C.B. 1 tries for screeching halt to new subway grate plan


New York City Transit returned to Community Board 1 last month with the second iteration of an idea the board universally dislikes.

As a flood prevention measure, N.Y.C.T. already installed the first round of raised subway grates in Lower Manhattan along W. Broadway. Those grates are raised several inches and include a bench at either end and bike racks in the middle. C.B. 1 tried to stop the installation of the raised grates, calling them ugly and unnecessary, but N.Y.C.T., a division of the M.T.A., started building them last year.

Last month, the M.T.A. was back with a new design and a new location: They plan to install taller grates, raised up to 12 inches off the ground, around Canal and Centre Sts. These grates will be wavier in design and will have one bench but no bike rack.

C.B. 1 strongly opposed the grates, which will cost $2 million to $4 million for the Canal St. area alone and are also being installed all around the city.

“It’s really not going to solve anything,” said John Fratta, chairperson of the Seaport/Civic Center Committee. “These are the ugliest structures I’ve ever seen.”

Added board member Paul Viggiano, “It is ugly, ugly, ugly.”

Despite the board’s opposition, N.Y.C.T. will begin installing the grates in the fourth quarter of this year and finish in six months.

The board was also not happy that N.Y.C.T. will be covering over many grates as well, also to prevent flooding. Asked if that would increase already sweltering summer temperatures in the station, Andrew Berger, landscape architect, said, “Slightly, but within the level of tolerance.”

Berger said N.Y.C.T. had no choice but to address the flooding hazard.

“Canal St. is one of the most vulnerable [stations] in the system,” Berger said.

One board member asked if the sewers would be able to handle the extra runoff now that rainwater won’t be going into the subway system. Berger implied that could be a problem but said N.Y.C.T.’s job is to keep the subway tracks clear, not to worry about the streets.

“So, the streets will flood now,” C.B. 1 member Roger Byrom said.

The transit team didn’t deny it.

— Julie Shapiro