The original New York City Subway line was built by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) and opened in 1904.  The 59th Street Powerhouse, better known as the IRT Powerhouse, stretches from 58th and 59th Streets, and Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues, taking up an entire city block in Manhattan. At the time it was built, it was the largest powerhouse in the world and it represented the most advanced and sophisticated technology for the production of electrical power. The original generating equipment were ten Allis-Chalmers reciprocating steam engines. Unfortunately, the rapid development of steam turbine technology made the 59th Street Power House technically obsolete even before it was completed.  Turbine units were immediately installed to augment to electrical output of the engines with greater efficiency. The population of NYC was becoming mobile, and the power house was used to provide electricity to New York’ first subway system, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit System, later known as the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit System (BMT subway).

Since the subway system required less electricity to run effectively, the IRT Powerhouse was sold to Consolidated Edison and became a steam-generating plan in 1959, and still is a source of steam power for Manhattan that is used for heating, cooling, and sterilization in large city buildings, including the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, hospitals, schools, and the United Nations.

Consolidated Edison 59th Street Powerhouse – Astoria

59th Street IRT Powerstation

Because of its size, impressive architecture, and pivotal location, the IRT Powerhouse has been added to New York’s list of endangered treasures. Efforts to designate it as a historical landmark have been ongoing, and the first public hearing was held at the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1979.  Consolidated Edison has opposed these efforts, claiming it would be more difficult and expensive for them to modify and operate the system, because they would be required to maintain and preserve the IRT Powerhouse, without alerting the façade and structure of the building. According to the Hudson River Powerhouse website, Consolidated Edison has played a major role in the deterioration of the IRT Powerhouse by cutting holes in the exterior walls, demolished the cornice and smokestacks, and punched out windows.”

Since 1995, the attorneys at Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC have been helping clients in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and across New York State who have been injured due to asbestos exposure. Through our tireless efforts, we have helped to shape and reform asbestos laws throughout the state of New York. We have a full team of lawyers devoted to representing people exposed to asbestos.

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