A construction worker walks along the Eastbound cavern of the East Side Access about 70 feet below street level under Grand Central Terminal (Photo by Craig Ruttle)
When it comes to the stuff it doesn’t need, the MTA really knows how to throw a garage sale.
The cash-strapped agency saves big bucks and helps the environment by selling or recycling everything from old train signs to unearthed dirt. The MTA is exemplary in repurposing what it’s got, said Robert Paaswell, president of the University Transportation Research Center at CUNY.
“They have to cannibalize what’s there. They need the money,” Paaswell said.
Since 2008, NYC Transit has stripped its vintage buses naked of parts that can still be used, lifting off transmissions, seats and 80 other items that are hauled off to garages. Thousands of gallons of diesel have been sucked out of the vehicles before they are sold to a contractor for about $1,000 a pop.
“(The buses) look like a turkey carcass after Thanksgiving,” said Joe Smith, vice president of transit’s bus division.
The contractor shreds the buses with giant scissors, separating the materials with magnets and selling it as scrap. The MTA will save about $12 million this year by recycling the bus parts, transit officials said.
Digging the Long Island Rail Road extension to Grand Central unearthed something surprisingly useful: untainted soil. Developers of tennis courts and playgrounds are eager to scoop up pure dirt, and 100,000 tons of it from the East Side Access project was used to landscape the recently opened Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. A further 30,000 tons of the muck will be used for future work there, he said.
“It’s in demand,” said Andrew Thompson, construction manager for East Side Access, which has ripped through more than 100,000 cubic yards of rock underneath Grand Central.
The MTA has lots of water on its hands, pumping out 8 million gallons of it from the subways — and that’s on a dry day. The agency currently dumps all that water down the sewers, which they have to pay the city to treat.
The MTA hopes to unload some of the deluge off on manufacturers located near subway stations that need water, or use it to nourish green roofs. The water could also be tapped to power geothermal pumps that would heat offices, NYC Transit officials recently said. It’s unclear how much the MTA stands to make from the water as it’s yet to be implemented, but it should save cash it currently pays the city.
“It’s wasted water and wasted energy, so they are looking for other uses,” said John Rhyner, an environmental consultant.
Currently, the agency harvests rainwater to wash buses at facilities in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
MTA for sale:
A sampling of what the agency is currently hocking:
Gray train seat: $500
B line sign: $350
Subway entrance globe: $200
Illuminated A train sign: $155
Train map with casing: $150
Subway car door: $125
Train horn: $75
Subway pole: $25
Vintage Bullseye token: $2
amNY's suggestions of other things the MTA can sell to make money:
- Autographed photos of riders¹ favorite track rats.
- Old amNewYorks left in trains. (Collect them all!)
- Dr. Zizmore ads, which can be repurposed for ironic hipster T-Shirts.
- The G train. It's so sporadic that it's almost useless.
- Service advisory signs. Apparently there¹s enough from the past year alone
to build a life-sized paper mache of the earth.