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.

.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.

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.

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

 Cities 101, Stephen Mallon, subway

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