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NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYCNYC Subway Cars as Reefs. Photo via Gizmodo by Stephen Mallon

It can be easy to assume that the sole purpose for New York City subway cars is to transport passengers across the boroughs (yes, even Staten Island). However, the same subway cars that we associate with daily congestion and occasional delays have served a totally unexpected purpose: habitats for marine wildlife, as we showed previously in our Cities 101 column. Recently, Gizmodo published a spectacular set of photos depicting an onslaught of subway cars being discarded into the ocean. The photo series by Stephen Mallon, compiled over a three year period, will be on display at NYU’s Kimmel Galleries beginning February 6th.

.NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYC-2Photo by Stephen Mallon

NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYC-3Photo by Stephen Mallon

NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYC-4Photo by Stephen Mallon

Often the case of all technology, the wear and tear phase of a subway car becomes inevitable. When they become obsolete, subway cars are thrown into the ocean and repurposed into natural habitats for marine wildlife. Off the coast of Slaughter Beach, Delaware, there’s an artificial reef created from disposed New York City subway cars. The same cars that we rely on for public transportation become the breeding ground for underwater organisms, such as algae and coral, which cling themselves to hard surfaces.

NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYC-5Photo by Stephen Mallon

NYC Subway Cars-Reefs-Atlantic Ocean-Delaware-Stephen Mallon-Slaughter Beach-Photography-NYC-6Photo by Stephen Mallon


Photo by Stephen Mallon

While this may seem as a completely new concept, artificial reefs carved from manmade objects have been a thing of the past, dating all the way back to the nineteenth century. Various objects, such as railroad trains, tires, toilets and even boats have served a completely different purpose as marine based natural habitats.


Photo by Stephen Mallon

Read on for our Cities 101 column on making reefs out of obsolete subway cars

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