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Water Main Break Floods 23rd Street, Disrupting Subway and Water Service

By  Joe Parziale Aidan Gardiner Julie  Shapiro and Ben Fractenberg | February 1, 2013 11:36am | Updated on February 1, 2013 6:30pm

FLATIRON — A water main break flooded the 23rd Street subway station on Fifth Avenue Friday, causing major delays on the N, Q and R lines and leaving many surrounding homes, businesses and schools with low water pressure, officials said.

Hours after the water main break at East 23rd Street and Broadway, subway service remained disrupted and buildings as far away as TriBeCa and Greenwich Village reported problems with their water supply.

"The effects of the water main break are being widely felt in NYU’s facilities," Alison Leary, NYU's executive vice president for operations, wrote in an email to the school community. "As water in roof-top tanks is used up, issues of hygiene will emerge."

NYU shut down all dining centers at 3 p.m. and advised faculty to cancel classes if necessary, the email said. More than a dozen residence halls were without water Friday afternoon, the university said.

Shannon Healion, 20, said the water was off at her dorm at 14th Street and Third Avenue.

"It's really frustrating," she said. "We were at the gym and now can't shower."

Healion was already going to her parents' house on Long Island for the weekend so planned to shower there. But she said her roommate was calling friends, trying to find someone with water.

The Department of Environmental Protection denied that any Manhattan customers were without water.

"Because of the water main break, some people might be experiencing low water pressure, but we are working to address that issue," said Mercedes Padilla, a DEP spokeswoman.

"Everybody has water — it's just that some areas might be experiencing low water pressure."

Padilla said crews were working to restore full water pressure by early evening. She did not have an estimate of the number of customers affected.

The rupture occurred just after 10:30 a.m., sending 750 gallons of water per minute coursing along 23rd Street until the main was cut off, the MTA said.

It's unclear what caused the break.

The 36-inch, cast-iron pipe was installed in 1915, Padilla said, and while old, it isn't nearly as old as some of the city's other mains that were installed shortly after the Civil War, said Jim Roberts, Department of Environmental Protection deputy commissioner.

"It's an old main, that's for certain," Roberts said. "Whether it's the cause or not, we're still looking into that."

No one was injured in the incident, an FDNY official said on scene.

Crews raced to repair the main and pump out the 23rd Street subway station, but the effects of the break continued to be felt hours later.

A management company with apartment buildings in Lower Manhattan said the office had received many calls from tenants with no water or low water pressure.

And community liaisons with the Department of Design and Construction, who work on unrelated water main projects in TriBeCa and the South Street Seaport, sent emails to local residents saying they had heard of complaints about water service in those neighborhoods.

As of Friday evening, Q trains were running normally, while N trains were running on the local R line between DeKalb Avenue and Canal Street and then express in both directions between Canal Street and 57th Street-Seventh Avenue, the MTA's website.

The R rain was running along the F line between 36th Street in Queens and 34th Street-Herald Square, where it switched onto the D line until it reached DeKalb Avenue, according to the MTA's website.

The station needed to be assessed for damage before normal service could resume, according to an MTA spokesman.

Service disruptions were expected to be cleared up by late Friday evening, the MTA said.

Officials said that crews will be working to repair the damaged main.

"It will take several days at a minimum before we're able to get this fixed and restored," Roberts said.