POINT LOOKOUT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – New York is expanding its artificial reef program, but instead of using subway cars like we’ve seen in the past, rail cars are being dropped in.

CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis explains why the change was made.

DeAngelis boarded a boat at Point Lookout, riding more than three miles off shore. There, she saw a 42,000 pound rail car getting dropped in the ocean.

Fifteen more followed, along with a steel turbine, and a slowly sinking tugboat.

“We’re taking material that doesn’t exist as living material, dropping it in the water, and it immediately becomes living material. Just like a normal reef,” said New York Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.

All of it to create an artificial reef: The Hempstead Reef.

New York has 12 existing artificial reef sites, each giving new life to old equipment, like scraps from the old Tappan Zee Bridge, and in this case rail cars.

“At one time they used subway cars for reef material. Subway cars, commuter rail cars, LIRR are now made out of aluminum, and that doesn’t last and can actually be destroyed by current. So these are rail cars that carry lumber, heavy material, they’re all heavy steel, they’ll be here long after we are all gone,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

At first sight, it may seem like a bunch of garbage. But when you ask the environmental experts?

“This is all well thought out. These are all extremely cleaned items, and they’re specially placed so they’re creating infrastructure. In a quick matter of weeks and months, we’re seeing sea life rebound,” said Bill Ulfelder, executive director of Nature Conservancy in New York.

PHOTOS: Old Rail Cars, Heavy Equipment Used To Create Artificial Reef Off Long Island

That’s because it creates a new home for marine life that quickly moves in.

“You’ll see primarily black sea bass, scup, and summer flounder or fluke,” said Tony DiLernia of Rocket Charters. “It will make it easier to catch fish, increase our ability to catch fish. It’s a plus. It really is for the charter boat business.”

Not to mention it’s great for tourism on Long Island which, in the midst of a pandemic, will take all the help it can get.

“You’re adding something exciting for a critical part of what people love to do when they come to Long Island, and that’s be on the water and be in the water, and now be under the water,” said Kristen Jarnagin, president and CEO of Discover Long Island.

Making a splash for the economy at a time we need it most.

Cuomo said it is all surplus equipment. For example, the rail cars have been donated by Wells Fargo.

The only cost to doing this is the barge that drops the equipment, which Cuomo says is a “minimal cost.”

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