Eerie new photographs have emerged of an abandoned New York subway station that remains closed and in need of at least $600 million repairs after it was left devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
Until October last year, the South Ferry subway station was used by an estimated 30,000 people every day, but as these photographs show, the terminal now resembles a ghost station; empty, unnervingly quiet and littered with debris.
The station was only opened in 2009 at a reported cost of $500 million - a sum in part thanks to its large polished-walled concourse and public art installations made of wrought iron and smoked glass.
The station would welcome thousands of people every day, many of whom would board trains taking them to-and-from lower Manhattan’s financial district and semi-suburban Staten Island.
Now, far from playing a key role in the financial progress of the USA’s most populous city, the station lies empty; its once-polished walls mouldy and stripped of tiles, its cutting edge signalling equipment burnt out, and its vast concourse submerged in foul, stagnant water.
The original 1905 South Ferry station, which was closed and deserted when the new-look station was opened, is temporarily back in use to ensure the vital subway connection is not lost long-term.
During Hurricane Sandy, the second-costliest storm in US history, the new South Ferry station was evacuated as New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state-of-emergency.
The entrance to the station was blocked-up with sandbags and plywood, the Metropolitan Transport Authority’s city-wide response to the near submersion of the New York subway during Hurricane Irene the previous year.
But despite the makeshift barricades the station still flooded, as 14 million gallons of seawater filled the subway “to the brim”.
According to NBC News, the MTA’s chief maintenance officer Joseph Leader was the first person to see the extent of the damage at South Ferry station.
He told the news agency that at first he thought the barriers had held as he could see just a trickle of water flowing down the stairs. It was only as he ventured deeper into the abandoned station that he realised its main entrance had burst during the storm’s 14 foot surge.
Mr Leader said: “Water was coming up the steps at me from the platform level, lapping at my feet,” requiring the station to be fully pumped before officials could even start assessing the damage.
Describing the extent of the damage at South Ferry station, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said: “It’s a complete gut job… every single element of the station needs to be replaced.”
The only lighting in the station is a string of construction bulbs illuminating its two tracks. The station’s once-pristine walls are still covered in dirt and debris from when the standing water was at its highest and the tiles have been torn down by construction workers assessing the layers of mould that have already grown beneath.
According to NBC the air is “thick and pungent”, presumably due to the green, stagnant water that still sits in parts of the terminal.
Although much of the damage is aesthetic, the greatest costs will in fact come in removing and replacing electrical equipment, as almost all of the station’s multi-million dollar signalling system and control room has been left burnt-out and corroded.
The MTA says it is now considering all options to prevent similar repair costs in future, with talk of huge “inflatable bladders” being used to hold flood water and prevent it reaching equipment.
Another option is to simply let subway stations flood during hurricane season, but ensure all electrical equipment and expensive artworks can be quickly packed up and removed in an emergency.
Whatever the plans for the future, it seems likely that South Ferry will now be used as an acid test for how to rebuild a subway station so that is at least partially protected from storm surges.
In the meantime, officials continue calculating the cost of the damage to South Ferry subway station, with the total currently sitting at around $600 million. That figure is likely to rise further.