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South Ferry station showing wear as leaks seep through walls

(Photo by Tiffany L. Clark)

The $527 million South Ferry subway station is only a year old, but you wouldn’t know it from the falling and stained tiles.

The new terminus of the No. 1 line has sprung some leaks, and while the MTA is patching up the problems, the dripping water could stay for good.

“If it’s leaking already, I think they did a sloppy job,” said Elsie Alvarado, 56, a Bronx straphanger. “If you’re going to do something, do it right.”

Brown water stains have streamed down the gleaming white tiles on several of the platform and mezzanine walls, and 20 tiles have fallen off by one of the escalators.

“It’s unfortunate. Things usually don’t get drier over time,” said William Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

As part of the reconstruction of lower Manhattan begun in 2003, the old, cramped South Ferry station underwent a dramatic makeover, vastly increasing the amount of space for straphangers and speeding up service on the No. 1 line. More than 14,000 riders used the station on average weekdays, according to 2008 statistics. 

“The opening of South Ferry is a milestone in revitalizing lower Manhattan,” Sen. Charles Schumer said when the station opened last March.

But the contractor, Schiavone Construction of Secaucus, botched the waterproofing for the station, which is located deep under the water table, according to the MTA’s independent engineer. For its part, Schiavone claimed that the MTA had flubbed the project’s design. An independent dispute board ruled last year that both parties were at fault and must share costs for the remediation.

"They gotta fix what the problem is," said Jay Ferrer, 37, a Lower Manhattan straphanger.

Schiavone did not return a request for comment. Next month, the MTA will grout and add new tiles to the station with $3 million, which came from the contractor as part of the settlement, agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. The grouting should cure the problem, he said.

“Water infiltration will be addressed,” he said.

But the leaking could continue, as workers will basically fill in joint cracks instead of reengineering the station with better waterproofing technology, Henderson said.

“The station is a big improvement over what was there before, but you shouldn’t have that kind of leakage,” Henderson said. “Chances are it won’t be watertight.”

Taneish Hamilton contributed to this story.

South Ferry Station:
- Cost $527 million

- Opened last March

- Replaced a cramped station dating back to 1905

- First subway stop to open since 1989

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