Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Three and a half years before Sandy, the NY MTA unveiled a new subway station, at South Ferry. The station would enable far faster turn-arounds for trains than the old station build a hundred years ago, speeding commutes for tens of thousands of straphangers each day.
The new station was "visible proof that when the MTA is provided with adequate capital funding, we build monumental works for generations of New Yorkers for decades to come," then MTA Chief Jay Walder said.
But Sandy completely submerged the station, wiping out the vital signaling room. Replacing it will cost $600 million, more than a tenth of the damage to the MTA during Sandy. It could take a year, or more.
And most critically, says Wynton Habersham, Chief Electrical Officer in charge of signals and power for NYC Transit, the relatively brand new signalling room was inundated with saltwater: live wires hardened, signals corroded, and even electronic track-moving equipment was rendered unusable. "It's like just taking your computer and dipping it in saltwater," Habersham says.
Habersham says crews tried to clean off the signals, but the corrosion reappeared, and the supplier advised junking them.
Four such relay rooms, out of some two-hundred systemwide, were submerged and rendered useless by Sandy.
Rebuilding the brand new South Ferry station, opened only three years ago after a laborious expansion using 9/11 recovery money, will cost $600 million. Habersham says no construction will take place until the MTA can figure out how to defend the station from future storms. Possible fixes include installing a horizontal barrier over the station's entrance, raising the signal room, and protecting components from saltwater.
MTA officials say no one is contemplating not rebuilding the station, which is normally used by 30,000 of the 70,000 people who ride the Staten Island Ferry on a weekday.