Why New York's Old Subway Cars Were Dumped In The Ocean

You won't believe your eyes.

Stephen Mallon, shot by Kathy Ryan
Stephen Mallon, shot by Kathy Ryan

In 2007, photographer Stephen Mallon uncovered something fascinating taking place in the waters off of the East Coast. New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority was dumping old Redbird subway cars into the ocean. But why?

Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

Apparently, the subway cars were being used off the coast of a number of states to create new, artificial habitats for marine life beneath the waves.

Stepehen Mallon
Stepehen Mallon

At the time, Mallon was working on a project called "American Reclamation," shooting industrial landscapes that included a paper mill and a recycling plant.

After reading about the MTA's ongoing reef construction and stumbling across a barge in New Jersey, he came to the conclusion that "re-use of space and material was a smooth transition" to his next project.

Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

But before the MTA and its partners released the cars into the ocean, there was a lot of work to do.

"They spend a month cleaning the cars, removing the windows, seats, motors, electric, and more. They are then seperated from the truck ( that's the part of the train carriage that houses the motor and wheels) and lifted onto a barge for recycling," Mallon told A+.

Stephen Mallon: “Dont do this”
Stephen Mallon: "Dont do this"
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

Some photos of Mallon's photos were taken from a crane as cars were being loaded, others were taken on the barge itself and the close up shots were taken from a separate crew boat.

Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

Above, a subway car sinks to the bottom of the ocean to begin its next life as an artificial habitat.

Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

Overall, Mallon stated that over 2500 subway cars have been dumped in the ocean as of today and that sea life has begun to adapt to the cars New Yorkers once relied on for their morning commutes.

"They're basically luxury condominiums for fish," Jeff Tinsman, a program manager for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, told The New York Times.

Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon
Stephen Mallon

One day, Mallon wishes to visit the subway cars at the bottom of the ocean for a new photoshoot. He says he will bring a team along with him so they can properly light the area.

All Images courtesy of Stephen Mallon and Front Room Gallery.  The image "Dont do this" will be featured along with other work by Mallon in the solo exhibition  "Patterns of Interest" at NYU's Kimmel Galleries from Feb. 6 to March 15.

Be sure to follow Mallon on his Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. You can also visit the Front Room website for more photography here