HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The majestic waiting room at the Hoboken train station reopened Monday, more than five weeks since its closure due to concerns about mold caused by flooding spawned by Superstorm Sandy.
After re-opening the room in November, NJ TRANSIT closed the room on Dec. 19 after specialists detected the presence of mold.
Officials then gave it a much more thorough restoration with the help of experts who deal with historic preservation, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
The room and the rest of the massive low-lying terminal next to the Hudson River, where 60,000 NJ TRANSIT, PATH and ferry customers pass through every day, was inundated with several feet of water from Sandy at the end of October.
The wood fixtures and benches remained covered with plastic Monday, and require further cleaning and refinishing. But the waiting room has a temporary heating source and seating, albeit sparse.
“We felt that our passengers’ safety is more important than opening it quickly,” said NJ TRANSIT executive director James Weinstein, who walked through the station handing out coupons for free coffee Monday during the early evening commute.
There was nothing like a cold, rainy winter day to reopen the heated waiting room.
“I’m happy,” said one rider. “It’s cold out there.”
The rider, Pat from Rutherford, was pleased to regain some commuter comfort, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.
“It’s not a finished product yet, but it’s warm,” Pat said.
Weinstein said it will be a few months before the wooden benches, ticket counter and restrooms are open.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to bring this facility back to a state of good repair,” he said.
NJ TRANSIT’s rolling stock, terminals, tracks, signals and other infrastructure suffered $400 million in damage from the storm, according to the agency’s estimates. Weinstein has told lawmakers that $800 million more would be needed to safeguard the system against future flooding.
Some of the damages will be covered by insurance, particularly the damage to the rail cars and locomotives, an NJ TRANSIT spokesman said. The agency is looking to FEMA to cover the rest.
There is work to be done. The NJ TRANSIT terminal is still running generator power, the trains are running on diesel fuel and electricity won’t be back for another month.
As commuters hurried through the station Monday, many seemed not to notice that the waiting room was open. Others rushed through from the ferry to connecting trains and looked around briefly.
One woman noticed Weinstein and some television cameras and asked someone what was happening. When told, her mood brightened.
“Hallelujah!” she said.
Regular commuters like “Susan” said it’s a special place, especially when it’s so cold outside and you’ve got time to kill.
“It’s lovely. I mean, the ceiling, the stained glass and the skylight is beautiful. The clock is very old,” she said.
(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)