NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Today MTA crews will start inspecting all of the protective metal baskets placed underneath elevated subway tracks as a growing number of vehicles are getting damaged by falling debris.
It’s happened more than a dozen times this year, and CBS2’s Lisa Rozner is learning the agency has yet to reimburse most of those drivers.
“You guys need to do better, it’s not only me, it’s happening to everybody,” said driver Angelic Guerrero.
Guerrero, whose parked car was struck by two rusty brackets in may, was not surprised to hear Tuesday night a 15-pound chunk of metal smashed through the window of a livery cab pulled over on Liberty Avenue in Ozone Park.
“All you heard was a huge thing go ‘boom!’” witness Anthony Olivencia told CBS2. “I just literately left that spot 15 seconds before it happened.”
“I’m very sorry for whoever’s car that was,” said Transit Authority President Andy Byford. “That’s unacceptable, that should not be happening.”
MTA officials say they already check for track problems every two days. But over the next week, they will be hand-checking 325,000 metal baskets across 60 miles of elevated tracks.
No one was hurt, but the cab’s rear windshield was shattered as the driver sat inside stunned.
“I heard a loud sound in the back of my car. It scared me, and when I looked, the glass was broken,” driver Ana Leonardo said in Spanish.
Transit officials confirmed the piece of metal that fell, called a D-wedge, broke free from the elevated tracks and crashed through the protective basket underneath that was supposed to catch it.
“The basket was half-secured. It was hanging halfway off,” said Byford. Andy Byford.
There have been more than a dozen incidents of falling debris in Queens this year alone.
Amid active train service on Wednesday, workers at 125th Street tightened bolts and checked on metal baskets and netting intended to catch falling pieces.
It’s little consolation to Philip Garcia, who just last week had a rusty bolt crash through his sunroof under Queensboro Plaza’s tracks where there was metal netting.
His insurance policy doesn’t cover glass, so he told CBS2 by phone he had to shell out $800 for a temporary fix.
“It was raining this past week, so I couldn’t just leave it open,” said Garcia. “It could have flooded the car.”
In the meantime, he’s filing a claim with the MTA for reimbursement.
Guerrero says she did that several months ago and she’s still waiting. The single mom is now out $2,000.
“The parking lot alone was $200, the glass alone was $500, that’s $700,” she said. “That’s not including the Ubers that I had to pay for.
“They don’t return messages,” said Guerrero, who is frustrated trying to get things back to normal. “I have to wait for their mistake. I didn’t go up on the train track and unscrew debris.”
CBS2 asked the agency if it would commit to covering Guerrero’s Uber rides, but a spokesperson would only say that the agency won’t process claims for reimbursement in the press.
For now, the MTA says Byford has directed his staff to express the processing of any claims for falling debris.
“We are dealing with gravity, and items sometimes become loose because of vibration,” Byford said. “But at the end of the day, one piece of debris falling off the overhead is one piece too many.”
Transit officials also say they are trying to speed up the installation of roughly 1.5 miles of netting to act as a backup safeguard.