Home 7 Line Extension Scenes from the 7 line: Who knew what and when?

Scenes from the 7 line: Who knew what and when?

by Benjamin Kabak
An industrial fan attempts to dry a puddle not far from the inclined elevators. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

An industrial fan attempts to dry a puddle not far from the inclined elevators. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

The fallout from the leaky Hudson Yards subway station continues to reverberate a week after MTA Board members lit into MTA officials for not divulging knowledge of the problems plaguing the new stations. Today, we learn that contractors were aware of the problem as early as 2011, and waterproofing issues even led to a stop-work order in mid-2013. As this station’s opening was delayed due to a variety of technical issues, it seems that we can add faulty construction to the list.

Emma Fitzsimmons of The Times offers up this story of a circular blame game:

In fact, leaks had plagued the station on the Far West Side of Manhattan for years while it was under construction. As the transit agency investigates what exactly went wrong, documents from a continuing legal dispute among the site’s contractors reveal early concerns about how the waterproofing system was built and the type of concrete that was used. The main contractor, Yonkers Contracting Company, has blamed flaws in shotcrete, a spray-on concrete that lines the waterproofing system. The concrete was filled with “voids” or spaces, according to a 2014 lawsuit the company filed against two subcontractors on the project.

But a 2011 letter that was sent to Yonkers Contracting discouraged the use of shotcrete because it could increase the potential for leaks. The letter, which was obtained by The New York Times, was sent from Cetco Building Materials to KJC Waterproofing, the subcontractor that installed the waterproofing system. KJC Waterproofing forwarded the letter to Yonkers Contracting, according to a deposition from the lawsuit. It is unclear whether the letter was sent to the transportation authority.

The transit agency halted construction at the station in 2013 after officials found “significant” leaks there. The agency issued a stop-work order, citing the use of shotcrete on overhead arches above the escalators and noting it had not been specified in the design.

The MTA hasn’t definitively said that shotcrete is the cause of the leaks, and the agency is waiting on an assessment from an independent engineering consultant. Still, the contractors are fighting it out, as Fitzsimmons reported, with Yonkers suing Superior Gunite and KJC for breach of contract and negligence, and Superior Gunite and KJC counter-suing for payment. Meanwhile, the MTA is facing a slip-and-fall suit over an injury a customer sustained on a wet escalators, and the optics of these problems — coming only a few years after the new South Ferry station suffered from poor waterproofing as well — creates a headache for an agency already struggling to meet deadlines and budgets.

As transit analyst Nicole Gelinas noted to The Times, it’s a bad look for the MTA. “This is their big marquee project,” she said, “and the fact that they can’t have it open and looking good a few months later doesn’t speak well to their ability to do these things.”

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Nyland8 March 29, 2016 - 10:53 am

It’s funny to me how most people seem to want to look at a “new” subway station through an impressionist lens, but I recall quite vividly that the first time I walked into the Hudson Yards 7 Line station, that there were already many places that exhibited stains and rust in small amounts, and thinking that these are all clues that leaking had not been addressed before finish materials were put in place.

After that first visit, I fully expected that the station would look like shit within a year after opening, so if there’s any surprise here at all, it is the speed at which the deterioration seems to be taking place.

SEAN March 29, 2016 - 11:17 am

As I recall on this blog, several commenters predicted that this station would show issues like this quickly. This was based on South Ferry’s problems after Sandy.

tacony March 29, 2016 - 12:08 pm

No, commenters here pointed out that South Ferry was leaking before Sandy, and HY would undoubtedly have the same issues, and that was confirmed the day station opened, but nobody cared then! 6 months later the tabloids had to point it out to the people who oversee the system for some bizarre reason.

Thomas March 29, 2016 - 1:23 pm

I was one of the crowd that rode the first revenue train into Hudson Yards, and after walking around the station I was amused that the MTA had pre-installed the leak shown in the photo above, presumably to make it familiar and comforting to commuters.

anon_coward March 29, 2016 - 11:18 am

one would imaging the contracts specified exactly the kind of materials that would be used before construction started and not relied on secret handshakes

Benjamin Kabak March 29, 2016 - 11:19 am

One would hope, but this sort of shady/shoddy work is SOP in NYC construction.

TimK March 29, 2016 - 11:45 am

NYC, and not just MTA? That’s a serious question.

Benjamin Kabak March 29, 2016 - 11:47 am

Not just the MTA and it spans government and private work, from what I’ve been told.

SEAN March 29, 2016 - 12:16 pm


What other projects did this group of contractors work on recently for the MTA? I would assume most of the big ticket items like SAS.

You may recall an accident after the big dig was completed when a concrete panel fell & crushed a vehicle. A faulty sealant was sited as a contributing factor.

Tower18 March 29, 2016 - 2:04 pm

I can tell you that even home renovations have weaker contracts in NYC than would ever be acceptable elsewhere in the country. The reason is that the top contractors have far more work on offer than they can accept. So they make their demands (terms and price), and if you won’t accept those terms, there are 10 jobs waiting behind you in line, and one of them will.

The fear of losing business is really the only lever on contractors as far as contractual terms go…and NYC contractors do not fear losing business.

Tower18 March 29, 2016 - 2:05 pm

Sorry this was to be a reply to an earlier post, not sure why it wound up here.

tacony March 29, 2016 - 3:30 pm

So we should all become contractors and swim in money for garbage work?

Is the real issue the barrier to entry to become a contractor? I know nothing about this industry.

Jeff March 29, 2016 - 5:11 pm

There isn’t much of a barrier to get into construction, especially in the shady unlicensed side of the business.

HOWEVER to become a contractor for this type of project, there is a high barrier because the company needs to be prequalified under MTA’s contractor guidelines. In order to be prequalified the contractor generally needs to have a certain level of experience and bonding/insurance capability in order to protect the agency from harm or incompetence. This generally means only a handful of contractors will qualify to work for these types of projects.

TimK March 30, 2016 - 8:45 am

Do these requirements also apply to subcontractors, or are the primary contractors free to hire whoever the hell they want?

Jeff March 30, 2016 - 9:10 am

Yes, subcontractors have to be approved by the agency too.

Rob T March 29, 2016 - 11:34 am

Perhaps history is to repeat itself once again. On my way uptown this morning, I happened to walk past the new station entrance being built at 63rd and 3rd. The entrance of the stairs meets at the bottom of the hill. In a rain storm, where do you think all that water is going to go? Yep.

BruceNY March 29, 2016 - 1:40 pm

I’ve walked by here many times–I’m quite surprised at the strange design for the glass canopies–they come down to a very low height on one end–seems ripe for vandalism and breakage.

GregK March 29, 2016 - 11:47 am

Why can’t the MTA just bring in Chinese contractors? Beijing metro gets new stations all the time.

tacony March 29, 2016 - 12:10 pm

Right? And we have a more complex labyrinth of oversight and approvals than they do in China, yet our public works infrastructure comes out worse in the end.

Tim March 29, 2016 - 12:56 pm


That said, the Donald brought in Polish contractors for Trump tower, I wonder what the cost-savings vs. bad optics were on that move.

Tower18 March 29, 2016 - 2:08 pm

The fact is that if you really sniff around, a significant number of projects are *actually* done by cheap foreign labor. The contractors of record are legit companies from the NY area, but the work is done, like on Trump Tower, by subs who employ Poles, Chinese, Central Americans, etc.

Jeff March 29, 2016 - 5:14 pm

That’s completely untrue. Any contractor or subcontractor that works in an MTA project needs to be unionized and if they are onsite it means they are generally local.

There are also sourcing requirements for any vendor or supplier as well, though those are more prone to loopholes.

Eric March 30, 2016 - 6:56 am

Well, it’s the MTA contracts that end badly. Sounds like an argument against union labor.

Jeff March 30, 2016 - 9:14 am

Considering the real estates market in the city is overall trending towards non-union labor, and the developers seem fine with the quality they are delivered vs the price they pay, the reputationed benefits that union labor once had I think is moot at this point.

JamesT March 29, 2016 - 11:58 am

This is does not bode well for East Side Access, as the structural lining of the Manhattan caverns and tunnels are composed of shotcrete.

The original intention was to use precast concrete for the lining for as many locations as practical. However, given the large size of the precast sections needed as well the almost certainty of damage or breakage during transportation, shotcrete was decided upon instead.

The current contractor for the CM006 Manhattan North Structures, has been experiencing continuous shotcrete related delays.

eo March 29, 2016 - 1:45 pm

Yes, ESA will leak badly due to the shotcrete. There is no doubt about that. The only partial saving grace might be that the schist in which the caverns are built might be “waterproof” by itself in most locations. The 7 extension was not lucky enough to be completely dug inside rock in spite of its depth.

I do not know who decided that saving a few bucks by using shotcrete whose application is faster and cheaper is worth it versus the old way of pouring the concrete in stayforms (which is slower and more expensive), but those people need to be let go from MTA Capital Construction.

Precast is not much better because the precast pieces cannot be made to fit tightly enough to avoid spaces where two pieces meet. There is a reason why so many of the concrete structures built by the Lackawanna RR are still in a great shape hundred years after they were built — they did not cut corners using unsuitable techniques for pouring the concrete. It is unfortunate,but it is true “they do not build them any more as they used to”.

Jeff March 29, 2016 - 5:22 pm

100% sure MTA didn’t save a single buck for this, but they did this more as a result of trying to accelerate the schedule. The issue is that there is pressure to make the work go faster and as a result the MTA management would sometimes prioritize that over quality.

John-2 March 29, 2016 - 5:48 pm

It doesn’t even bode well for the SAS, since if there are any water leakage problems, they’re already baked into the construction, as far along as the work it (my guess is 96th Street, which is closest to the East River, is the most likely to have problems, and that area’s already had some underground liquefaction problems).

JJJJ March 29, 2016 - 1:59 pm

Say what you want about the DC metro, but leaking doesnt seem to be a significant issue down there. Maybe give them a call and ask what magic 1970s technology they used?

Or, better yet. Call Mexico City. The city is built on a lake. The subway is under the city, presumably in the lake. Of the times Ive ridden it, I dont remember leaks.

John-2 March 29, 2016 - 5:41 pm

The Maryland-bound side of Federal Triangle was a kaleidoscope of rust-colored hues on the wall near the overpass area to fare control when I lived there in the late 70s and early 80s. They did have overall better waterproofing than what New York’s gotten recently, but it definitely had its own flaws.

victor March 29, 2016 - 2:35 pm

So I guess the second entrance isn’t opening any time soon with all these issues.

tacony March 29, 2016 - 3:34 pm

I thought the silence on the 2nd entrance was a good sign that it wouldn’t be opening for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains unfinished until HY is bustling and the 1st entrance has capacity issues. Ooh, on second thought, it’d be amusing and not surprising if they would end up having to destroy what they did for the 2nd entrance and rebuild it from scratch because by then it’ll no longer be useable for one reason or another.

It’s hard predicting scandals years out, but that one sounds so real.

Andres March 30, 2016 - 8:31 am

Subways run under ground.

There will be water.

Don’t design stations and infrastructures assuming you can keep water out.

Design them so that water can do what it does, without damaging the subway.

That’s all.

Brandon March 30, 2016 - 9:08 pm

Like the Rain Room?

JP March 30, 2016 - 11:19 pm

Along those lines….
I always wondered why, given all the stations that have water damage on the tile (some, soon after being renovated) why they didn’t simply build a freaking rain gutter into the top of the wall, so the water can be routed down to the tracks without ruining the tile. I see them Rube Goldberg makeshift gutters around the system all the time, but why not build it into the design. Water always finds a way in, just manage it in a sane way.

Kevin March 31, 2016 - 9:07 pm

problems plaguing the new stations

new *station


Kevin March 31, 2016 - 9:28 pm

actually, every station is plagued by this.

But new stations (plural) is a bit gratuitous. Newly renovated makes more sense. There’s only 1 new station as far as I can tell.


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