M.T.A. fixing a new design problem Downtown


Opponents of the new raised subway grates on W. Broadway have started calling them “dams,” because they cause water that once flowed off the sidewalk to sit in puddles that freeze into ice.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is installing the grates, raised 6 inches and topped with benches and a spiraling bike rack, to prevent the subway from flooding during torrential storms like the one that paralyzed the transit system in August 2007.

The M.T.A. put the first prototype of the grate on W. Broadway between Worth and Thomas Sts. last fall, then started building the rest of the raised grates on W. Broadway between Chambers and Leonard Sts. and on a block of Varick St.

Bruce Ehrmann, a Tribeca resident and Community Board 1 member, thinks the M.T.A. should have fixed the puddling problem at the prototype grate before installing more of them.

“Every time it rains, the sidewalks will be completely flooded,” Ehrmann said. “The subway grates, as far as what we can see, are very wrong on almost every level…. I don’t even want to get into aesthetics now — it’s gone beyond that,” Ehrmann added, referring to the community board’s intense dislike of the grates’ design.

Aaron Donovan, M.T.A. spokesperson, said the M.T.A. is working on a solution to the flooding problem. The M.T.A. will either raise the level of the sidewalk that is behind the grate, encouraging water to flow toward the street, or create a channel that would do the same thing. Whichever solution the M.T.A. picks, it will be built into the construction of all the new grates, so they should open without the problem the prototype has, he said.

The prototype will likely be fixed in the next couple of weeks, but certainly by the time the other raised grates are finished in March, Donovan said. The design changes will not cause any delay or cost extra money, he said.

The raised grates, which will go in other parts of the city as well, are part of the M.T.A.’s $30 million flood prevention program, but the M.T.A. has not given the cost of the Lower Manhattan piece.

Another Downtown M.T.A. project also needs design changes — the M.T.A. said this week that the South Ferry station, which was supposed to open in December or mid-January at the latest, now will not open for another three to four weeks. The reason for the delay is that the gap between the platform and the subway cars is an inch wider than the 3-inch maximum, according to press reports.

The M.T.A. is ordering a new plastic platform edge to bridge the gap, which will cost an extra $200,000, according to reports. Testing of complex mechanical systems also contributed to the delay.

The new South Ferry station will replace the current one, which is so small that it only fits the first five cars of each No. 1 train. The M.T.A. has not said who was at fault for the extra train-platform gap in the $500 million new station.

— Julie Shapiro