Editorial: South Ferry station again a stop back in time
The tens of thousands of office workers, day laborers, downtown residents and tourists who trudged through the South Ferry subway station daily, before superstorm Sandy wrecked it, will soon get relief.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the southern terminus of the No. 1 line at South Ferry would reopen the first week in April, using an older station the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scrapped in 2009.
Credit the MTA with a smart, accelerated decision that dropped the usual bureaucratic chin-stroking and put the interests of a Sandy-weary city and its beleaguered riders front and center. The reopening will be a shot in the arm, especially, for the city's tourism industry, Staten Island's commuters and lower Manhattan's employers.
The station Sandy destroyed was built under the older station in front of the Staten Island Ferry terminal and opened four years ago. It was state-of-the-art, the MTA said. But it wasn't built to handle a 14-foot storm surge.
Fifteen million gallons of seawater filled the place from tracks to mezzanine, ruined its electronic equipment, and created a scene that news footage turned into a symbol of Sandy's wrath. Reconstruction will cost $600 million and take up to three years. So now it's back to the past.
The old station always seemed as if it'd been borrowed from one of Dante's circles of hell. Its curved platform made steel train wheels scream like banshees. Worse yet, it could only accommodate the first five cars of a 10-car train. Riders were herded to the front whenever a southbound No. 1 neared the end of the line -- an exercise some tourists found frightening.
But in a post-Sandy world, no one will abandon hope as they enter the place. In fact, its resurrection is welcome. Staten Island commuters headed for the West Side will be happy to lose the hike to the next closest station.
Meanwhile, the MTA faces another test. As it rebuilds, how does it safeguard South Ferry from future storms? It can move some equipment out of harm's way, but that's not a complete answer. Design changes are necessary. The MTA is working on it, and failure is not an option.