23 years ago, over 600 subway cars from New York City were dumped in the Atlantic Ocean for a fascinating reason... but many New Yorkers are still pushing back on how "ocean litter" could actually be good for the environment.

The comments on social media came fast and furious. "That should have never been a thing. It doesn’t make any sense", said one skeptical New Yorker. "With the price of metal these day why would they send a large boat to dump cars into the sea? Seems like a waste of money", wondered another. Are they right?

In 2001, New York City donated more than 600 subway cars to be dumped in the Delaware Bay for an artificial reef
In 2001, New York City donated more than 600 subway cars to be dumped in the Delaware Bay for an artificial reef (New York Transit Museum NYCTA Photographic Unit Collection)

New York Subway Cars in the Delaware Bay

On Earth Day, the New York Transit Museum (NYTM) took to Facebook to celebrate one of the most monumental projects in the history of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)... building an artificial reef off the shores of Delaware.

New York Subway Cars Used as an Artificial Reef

In total, the MTA donated 619 decommissioned Redbird subway cars to help build an artificial reef in the Delaware Bay. While the mission seemed admirable, many residents could not see past the optics of large hunks of metal being dumped in the ocean... and they may have a point.

Read More: Expert Says You're Not Helping with This Viral Facebook Trend

Are Artificial Reefs Safe for the Environment?

While artificial reefs can be beneficial for marine life (and a boon to the fishing industry), scientists maintain that the materials used must be thoroughly examined. While experts say the "perfect" material is a natural material like granite, cost quickly comes into play. Not only were the MTA subway cars free, but New York City also stood to save millions of dollars by avoiding other more traditional disposal methods. But are they safe for the environment?

Read More: It's Illegal To Pick This Flower in New York State

Do New York Subway Cars Make Good Artificial Reefs?

The NYTM shares that each Redbird subway car was "cleaned and removed of any harmful materials" before they were pushed into the ocean by a giant backhoe arm. Despite that statement, the subway cars were confirmed to contain asbestos, which caused other states to decline the cars before Delaware decided to accept them. Other experts point to the lower underwater "life expectancy" of the subway cars (roughly 20 years) when compared to other materials used, like naval ships.

Hudson Valley Post logo
Get our free mobile app

More than 20 years later, the redbird cars are still intact on the ocean floor, most likely due to their carbon steel construction. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about other subways cars that have been used more recently, and began to almost "immediately disintegrate" according to a 2022 study. Check out a different way to celebrate Earth Day below.

Earth Day Look Book: Exploring Nature's Beauty Through National Parks

More From Hudson Valley Post