INTRO: Solar panels are now a distinctive feature of New York City Transit’s Stillwell Avenue station, which has been completely rebuilt by a joint venture of Granite Halmar and Schiavone Construction Co Inc

BYLINE: Kim Begonja

Granite Halmar/Schiavone joint venture

CONEY Island’s Stillwell Avenue station was opened in 1919, with four island platforms serving eight elevated tracks on the Sea Beach, Brighton, West End and Culvert lines. After over 80 years of service in the salt-laden coastal air, structural deterioration and general neglect left MTA New York City Transit with no choice but to completely replace this major interchange.

A joint venture of Granite Halmar and Schiavone was selected for the project, and began a $199m three-phase reconstruction of the station on October 4 2001, with the completion date set for June 24 2005. This fast-paced schedule, the scope of the work, and in particular the requirement to keep the station operational at all times, made this a unique and challenging project.

The joint venture partners erected over 6350 tonnes of structural steel and poured more than 8400m3 of concrete, as well as carrying out carpentry and demolition. More than 30 subcontracts worth $50000 to $24m were let.

The station’s signalling and communications have been replaced, and the power and electrical systems completely reconstructed. There are now 14 maintenance and operating facilities at the site, including one which is elevated over the tracks.

Photovoltaic canopy

A distinctive feature of the station is the 110m long triple-vaulted canopy. This incorporates 2730 photovoltaic semi-transparent glass panels, providing sustainable power for lighting and other non-traction needs. Designed by Kiss + Cathcart Architects, the glass and steel canopy with a surface of over 7000m2 is expected to produce a 250000 kWh annual contribution to reducing the station’s environmental impact.

The station Scada network monitors the power generated by the individual panels at all times, predicting and modelling future energy production. Continuous lighting at the platform level is provided for passengers, and at night uplighters will shine through the glass roof panels, creating a spectacle in the area to rival a nearby Ferris wheel, roller coaster and baseball stadium.

A bird protection system is installed on the shed trusses to train birds to avoid the glass canopy and keep them away from the public areas. Three mobile gantries on roof-mounted rails provide access for panel replacement and cleaning.

Three phases

Work on the project was divided into three phases with milestone completion dates. Co-ordination between the civil, architectural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing works was an ongoing process, requiring open lines of communication between the general contractor, subcontractors and owner NYC Transit. Over 750 requests for information and 4250 submittals were received during the project.

The first phase covered the relocation of NYC Transit staff to temporary facilities within the station, and the reconstruction of track 1.

Continuing through the frigid winter months which can hamper construction work, the 16-month Phase 2 saw the reconstruction of tracks 2 to 6, demolition and reconstruction of existing on-site facilities, construction of three new platforms and related amenities, and rebuilding of the main ticket control areas. An electrical substation was constructed, and the majority of the signal and communication modifications carried out. Around 70% of the steel trainshed was erected in this phase.

The parts of the station rebuilt in the second phase opened to the public on schedule on May 21 2004, with a heritage train pulling into the station while local politicians, NYC Transit officials, construction staff and management celebrated in the newly- opened control area.

Phase 3 included the construction of platform 4, and the erection over tracks 7 and 8 of the remaining 30% of the train shed with its photovoltaic panels and associated electrical components. The photovoltaic system was commissioned, along with two lifts and maintenance and operational facilities.

Throughout the modernisation programme the lines adjacent to tracks 2 and 6 remained operational, making joint planning and co-ordination with NYC Transit the key to success. Unobstructed passage was needed for Coney Island’s commuters, and temporary shelters were erected and moved around the site during the project to facilitate demolition activities while accommodating the passengers.

CAPTION: LEFT:Stillwell Avenue on Coney Island is MTA New York City Transit’s largest above-ground station, serving four subway lines

ABOVE: A 110m long triple-vaulted canopy covers the station’s four island platforms

CAPTION: Power from photovoltaic cells incorporated in the station roof will be used to illuminate the station to rival the nearby Ferris wheel