“The water came up to here,” he said, denoting a point just above two underground parking levels flooded by the water main break on Monday morning, one that made this Manhattan neighborhood between Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center resemble Venice.
The floodwaters engulfed part of the parking garage at the high-rise, Lincoln Plaza Tower, and ruined up to 60 cars, including numerous luxury vehicles belonging to building residents, Groll said, as he stepped carefully between a white Mercedes sedan and a dark BMW coupe.
Both vehicles — like the other cars drip-drying here on Monday night — bore a muddy filigree from the recently receded floodwaters, caked onto their formerly shiny bodies like rings in a bathtub.
A day after Monday’s water main break, much of the area was back to normal, including the subway lines that the flooding had crippled. But the flood left lasting damage in its wake, in basements of numerous high-rise buildings like this one.
The waters destroyed the 260-seat New York Institute of Technology Auditorium on Broadway, a beloved theater that had become a home to a stalwart independent film group.
“It was a community resource — now everything has to be replaced and rebuilt from scratch,” said Nada Anid, a spokeswoman for the college, who said the floodwaters engulfed the auditorium nearly up to the ceiling, ruining the interior and the state-of-the-art projection room.
The water rushed in so forcefully that the auditorium’s walls gave away, she said, adding that the auditorium, on Broadway between 61st and 62nd streets, was “the public face of our college” and a frequent venue for film premieres and school conferences.
It had also become a regular screening site for New Plaza Cinema, a group of independent film devotees that formed after the closing of Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on the Upper West Side two years ago.
“It’s tragic,” the group’s president, Norma Levy, said Tuesday as the space was still being pumped out. “It was a wonderful space and our community loved it there.”
At Lincoln Plaza Tower, the garage’s two upper parking levels — and a Bentley parked there — were spared, but there were more than 30 cars on the level below, and perhaps as many more on the level below that, that had been completely submerged. That lowest level was still partly underwater.
The water main break occurred a short block from the Lincoln Plaza Tower at 44 W. 62nd St., which has high-end units currently on the market for asking prices up to $5 million.
The broken pipe flooded parts of Broadway and Columbus Avenue, roughly from West 61st Street into West 65th.
“The most important thing is that nobody was hurt — property damage is not the end of the world,” said Groll, the co-op board president at Lincoln Plaza Tower. “It will be a little inconvenient. All things being equal, it could have been much worse.”
“It’s certainly a painful day, but it’s just property,” he said.
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The break brought a lake of brown water lapping at the steps of Lincoln Center and an army of emergency response vehicles to the area. The water was up to a foot deep in some places.
At Lincoln Center, the David H. Koch Theater, home to the New York City Ballet, had minor water damage in its subbasement.
The flooding of the Lincoln Plaza Tower’s garage echoed a similar incident in Brooklyn, after a seven-alarm fire in 2018 damaged more than 100 luxury cars in the parking garage of the Kings Plaza Shopping Center.
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On Monday morning, as city work crews spent at least two hours finding and shutting off the broken main under the street, floodwaters cascaded into the apartment building’s four-level garage through large metal gratings used for air ventilation, said Groll, as he walked past a snappy late-model Porsche.
Its trunk and hatchback were both popped open as if the sports car were still gasping for air. Many of the cars had trunks open because of shorted out electronic systems.
There was a dark Audi by the back wall, and a red Jeep in the corner, across the still muddy and puddled floor.
City firefighters helped pump out much of the garage in the emergency response earlier, and private contractors would drain the rest, according to Groll, who said his own car was among the up to 60 cars that wound up underwater.
They included luxury cars as well as “typical cars that any New Yorker would drive,” he said.
In a note he sent to residents of the building, which has 130 units, he recommended they inquire with their auto insurance companies about both coverage and details about towing the cars out of the garage.
The operator of the garage, which contracts with the building, would also assist in the recovery process, he said.
Michael Wolfe, president of Midboro Management, which manages the building, said it could be a day or two before the remaining water was drained from the lowest level of the garage.
Groll said the car owners would deal with the loss.
“New Yorkers are used to this,” he said. “They come together and show their best.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .