Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined Tuesday by federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan for a tour of Hurricane Sandy damage that was focused mostly in Lower Manhattan, where many of the state's assets are concentrated, including critical infrastructure for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
Although the most haunting and enduring images of Hurricane Sandy come from places like Breezy Point and Oakwood Beach, where homes were flooded and even destroyed, Lower Manhattan suffered a different type of destruction.
Flooding there damaged critical assets, including the construction site at the World Trade Center site, where 129 million gallons of water poured in during the storm, and the South Ferry subway station, which is still not open to the public.
"During Hurricane Sandy, the largest amount of damage was done here in Lower Manhattan," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
At South Ferry, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is currently testing a prototype that would be installed to protect subway stations in the event of major storm. The inflatable tunnel plug can be filled with either air or water within minutes to block tunnels from a rushing storm surge. This particular plug is owned by the federal Department of Homeland Security and is currently undergoing testing.
However, the real threat of flooding comes not through the tunnels but from vertical entrance points at street level. There are 540 such entrance points at just six Lower Manhattan train stations.
"It's a remarkable feat of engineering to be underground, but it provides many challenges for us in terms of what we need to do to waterproof the system," said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.
"This is a massive undertaking when you think of the subway system alone and trying to close every opening," Cuomo said. "All the tunnels. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the Queens Midtown Tunnel."
There was nearly $600 million in damage to the the South Ferry subway station alone. There is still no exact timetable for its reopening.
Another problem that surfaced last year in the wake of the storm was gas shortages. Not only was there a problem getting the supply into the harbor, but many gas stations didn't have backup power to actually pump the gas. Cuomo also announced that more than 250 gas stations, not just in New York City but on Long Island and in other suburbs, will now have backup power to pump gas in case of an emergency.