - 12:40 pm

It also doesn’t help with capacity problems since you still have to use gap fillers on first five cars, and only one train at a time can use the station, restricting the number of trains along the entire line.

Bolwerk April 29, 2013 - 1:22 pm

Maybe I am remembering wrong, but I don’t think that “restricting the number of trains” part is accurate. I think the lack of tail tracks at the new South Ferry terminal actually reduced the throughput on the line over the loop configuration.

Scott B. April 29, 2013 - 11:22 am

How about a six month later Broad Channel and Rockaway update?

Benjamin Kabak April 29, 2013 - 11:26 am

I’m not sure there’s all that much to update. Work continues with the goal of a late June reopening. It’s not nearly as drawn-out or complicated as South Ferry.

Charley S April 30, 2013 - 12:17 am

As someone else mentioned, this is an excellent opportunity to right a serious wrong by waterproofing the entire station, which they failed to do when the new station was initially built. Does anyone know if the MTA acknowledged that they will do it this time around or is it still too early in the process?

Since they finally came out and admitted this mistake a year ago, I figured they would jump on the opportunity to announce that by stripping down the station they can adequately waterproof it entirely and prevent leakage as well in addition to (most importantly) hardening the station against future superstorm floods.


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