New York’s railroad tunnels flooded for first time in a century

By on November 5, 2012

By a railroad worker

Hurricane Sandy and capitalist disorganization have devastated railroads and transit lines serving New York and New Jersey.

The railroad tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers were flooded for the first time since they were opened in 1910. These tunnels connect New York City’s Pennsylvania Station with the rest of the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people use them every day, riding Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit commuter trains. Tens of thousands ride the Amtrak trains that use these tunnels, too.

Building these tunnels and Pennsylvania Station was a tremendous job that took years to complete. It’s not known how many workers were killed building them. Nobody even collected these grim statistics. At that time there were no safety laws or government agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that capitalist politicians claim “hinder business.”

The Pennsylvania Railroad bosses actually refused to commemorate the workers who were killed. They instead erected statues of two Pennsylvania Railroad presidents — Alexander Cassatt and Samuel Rea.

That’s what the world was like before the Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions, the 1930’s U.S. labor upsurge and the Black, Latino/a, Native and Asian liberation movements.

Capitalist vandalism and police murder

 

Now, workers are pumping out these tunnels and making sure they’re safe to use. Amtrak, which owns the tunnels, was able to start using the south tube under the Hudson three days after Hurricane Sandy hit. As of almost a week later, the north tube continues to be pumped out.

New York City, the capital of capitalism, is now connected to all the states west of it by just a single track. In the 102 years since these tunnels were opened, the capitalists have refused to build any additional railroad infrastructure.

The billionaire class can’t even construct a needed railroad freight tunnel under New York harbor — which was the reason the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was set up by Congress in 1920.

Two of the four railroad tunnels under the East River also continue to be closed. Many commuter trains will have to be cancelled. Because of the fantastically high cost of housing in New York City, many workers live elsewhere and must take these trains.

The original Pennsylvania Station was a magnificent palace modeled after the Baths of Caracalla in ancient Rome. The main waiting room — which extended from 33rd to 31st streets — was made of travertine marble from Tivoli, Italy.

The Pennsylvania Railroad built this station so the wealthy wouldn’t have to take a ferry across the Hudson. Sure, workers could buy tickets. But how many of those thousands employed in the garment district’s sweatshops could afford that?

With the advent of jet travel, the capitalists stopped taking luxury trains. They sloughed off money-losing passenger trains to state government commuter agencies and Amtrak.

To make a few bucks, the Pennsylvania Railroad bosses starting tearing down their palace in 1963. Imposing station statues carved by workers were thrown into New Jersey swamps. It was outrage over the destruction of Pennsylvania Station that sparked historical preservation laws across the United States.

Twenty years after this wanton act of capitalist vandalism, Michael Stewart — an African-American graffiti artist — was beaten to death by 11 white cops in Manhattan’s First Avenue subway station. Stewart died on Sept. 28, 1983.

The capitalist media continue to smear graffiti artists while capitalist global warming will produce two, three, many Hurricanes Sandy.

A transit system’s Ku Klux Klan boss

The PATH transit tunnels — which connect Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark with Manhattan — are now completely flooded.  Workers are pumping them out around the clock. They will probably be shut down for weeks.

This is a tremendous blow to workers in Hoboken, Jersey City and the rest of New Jersey’s Hudson County. Every weekday more than 250,000 passengers take the PATH trains. Among them are New Jersey Transit passengers who take these trains from the Hoboken and Newark railroad stations.

The PATH tunnels were opened in 1908 and 1909 as part of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad. Twenty workers were killed in 1880 building a tunnel from Hoboken, which was completed 28 years later.

The promoter of the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad was William McAdoo. This character became President Woodrow Wilson’s Treasury secretary and helped create the Federal Reserve System. He married Wilson’s daughter, Eleanor Randolph Wilson, in the White House.

McAdoo also showed the notoriously racist movie, “Birth of a Nation,” to Wilson in the White House. This film glorified the original Ku Klux Klan terrorists who overthrew the Reconstruction governments and helped promote the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

In 1924, McAdoo became the Klan candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Klan supporters were able to prevent the nomination of New York Gov. Al Smith, who four years later became the first Catholic presidential candidate.

McAdoo later became a U.S. senator from California with the backing of William Randolph Hearst’s media empire.

Hurricane Sandy has shown how vulnerable and limited the transportation system that services nearly 20 million people in New York’s metropolitan area is. At least 100,000 workers need to be hired immediately to clean up the mess.

The capitalists are only concerned with their own profits. Working and poor people need to take over society. We need what Cuba has: people’s power.

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