The terrible, horrible, no-good-very-bad weather that’s taking over New York City this week brought thunderstorms to the five boroughs yesterday. (There will be more rain today before the heat wave arrives on Friday.) According to the National Weather Service, more than two inches of rain fell in some parts of the city, leading to power outages in some areas, and flash flooding in others.
That flooding took a toll on the subway system, with Staten Island Railway service suspended for about an hour because of flooding, and straphangers posting videos of water flowing into subway stations, and even subway cars.
In one particularly egregious incident, a video posted to the Subway Creatures Instagram account shows a plywood construction wall on the E and M platform at the Court Square station in Long Island City giving out as water rushes into the station, knocking over a passenger waiting for a train—which was pulling into the station—in the process. (The man appears to be unharmed, luckily, but the person who filmed the video did not want to be IDed.)
The MTA placed the blame for the flooding on construction at a nearby residential development, with Shams Tarek, a spokesperson for the agency, calling the incident “absolutely unacceptable and avoidable.” According to the agency, a temporary drainage system that was supposed to be in place at that construction site was not activated, “causing water to build up at their worksite and breach plywood separating their worksite from the station.” The agency says it has since gotten the developer to agree to a new pumping system, better waterproofing on site, and adding personnel when heavy storms hit.
While the MTA didn’t name the developer or the project, Gothamist reporter Jake Offenhartz IDed them as United Construction and Development Group, which is behind Skyline Tower, soon to be Long Island City’s tallest building.
“We have already begun taking steps to make sure the developer and contractor are held accountable and this doesn’t happen again,” Tarek says. “We have no reported injuries and no service impact from this incident as our trackbed drainage system was able to remove all of this unexpected water, but we regret that our customers were inconvenienced and put at risk by this contractor’s shocking lapse in best safety practices.”
City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, whose district includes Long Island City, tweeted a statement in response to the MTA:
Flooding in the subway is nothing new; commuters are used to seeing grimy waterfalls from subway grates, and even stations closing down because of excessive rainfall. And quick, heavy rainfall, like the kind the city experienced yesterday, can be especially tough to deal with. As the New York Times explained in 2007, after a torrential downpour paralyzed the subway system:
As rainwater seeps through tunnel walls and flows down subway grates and stairwells, sump pumps in 280 pump rooms next to the subway tracks pull the water back up to street level. That water then naturally flows toward the storm drains — but the storm drains themselves are often unable to handle the flow of water.
But this video emphasizes the degree to which the city’s aging infrastructure, coupled with the construction regularly happening across the city (both above and below ground), can put New Yorkers at risk.
“Construction safety is a crucial concern for riders, both above and below ground. As extreme rain events increase with climate change and congestion pricing funds are spent to modernize our transit network, the MTA must put rider safety first,” Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance told Curbed.