Stillwell Terminal Remains a Sparkling Jewel a Decade after Full Rehabilitation
May 20th, 2014
Ten years after its completion, MTA New York City Transit’s second Stillwell Terminal shines as brightly as ever, providing a visually attractive gateway to Coney Island, though its promise of sunlight-generated electric power has been temporarily snuffed – a lingering effect of damage caused by Super Storm Sandy.
Stillwell Terminal is the largest above-ground station in New York City’s subway system and the largest rapid-transit terminal in the world. Its arched-truss structure covers eight tracks and four platforms and is the southern terminal for the and Lines. Opened May 29, 1919, the-original facility was built to support trains of the Sea Beach, Brighton, West End, and Culver lines. With its distinctive green, white and red BMT Lines sign, the grand façade was a familiar presence on Surf Avenue for decades, and the terminal's interior space at street level was lined with retail shops that reflected the area’s seaside amusement park character.
After decades of heavy use, however, the exposure to sea and salt-air took a toll on the concrete and steel structure. A 1989 study by NYC Transit’s Capital Program Management (CPM) determined that time, neglect and the elements had deteriorated Stillwell Terminal to a point where repair was not feasible; a complete replacement would be necessary. The study also recommended that the terminal’s concrete-encased viaduct be replaced with an open-deck/exposed steel structure. This design would provide better drainage, thereby reducing water damage. The design was also more typical of most elevated stations.
Work on the massive $310 million project began in 2001, and featured a full rehabilitation of the terminal. The most notable feature was the addition of a solar-cell panel roof shed designed to provide about 15% of the facility's electrical power. The nearly 80,000 square-foot train shed with integrated photovoltaic panels was designed for on-site generation of about 210 kilowatts of electricity for the terminal’s power needs not associated with running trains – equal to the annual power for 40 single-family homes.
The new construction also included a new portal building with the restored “BMT” terra cotta façade, and a 300-foot Arts for Transit structural glass wall with embedded Coney Island images. The project was part of NYC Transit’s 2000 - 2004, $10 billion Capital Program.
“Stillwell Terminal has an incredible history and has been a key part of the Coney Island community for nearly a century. The rehabilitation meshes well with the resurgence of the surrounding neighborhood and is the premiere example of a 21st century rapid transit terminal,” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “As an agency, we are committed to providing efficient transit services while also improving the aesthetics and durability of a one hundred year- old system.”
Recognizing that Coney Island’s economy depended largely upon visitors coming to the area by subway, the work was completed as a result of an ambitious, 42-month construction schedule. Meanwhile, a robust shuttle bus operation was created and neighborhood stakeholders were kept informed of the project’s progress by NYC Transit’s Office of Government Affairs and Community Relations.
Unfortunately, the supporting electrical equipment at Stillwell Terminal was severely damaged as a result of salt water generated by Super Storm Sandy and the system has been off-line since October 2012. Though the photovoltaic panels were undamaged, electrical equipment was severely damaged when the terminal was flooded at street level. Plans are currently underway for the system’s rehabilitation.
A major proponent of the development of sustainable infrastructure, NYC Transit has several other photovoltaic solar sites including The Gun Hill Bus Depot, the Corona Maintenance Shop, 74th Roosevelt Station, and several lubrication houses (which help reduce subway screech around curves) with solar power panels providing the electricity.