Home Superstorm Sandy Board docs: South Ferry reopening still targeting mid-2016

Board docs: South Ferry reopening still targeting mid-2016

by Benjamin Kabak

The new South Ferry is scheduled to reopen in August of 2016 after a near-total rebuild. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

It’s been a little more than four months since we last heard a full update on the status of the new South Ferry station. During an MTA Board committee presentation at the end of 2013, John O’Grady presented some options for an elevated and protected signal room and explained how the new station would likely open by mid-2016. In another update set to be delivered to the Capital Program Oversight Committee on Monday, Transit has provided more details on the work and underscored the 2016 date. The new station will reopen nearly four years after Sandy.

The timing on the station comes from an independent review of the status of the job. According to the presentation, Transit will award a five-month demolition contract this month and a 24-month General Construction project in August. The rebuild — which is still on budget — would then wrap around August of 2016, as the MTA said four months ago. There is, of course, plenty of time for this project to fall behind schedule, but with nearly $600 million of federal funding supporting it, the pressure to deliver on time will be strong.

Meanwhile, this week’s presentation lists out the major scope items for the general rebuild. At the top of the list is grouting and leak mitigation, two problems that plagued the new station before it had even opened. Since the MTA has to essentially strip all of the finishes out of the destroyed station, crews have a second chance to get waterproofing right.

The other items on the list are fairly standard for any new station build out but with some twists for resiliency. The plans include modifications to critical structures (including the signal room), replacement of all communications and fiber optics systems; new signals, relays and third rail; and various other flood mitigation work including resilient stainless steel and glass entrances.

What I find most telling about this project, outside of the price tag, is the timing. It will have taken nearly the same amount of time to build the station originally as it will to completely reconstruct it after Sandy. In one sense, I’m being admittedly hyperbolic it’s taken nearly a year and a half to spec the work and issue contracts. But on the other hand, that’s an “inside baseball” distinction. Outwardly, to the general public, the new South Ferry station is a memory, and it will be for some time still.

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Ralfff April 28, 2014 - 2:12 am

Don’t know anything about building subway stations, but I was told by someone who would know that it’s way more expensive to refurbish a decrepit apartment building than to build a new one, and I imagine that’s a lot of what’s going on here. But I guess you were there, so you’d know how much mold there was.

Nathanael April 28, 2014 - 3:56 pm

It’s not always more expensive to refurbish a decrepit building than to build a new one. It usually is more expensive, but it isn’t always.

However, it is *ALWAYS* slower to refurbish than to build new. Always.

John-2 April 28, 2014 - 8:44 am

Since so much of the original station’s cost had to go into avoiding upsetting anything in Battery Park, the end result decidedly did not look like a half-billion dollar station — it looked like a deeper version of the last pre-MYA subway station built, at 57th and Sixth, only with water stains appearing almost immediately on the tiles and ceiling (kind of like how the Giants’ and Jets’ $1.5 billion Met Life Stadium doesn’t show its expense as much as the Cowboys $1.25 billion AT&T Stadium built at the same time, once you factor in those New York metro area construction costs).

We’ll see (hopefully) two years from now if the re-done station simply ends up maintaining its same plain vanilla look — minus the water stains — with the bulk of the cost presumably going to the elevated and protected signal room, or if they do a little bit more visually to lower South Ferry once they complete the waterproofing.

SEAN April 28, 2014 - 2:32 pm

Point taken, but your NFL example is slightly off though. AT &T stadium like most venues is publicly financed & is wayde down with massive amounts of debt. That’s why the anounced move by the Atlanta Braves to a new suburban stadium 20-years after Turner Field opened didn’t go over well. MetLife was payed by both the Jets & Giants without public money. That’s why the super bowl was here in Febuary as a reward of sorts.

D. Graham April 28, 2014 - 4:11 pm

Tell that to a Giants or Jets fan holding a PSL….

SEAN April 28, 2014 - 4:31 pm

The PSL issue is a completely seperate problem all be related.

John-2 April 28, 2014 - 5:17 pm

But they did get about 20 percent less stadium for 20 percent more money (IIRC, Jerry Jones’ financing was $750 million private and $500 million public. Though having sat in the 400 seats once down there, I can tell you don’t sit in the 400 seats, which are about as wide as the seats at old Yankee Stadium — there are some places in Arlington that show the cost of the stadium, but the upper deck isn’t one of them).

This is actually a rare chance for the MTA to correct a station that definitely was less than the sum of its materials, both aesthetically and functionally when it opened, and do it close enough to the original opening so you know the flaws such as the bad waterproofing aren’t due to age or other outside circumstances. We’ll see if they at least fix the functionality flaws, if not the aesthetic ones.

Nathanael April 28, 2014 - 3:57 pm

“Since so much of the original station’s cost had to go into avoiding upsetting anything in Battery Park”

This is another example of the expense and time incurred in working around existing, operating stuff rather than building fresh.

(FWIW, the WTC site really has no such excuse for its delays.)

Abba April 28, 2014 - 12:59 pm

I really don’t think its worth to rebuild.but that’s just me.

SEAN April 28, 2014 - 2:18 pm


Not that I nessessarily dissagree with you, but if you don’t believe South Ferry shouldn’t be rebuilt, then what should be done. I’de would love to find out your thaughts on the matter.

SEAN April 28, 2014 - 2:37 pm



Not that I nessessarily dissagree with you, but if you don’t believe South Ferry should be rebuilt, then what should be done. I’de would love to find out your thaughts on the matter.

Paul April 28, 2014 - 3:30 pm

I agree with Abba, because even before Sandy the difference between the two stations were very clear.

The old South Ferry, short as it may be, was in my opinion built to last. It has given over 105 years of good service, with beautiful art to match, and to my knowledge had no hard-to-ignore water leak in the station.

Meanwhile the new South Ferry showed water damage after three (!) years in operation, looks very bland in comprision to the old station, and could be just a box just waiting to be flooded again.

In my opinion, if the MTA is going to redo the station, they need to do it with a completely different frame of mind.

Bolwerk April 28, 2014 - 4:06 pm

For this kind of money, they could probably rip out the complex that’s there now (maybe preserving enough of the old station to use as a mezzanine for a future station) and adequately accommodate significant tail tracks with provisions for a tunnel to Staten Island.

But the park would probably be ruined for a few years. Oh well. Better to keep transit ruined forever!

D. Graham April 28, 2014 - 4:19 pm

It was built to last the amount of time it has lasted. It doesn’t have much left though. A lot of people seem to have these discussions while forgetting that the station is aided by gap fillers. Gap fillers that are not made anymore and parts that must be custom ordered and fitted with reliability decreasing every 6 months. You can build half a brand new (or refurbished or whatever you want to call) South Ferry station at the price it would take to retrofit brand new gap fillers and signals that must go along with them. All together that price would be about $450 million rough estimate and it might be a conservative one at that. I’m not accounting for possibility of new relays if necessary as I don’t know if the replacement of the current gap fillers with new ones along with signals would require new relays.

BruceNY April 28, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Have the gap fillers at 14th Street and at the Times Sq. Shuttle been refurbished, for $450 million each?

D. Graham April 28, 2014 - 9:34 pm

The fillers at Union Square came with a steep price tag last time I checked. The fillers at Times Square are manually control and are pretty straight forward. I don’t recall them receiving any recent refurbishing work. The fillers at South Ferry are very complex. They work with one signal in the station as well as one indicator, powered by one third rail contact shoe per car on a very small piece of real estate. They also work with several of the signals outside of the station. Currently working on a malfunction rate of 1.5 per month and it seems like that average is increasing.

BruceNY April 29, 2014 - 1:29 pm

I would hazard a guess that the total bill still came in well under what it cost to build (never mind re-build) a brand new station, and gap-fillers are likely here to stay at some locations for the foreseeable future.
It’s too bad that when the Lex. local stations were all lengthened to accommodate 10-car trains (early 1950’s I believe) that they didn’t attempt to do the same at South Ferry. Would that have been possible? That extension would have been on a straighter track, they probably would have added a second exit somewhere, and we would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars.

Spendmor Wastemor April 28, 2014 - 5:05 pm

The old South Ferry, short as it may be, was in my opinion built to last. It has given over 105 years of good service, with beautiful art to match …

The new station was worn out before it opened.

But, we now have prevailing wage, no-show jobs, cousins, cronies and pols all paid while the a cost-plus connected contractor gets a nice little slice of a billion $. What’s a million or a billion when it’s someone else’s money, all that matters is that it’s free for ME.


Lady Feliz April 29, 2014 - 1:00 pm

The original IRT was also built with Irish and African-American laborers hand-caring materials out for almost no pay, never mind health insurance and other benefits. If a boulder fell on you during excavation, they’d send you packing and find another poor soul to do the work.

You seriously wanna go back to the “good ol’ days”?

BruceNY April 29, 2014 - 1:37 pm

Oh come on now–how about a compromise where we don’t have ridiculous union rules that insist that we pay extra workers and managers to stand around and do nothing most of the time just because nobody can stand up to the unions and abolish these wasteful practices.
Their sole purpose is to increase the payroll. It has been well documented that the cost per mile to build in NYC is way more expensive than anywhere else in the world–and I’m referring to the first world (Paris, Tokyo).

Abba April 29, 2014 - 12:33 am

It was ADA accessible but for 600 million not sure if it’s worth to redo it.If Atlantic ave complex in Brooklyn would be destroyed then we would talk.

Abba April 29, 2014 - 12:36 am

If they do,go,ahead they should only do it if they know 1000% it will it be destroyed

Abba April 29, 2014 - 12:37 am

Not be destroyed I meant

Rob April 28, 2014 - 2:39 pm

I would ask: how much, if any, is the new station missed?

Frank B April 28, 2014 - 4:06 pm

I’m sure aesthetically, no one misses New South Ferry over the loops; I believe the issue is, and always has been that the loop design is completely obsolete, both in the fact that it can only handle half of a 10 car train, and that the capacity per hour is lower; no train can be laid up on a loop track.

Jerrold April 28, 2014 - 6:34 pm

THAT is essentially what I myself was going to say.
What do you think, that people do NOT miss being able to get out from ANY car of that train, instead of having to crowd into the first five cars?

Michael April 28, 2014 - 8:13 pm

I miss the newer South Ferry station. I have used both the South Ferry loop station, as well as the newer station, and I yes, I still do the “bus-ferry-subway” dance, and have been doing it since 1991. I prefer the newer although now closed South Ferry station, hands down!. Why – the newer station was bright and clean with interesting maps and mosaics, several entrances, escalators, and holding 2 full-length trains.

Headed to the ferry, there was simply much less hassle from other train riders worrying about being in the first set of cars – with them running through the train to be at the “right spot”, when all one had to do was be to be ahead of the conductor on the train. Dealing and listening to frantic people running about grates on the nerves. Another thing that grates on the nerves is the squeals of the wheels of #5 and #1 trains as they enter and leave the station. As for station visuals – let’s see in the newer station there are cleaner white tile walls, and in the loop station the black abyss of the tunnel walls of the old shuttle station or a #5 train resting there.

There’s the walking along the platforms when you’re uptown just to be at the front of the train to reach the ferry, or the appeals of the conductors about being in the “first 5 cars”. When your regular uptown entrance is at the back end of the train, and you’re given the choice between taking the train station “RIGHT NOW” inside the station or letting it go to walk down platform to get to the section ahead of the conductor on a regular basis, going back to the shorter station is not a plus. On these tired legs, the newer station having the elevator and the escalators from the track platform to the mezzanine, and an elevator and escalator from there to the street was indeed helpful. Going back to the old station has brought back the hassles of the crowds through the small set of stairs, etc. The mad dash to get to the ferry before it leaves has not been made better with the opening of the old loop station, even though there now a second exit. The newer station had two other entrances besides the one in front of (or along side) the ferry terminal which made both entering and leaving the station a heck of lot easier. I have DONE the old station, year after year, and I am done with it. I preferred the newer station, and await its repair, and its return to service.


ajedrez April 29, 2014 - 2:02 am

As a regular user, I definitely prefer the old station. There’s fewer steps to run up once you get off the train (which can make the difference between catching or missing the ferry. Not to mention that it’s more energy either way). As for being in the first five cars, I simply work my way forward a couple of cars at a time. Even if it’s a crowded train, there’s usually some opportunity to do it, and if nothing else, they hold the train at Rector (and sometimes Chambers, depending on whether or not they’re waiting for a connecting express).

I don’t get how it’s a dilemna to decide whether or not to get on the train. In an absolute worse-case scenario, you’re at the back of the train, you don’t move quickly enough at Rector, and you get left behind. You’re in no worse of a position than if you got left behind further uptown.

Michael April 29, 2014 - 3:53 pm

Let’s be frank (or Harry, or Paul or Sally – sorry could not resist – LOL!)

Missing the boat by seconds is not pleasant! It does not really matter if it was the subway, the bus, the SIR, etc. Missing the boat sucks! Time is not a renewable resource for anybody! Increasing your odds of catching the boat that you want is the goal!
The dilemma is simple; because I’m sure you’ve been there. Catch the train that is RIGHT THERE in the station and MAKE the boat that you want. Or wait for the next train and most probably MISS the boat that you wanted.

Just hoping on the train right there can be simple, except when the uptown entrance places yourself at the back of the train, and you have to make your way to the front. Walking between the cars (which you could do say-20 years ago) has been outlawed, plus there’s the conductor’s booth to contend with. Or you could take your chances hopping off and back on the train at another station or two, and depending upon the crowds on the platform and the train – the conductor seeing you, etc. It is not that difficult to have a situation where’ you’re left on the platform! A Bummer!

One could let that train go, and hope to catch the next train, and hope to still make the boat that you wanted, while you’re walking to the front section of the station. Before the train-clocks were installed – one simply had no clue just when the next train would arrive. Now the time-clocks can help with the “make it or not” decision.

When the ferries are 15 minutes apart, you might consider just waiting for the next train, as you walk down the platform. When the ferries are 30 minutes apart, you might want to catch that boat, there are folks waiting for you. When the ferries are 60 minutes apart, on a weekend evening, you want to damn well catch that boat! One can only be late so often! Lateness has a cost!

At a station like Bowling Green or Whitehall Street most normal subway riders just hop on the next train where ever they are on the platform – but for the #1 you always, ALWAYS have to be aware of your position on the train. Every trip – every time! The newer 2-track station allowed one to be normal in a way that the short platform loop does not.

I’ve done the “bus-ferry-subway” dance BEFORE time the ferry terminal burnt down, and through every hassle and phase of the construction and renovation of the terminals, subway stations, plaza, etc. When you’re rushing for the boat, those seconds and minutes become crucial. Things that “seem normal” become obstacles – doors, escalators – stairways – people! None of the variations have made a substantially better experience – rushing for the boat is just plain hectic, period.

There is not a huge difference between the old loop station being one level closer to the street than the 2-track terminal being say 2 levels down. In the life of the loop station plenty of people have missed the ferry plenty of times from “one-level down.”
Currently from the original entrance – one exits outside the terminal building, having to rush past into the terminal through a set of doors smack in the middle of a restaurant and their patrons, then rush to the stairs or escalators to the waiting room to the doors to the slip!

When the first floor restaurants did not exist and there was the internal subway station entrance – getting upstairs to the ferry could still be very hectic. And yes, it was still hectic when the only subway station entrance was outside the terminal building under the curved pedestrian ramp of the old terminal, and everyone had to use the single stairway. I’ve been through all of that!

It is no fun being left on the platforms at Chambers Street or Rector Street as you’re trying to make your way along the platform to one of the cars ahead of the conductor, when he closes the doors on you, and the train leaves.

The “bus-ferry-subway” dance can be enough of a hassle when you want to keep your travel time as short as possible, to not let your trips become regular 2 hour affairs with the waiting time added for the ferries. To the folks who say, “just catch another boat” – they simply do not understand that the subways and ferries are not coordinated. Yes, it is completely understandable why they can not be coordinated. In any case, there are time penalties, being late can be costly – time is not a renewable resource!

And to be fair there are times you have “plenty of time” to catch that boat, and “stuff” happens, and “your” boat is leaving.

The effort is to increase your odds of catching the boat that you want, which means that everything becomes relative! So yes, there are “trade-offs”. In order to have a 2-track station close to the ferry terminal it had to be built deeper than the old loop station. A trade off is that the 2-track station brought in other benefits like elevators, escalators, additional exits, etc., compared to the older loop station.

I prefer the newer 2-track station, I am happier about the new Whitehall Ferry Terminal (except the part about waiting an hour or more for a boat), and new park plaza is way better than what was there before! To me, the whole thing is a package, a whole package for the better!

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