The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Water Main Break Floods Central Park West, Cripples Subway

By DNAinfo Staff on September 19, 2011 11:40am  | Updated on September 19, 2011 6:29pm

By Leslie Albrecht, Jeff Mays and Adam Nichols

DNAinfo Staff

UPPER WEST SIDE — A massive water main break turned Central Park West into a river Monday, sending a cascade of water gushing northward that crippled subway service across Manhattan and flooded basements on the Upper West Side.

The break occurred just after 11 a.m. on a 30-inch water main beneath Central Park West and West 106th Street. A nearby resident said he heard a loud splash, followed by a noise that sounded like a waterfall, then looked outside to see his block flooded.

The intersection was blocked to traffic as dozens of emergency vehicles converged on the scene. Residents lined the sidewalk to take photos of a geyser shooting out of a deep gash in the street on the north side of West 106th Street just west of Central Park West.

"It was an amazing scene," said Eli G., a 40-year-old fashion designer who lives at 467 Central Park West, near West 107th Street. "I was shocked."

Chunks of asphalt from the buckled street floated past in the river of water coursing down Central Park West, and the force of the water toppled a parked motorcycle on Central Park West, he said.

The rear courtyard of 467 Central Park West was flooded, and at least a few inches of water seeped into the basement, he said.

The torrent forced the MTA to suspend service on the entire length of the B and C subway lines after stations from West 103rd to West 125th Street were flooded, an MTA spokesman said. Severe service disuptions also affected the A and D lines, and commuters were warned to find other routes as rush hour approached.

An Office of Emergency Management official said the A,B,C, and D line's 125th Street station was hit with a wave of water measuring six to eight feet that swept downhill into the station Monday. The water main break also caused smoke to enter the 125th Street station, an MTA spokesman said.

No one was injured or taken to the hospital.

An FDNY spokesman said the water also affected "many" basements. Among them was an apartment building at 461 Central Park West, where crews pumped murky water out of the building as resident Joe Friehammer watched from the sidewalk.

Friehammer said the basement level contained the building's laundry room, a "brand new" exercise room that was probably ruined and an apartment where the building's superintendent lived.

Friehammer said he was heartsick when he heard that at least two feet of water had gushed into his superintendent's apartment.

"I feel terrible," Friehammer said. "He's a good guy, and he's a great super. He fixes things right away, unlike 99 percent of New York City superintendents."

Friehammer brought his super lunch and said he planned to give him money.

The gush of water started about 11:08 a.m. when the water main, a cast iron pipe from 1917, ruptured, said Carter Strickland, the commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

"I heard a big splash, it was like a waterfall," said Jean Carlos Valentin, 19, who lives on 107th Street at Central Park West. "

Jose Polanco, 73, said he was afraid his building on West 107th Street and Central Park West would collapse as the knee-high water rushed past. "I have never seen anything like that in all my years of living in this building," he said.

George Ivolin, a resident of 467 Central Park West, said he was worried about his Jeep, which was parked in a flooded garage next to where the water main broke. "I'm sure the car is not going to be in great condition," he said.

Crews turned off the broken main and stopped the flow of water by 12:15 p.m., Strickland said.

Some customers briefly lost water supply in their homes, but service was back on within an hour, he said.

The portion of the water main that broke on Monday was a trunk line, which supplies water to the Upper West Side, not just to the buildings around Central Park West and 106th Street.

The cast iron trunk line dates back to 1917, Strickland said.

However, he noted that several factors can contribute to a water main breaking, not just the age of the pipe. Extreme weather, freezing temperatures and construction all affect water mains. He said that the only way that officials will learn what caused Monday's break is to excavate the broken pipe and examine it.

Nearby residents said Monday that "filthy" brownish water came out of their faucets and toilets after the water main break. A DEP spokesman confirmed the reports, but said residents shouldn't be alarmed and that the water was safe to drink.

"It's not dangerous. It's not a public health risk," DEP spokesman Farrell Sklerov said.

When a trunk line breaks, other lines kick in to supply water to the affected buildings, stirring up sediment that results in the brown water, he said.

The Department of Buildings was on scene assessing whether there was any structural damage to nearby buildings, an OEM spokesman said.

The break occurred across just from 455 Central Park West, a former hospital that's now a high-end residential building where an apartment was on the market for $12.5 million, according to Curbed.

A doorman at 455 Central Park West said the building wasn't affected. A DEP worker at the scene said the building  probably wasn't damaged because water from the break flowed downhill toward Harlem, away from 455 Central Park West.