Ceiling station’s fate: Collapse from above at Borough Hall hub shakes already wary straphangers

Ceiling station’s fate: Collapse from above at Borough Hall hub shakes already wary straphangers
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba

It’s Borough Hell!

Straphangers already fed-up with the beleaguered subway system are now fearing for their lives as they enter Borough Hall station, after part of the ceiling above the Manhattan-bound 4- and 5-train platform collapsed just before rush hour on Wednesday.

“That’s where I stand to go home. I’m glad I wasn’t there today,” said one commuter who rides the train from Downtown to his home in Manhattan each day, and asked to remain anonymous because he works for a competing tabloid.

New York’s Bravest rushed to the transit hub around 3:15 pm after debris and paint started raining down onto the platform, hitting the shoulder of one rider, who subsequently declined treatment, according to information from the Fire Department and Metropolitan Transportation Authority bigwig Andy Byford, who oversees the state-run agency’s local arm, the New York City Transit Authority.

Byford said his engineers also bolted to the station to secure the scene and find out exactly what caused the roof to cave in — something they were still investigating as of Friday afternoon, according to a transportation authority spokesman, who said crews removed some loose debris and ensured the ceiling’s structural integrity in the hours following the incident.

“Certainly this is the kind of thing that shouldn’t happen. We will get to the bottom of it,” said Byford on Wednesday, when he also noted the “old” station suffered some water damage while assuring commuters it is still safe.

But the partial ceiling collapse was just the latest nail in the coffin for many straphangers fed up with the deteriorating station — which a blizzard blanketed in 2016 — and cash-strapped subway system itself, whose delays and other potentially dangerous station defects continue to plague riders.

“It’s frustrating because we’re all just trying to get from point A to point B,” said Harry, who declined to give his last name because he works for the city. “They need to look at the structure of this station especially, because it is very busy.”

On Thursday, commuters once again crowded the platform where the ceiling fell to the ground the day before, waiting for trains that by then more or less resumed operating on schedule. But one local said that the outward appearance of business as usual at Borough Hall station didn’t soothe his lingering concerns following the collapse.

“I think the whole place is falling apart, just like the rest of the subway system,” said John Hillebrecht, who lives in Brooklyn Heights. “It looks completely unsafe.”

The Downtown hub, which is also a stop on the 2 and 3 lines, is set for much-needed repairs next year, according to the transit agency spokesman, who said the authority is dedicating $43 million of its current capital budget to upgrade the station by replacing its platform edges, swapping its chipped old wall tiles with new ones, reconfiguring its turnstile area, reinforcing its steel beams and girders, and, of course, patching up the water-damaged ceiling to make it more resistant to future flooding.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
The day after: Straphangers were back in the station the next day to wait for their train beneath a portion of the ceiling that collapsed the day before.
Community News Group / Julianne Cuba