John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Pumping out the tunnels under New York has revealed a gnarly landscape of storm damage.
In the past week, New York's stricken subway has undergone an impressive ecological transformation. It's no longer an aquatic playground for slippery eels and swimming rats, but a damp tunnel network that a city could use to, you know, run a train through.
Credit the MTA's furiously occupied worker-moles for drying out the system. As of today, the post-Sandy subway map is free of crippling service outages save for areas in Rockaway and around Battery Park. The LIRR started running again on Sunday, as did PATH trains between New Jersey's Newark Penn and Harrison stations into midtown Manhattan. Compare that to the subway blackout just after the mega-storm hit, when everything below 34th Street was out of commission and ample chunks of the other boroughs went dark, as well.
But as the MTA pumps out the sea that invaded subterranean New York, it's revealing gnarly damage to the infrastructure that likely will take quite a while to repair. Electric components are corroded, ceilings and walls are shedding their skins and some benches, crusted with black filth that once lived under the harbor, look slightly worse than normal. Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked the Obama administration for $30 billion in aid, about $3.5 billion of which is earmarked for restoring subways, commuter rail lines and bridges. Such is the toll of the second-most costly storm in U.S. history, right behind Katrina.
The below photos, which MTA staff took last week, show damage at the South Ferry station and on the portion of the L Line that runs below the East River. Downtown Manhattan was flooded so badly that local PATH service to Hoboken and Newark will likely take weeks to resume; right now, New Yorkers trying to conquer the Hudson can take a $5 ferry. What's not pictured is the above-ground carnage on the A line, shown in the MTA's "Rebuilding the Rockaways" page. Writes the transit agency:
The scope of the destruction was stunning. The North Channel Bridge, which connects Howard Beach and Broad Channel over Jamaica Bay, as well as a section of Broad Channel known as "The Flats" sustained a tremendous amount of damage. Hundreds of feet of track were destroyed on the bridge and the line segment that runs through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. There is no working signal system, the rails are twisted and in some areas, the supporting roadbed is completely washed away. The Broad Channel station was filled with debris, including a jet ski and a speedboat.
No doubt Sandy will play a big roll in the upcoming debate about a fare hike. This failure of an escalator is located at South Ferry:
General messed-uped-ness on the 1 Line:
Wall and tile damage at South Ferry:
A saggy ceiling at the same station:
Mystery crud on a South Ferry bench, floor:
MTA workers have pumped out the L Line between Manhattan and Brooklyn. This is what it looked like on November 5, in the wake of Sandy's 13-foot storm surge (its current state is shown in the photo at the top of this post):
Now their goal is to repair damaged electronics, like these sodden pump-motor controllers:
The seawater bath totaled these signaling components at the 207th Street Yard in upper Manhattan:
Two same-model signaling component, one that underwent Sandy and one that didn't: