State AG launches probe into Court Square flooding
A viral video of a rider being swept off his feet and nearly colliding with an oncoming train due to flooding at the Court Square station has prompted an investigation.
On Friday, Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office will probe the incident that occurred last Wednesday during a heavy thunderstorm that inundated the subway system.
In the Instagram video shared by the user “subwaycreatures,” an unidentified straphanger was forced to the ground by a stream of water while a train pulled into the Long Island City station. He did not appear to be physically hurt.
“This is an incredibly dangerous situation that easily could have resulted in the loss of a life,” James said in a statement, “and we need answers.”
According to MTA New York City Transit, which shared a statement on its social media feed, there were no reported injuries from the incident. There was also no service impact because the track bed drainage system removed all of the unexpected water.
NYCT conducted an initial investigation, and found that the incident was caused by poor safety practices by a private developer and contractor, who are building a residential tower adjacent to the station, as well as a new entrance and elevator for Court Square.
The contractor relocated utilities and did not have the proper pumping system in place to act as a temporary drainage system, NYCT said.
When the worksite was inundated with heavy rain, overflowing water breached the plywood separating the worksite from the station, knocking over the passenger.
“We regret that our customers were inconvenienced and put at risk by this contractor’s shocking lapse in best safety practices,” NYCT said in the statement.
After the incident, transit personnel responded to the station and blocked off the platform temporarily “out of an abundance of caution.”
Transit officials then met with the contractor, who agreed to restore proper pumping to the worksite and add more protections, such as a dam, a new wall and waterproofing.
The contractor agreed to have more personnel on site during major storms. NYCT, for their part, also pledged to have more personnel on site.
James, however, is demanding that New Lines Structures and Civetta Construction, the companies responsible for the construction work, produce “relevant documents,” including contracts, for the probe.
“These companies are hired to improve conditions without jeopardizing public safety,” she said in a statement. “Yet, I am deeply concerned that instead they may have created a treacherous environment for New Yorkers in this incident.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris said in a statement that the Court Square incident is “another horrible” example of the dangers riders face.
“In this case, people were nearly killed due to the negligence of a private corporation which must be held to account,” he said. “In situations like this, too much deference is typically afforded to faceless corporate entities to the detriment of the public.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said in a statement that while it’s a good thing that they’re building a new entrance and elevator to the Court Square entrance, the contractor must be held accountable.
“New Yorkers demand answers from the contractor and more oversight from the MTA,” he said.