44 More Subway Cars Sunk Off Coast

OCEAN CITY – As anticipated, the latest batch of retired New York City subway cars were dropped on Ocean City’s growing artificial reef system early yesterday morning as planned as the weather conditions cooperated with the deployment.

Ocean City Reef Foundation officials, along with representatives from the state’s own artificial reef program, rendezvoused off the coast of the resort early yesterday morning with barge from New York City carrying 44 of the retired subway cars and supervised their deployment over the areas designated for the latest deployment. The majority of the new batch were dropped over an area about six miles off the coast simply called the “research reef” for now, while about 15-18 of the cars were used to fill in a small box of permitted reef site near an established tugboat wreck not far from the other deployment.

“We’ve got a brand new reef,” said Captain Monty Hawkins, who has been instrumental in Ocean City’s artificial reef program in general, and the procurement of the retired subway cars specifically. “We started this process around a decade ago and laid the groundwork, and now it is really starting to take shape.”

The Ocean City Reef Foundation started raising funds for the project a year ago when it learned as many as 600 of the retired subway cars would become available for the artificial reef system off the coast of Maryland. The fundraising effort got a major jumpstart with a $50,000 private donation from fishing enthusiasts Jack and Susan Power, whose generous gift was used to fund the first barge containing 44 of the cars last May. Those cars were lowered on a permitted site near the famous “Jackspot” about 19 miles offshore to become a new artificial reef called the Susan J. Power Reef in honor of its donor.

A second batch of 46 retired subway cars was deployed on the Bass Grounds artificial reef site in November. The third batch that arrived yesterday was deployed in roughly the same area, filling in blank spots along the vast area of ocean floor.

Maryland is in a rotation with several other mid-Atlantic states as recipients of the retired subway cars along with Delaware, New Jersey and Virginia, which received its latest installment in December. Because of the vast amount of space needed to prepare and store the cars on a site near the New York harbor, the process has been expedited in recent months, which is why Ocean City’s turn came up so fast.

“This whole process has been very, very cool,” said Hawkins yesterday. “It will take a couple of years to grow to fruition, but if we keep putting this substrate down, it will happen. It’s happening already.”