Unsolved Mystery: Howling Subway Fan Plant Silenced
With imnotsayin headquarters anchoring Northside Williamsburg's waterfront, the MTA's North 7th Street Fan Plant is something of a neighborhood landmark, gracing the water's edge with her charming blue brick, menacing razor wire fringe, and post-apocalypse freize lettering.
She normally sits quietly, perched at the foot of North Seventh Street, offering a gentle, almost silent exhale as each L-train passes by deep beneath her; her roll-up doors rattling so lightly that only those lurking about on the river's edge on a calm summer's evening can hear them.
About three or four times a year, however, she roars to life inexplicably, with a mighty howl - her fans whining like a monstrous vacuum cleaner that can be heard for several blocks onshore. This almost always takes place at night and lasts several hours, eventually ending in a slow, downward slide from whine to moan to fading hum like the tailing off of an old air-raid siren. And then she is silent again, for months.
So when the Fan Plant cranked up a week ago and just kept going, day after day, and on through the night, we took notice. We could hear her howling through closed windows and over the blustery winter's wind, and could only imagine what that might imply for open window season, and quiet evenings (so far only imagined) in East River State Park, right next door.
So Monday, imnotsayin took action and emailed the MTA, asking "what's up?" (we'd planned on calling, but the only number available was for MTA emergencies, via Transit Police). The automated reply said "some responses can take up to 15 business days." We were prepared to wait.
Lo and behold, just before Noon this morning, we had our answer (sort of) in the form of an email from Antonio Ligonde at the MTA:
We regret the condition you reported. The safety and comfort of our customers is New York City Transit's primary concern. Please be assured that New York City Transit maintains strict compliance with all regulations regarding air and noise pollution administered by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, and is committed to providing environmentally sound public transportation. In response to your complaint, we have forwarded your e-mail to supervision in the appropriate operating department for investigation. Be assured that they will inspect the location you reported and, if the condition you reported is under the jurisdiction of New York City Transit, they will take the appropriate measures to address your concerns as warranted.Blah blah blah. Then we listened. The North 7th Street Fan Plant was silent once more.
Truth be told, we really wanted to know what the noise was. Why does it happen a few times a year? Why did it go on for a week this time? We were secretly hoping to be teased with some morsel of a clue about the mysterious inner workings of the lonely Fan Plant. But it was not to be.
The North 7th Street Fan Plant has gone back to sleep, and her secrets remain.