| The Reconstruction
of St. Felix Street
OWNER: New York City Department of Transportation,
Division of Bridges, NYC
ARCHITECT: Kuplec Architects, NYC
STRUCTURAL, CIVIL & SURVEY ENGINEER: Vollmer
GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER: Muesser Rutledge Consulting
HISTORIC PRESERVATION CONSULTANT: Jablonski Berkowitz
Conservation Inc., NYC
HISTORIC RESEARCH CONSULTANT: Allee King Rosen &
Fleming Inc., NYC
FACADE CONSULTANT: Feld, Kaminetzky & Cohen,
GENERAL CONTRACTOR (PHASE 1: GROUTING): Nicholson
Picone, a joint venture, Lawrence, NY
GENERAL CONTRACTOR (PHASE 2: STREET & BUILDING RESTORATION):
Tully Construction Co., Flushing, NY
SPONSORING AGENCY: Landmarks Preservation Commission,
St. Felix Street was a quiet, historic street located over
a subway line in Brooklyn until January 23, 1997 when an 8-in.-dia.
water main broke and a century's worth of problems surfaced.
Street conditions became hazardous and adjacent residences
were put in danger. Front stoops even separated from their
buildings and facades began to buckle.
With the stability of the buildings in question, subway traffic
was temporarily halted and the New York City Department of
Transportation (NYCDOT) issued an emergency declaration. Within
a week, an emergency forensic investigation was performed
and plans were developed for the reconstruction of St. Felix
Investigation of the conditions of the problems revealed that
the street had sunk 2 ft. in some locations, indicating a
huge amount of displaced soil. Inspection of the sewers under
the street followed, including a 14-ft.-dia. abandoned brick
sewer, over 1,000 ft. of sewer lines, subway tunnels, a pump
station and 24 homes.
The mystery of the missing soil required further investigation.
With the cooperation of public agencies and private utility
firms, all available records were searched, including historical
records. This led to the discovery that the problem actually
began 75 years earlier.
The story began in 1916 when a tunnel was constructed for
the Brighton Beach line, 60 ft. below the surface of St. Felix
Street. The surface of the street was replaced with a wooden
deck supported on a latticework of timber trestles. This allowed
the contractor to build the tunnel and proceed with work in
the trench beneath the street. On April 17, 1917, the deck
system collapsed, killing at least two people. Soil borings
and test pits strongly suggested that the timber form the
collapsed deck was left I the trench and the rest of the trench
was filled wit loose dirt and debris, leaving huge voids below
the street surface. Over 75 years, the soil shifted into the
voids wreaking havoc on the water mains. The water from the
broken mains washed away even more soil, and ultimately the
Once the problem was discovered, a two-stage construction
plan was developed. The plan called for filling in the voids
in the street's subsurface and above the subway using cement-like
grout. Next, 4 ft. of soil immediately below the street surface
was replaced with compacted soil. Then, a new street surface
was placed down. The end result was a stabilization of the
upper street level.
To minimize disruption to area residents, coordination and
support with public agencies and private utilities was required.
Furthermore, extensive work with the New York City Landmarks
Commission was required since the street is in an historic
area. Historic research helped in the restoration of the streetscape
and rehabilitation of area structures.
The jury said the reconstruction of St. Felix Street was "a
long, deferred project that was finally rehabilitated."
They also called it "a very complex project whose project
team members faced technical challenges such as keeping the
Brooklyn Academy of Music operational and building near subways."