MTA plans flood fixes in subways

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It could not have been timed better: Just days after the first storm of the summer season, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority gave a scheduled presentation to Borough President Helen Marshall and Queens' community board leaders about a subway flooding abatement plan focusing on street-level grates along the Queens Boulevard line.

"It happened again last weekend: We lost the Queens Boulevard line for a bit," said Joseph Raskin, the MTA assistant director of government and community relations, of flooding that hampered service.

Three days after a weekend storm doused the area with close to 2 inches of rain — and the main trunk of the borough's subways flooded as often happens during heavy rains — MTA New York City Transit representatives stood before the group at Borough Hall to show the agency's plans to reduce the impact of future downpours.

After the Aug. 8, 2007 storm that drenched Queens with close to 3 inches of rain in two hours and paralyzed the subways, the MTA examined the system and determined that of the top 10 flood-prone locations, three are in Queens. At the top of the Queens list was the Parsons Boulevard/Hillside Avenue stop on the F Line, followed by 65th Street and 36th Street at Queens Boulevard on the V, R and G lines.

"We made a recommendation to the MTA about the top 10 locations, to mitigate them by the end of March 2009," said Stephen Petrillo of NYC Transit's Capital Program Management Department.

The MTA found that pedestrian stairways and street-level grates are two culprits when it comes to subway flooding because both provide easy access to rushing water. Unable to block the stairs, the MTA hired architecture firm di Domenico + Partners to find a solution for the grates.

"[One] strategy was to raise the grates anywhere from 1 inch to 18 inches" to prevent water from street level flowing into them, said project consultant Andrew Berger from di Domenico.

The sketch he showed the group had a wavy bar-grate top that could hold benches. Berger had prepared various streetscape slides to show how some existing grates could be covered and the new style could be used near bus stops, as well as configurations to accommodate corners and curbs.

"We're trying not to close [grates] in station areas," Berger said.

Grates vent hot air and smoke and provide an escape for the rush of wind moving trains create, Petrillo said.

"This initiative is a high-priority, front-loading plan. It's part of a three-year initiative citywide" to be put into use first at known flooding spots, Petrillo said. "The whole purpose of this initiative is to prevent what happened in August 2007."

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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