New York State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into recent construct work at a Queens subway station one day after video of a subway tsunami nearly sweeping a commuter into a moving train went viral.
The inquiry is in response to an incident at the Court Square subway station after severe thunderstorms rocked the city Wednesday. A video posted to the Subway Creatures Instagram account shows a flimsy plywood construction wall on the platform give way, launching a wave into the station. The gush of grimy water knocked a straphanger off his feet and nearly swept him into a moving train, the video shows.
Appalled elected officials condemned the conditions on Twitter and State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris, who represents the area, wrote to James’ office, imploring her to explore the situation. Now, James is demanding that New Line Structures and Civetta Construction, the companies responsible for recent work at the station, submit and preserve all documentation related to construction at the stop.
“This is an incredibly dangerous situation that easily could have resulted in the loss of a life, and we need answers,” James said in a statement. “These companies are hired to improve conditions without jeopardizing public safety. Yet, I am deeply concerned that instead they may have created a treacherous environment for New Yorkers in this incident.”
In a statement, MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye blamed construction at a neighboring residential development—likely the Skyline Tower, set to be Long Island City’s tallest building—and called the incident an “irresponsible action” by the project’s developer and contractor that is “unacceptable and avoidable.”
The developer’s construction team did not have “the proper pumping system in place as a temporary drainage system,” according to MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek. This caused the worksite to inundate with stormwater and breach the plywood separating the site from the station.
Transit officials met with the worksite’s contractors and have secured additional protections to safeguard subway riders at the expense of the firms, such as building a new wall, using a new pumping system, implementing better waterproofing, and adding staff on site during heavy storms. But local pols argue that all of those measures should have been in place to begin with and blasted the MTA and contractors for not being more proactive.
“As the MTA struggles to deliver on its mission for New Yorkers, this is another horrible incident that reveals the dangers subway riders face just for trying to move around our city,” Gianaris said in a statement. “In this case, people were nearly killed due to the negligence of a private corporation which must be held to account.”