All Metro-North trains are running on a Saturday schedule after a four-alarm fire broke out under the line's tracks in East Harlem last night. Governor Andrew Cuomo visited the scene and said the blaze "generated a tremendous amount of heat. So much heat that it actually bent the steel girders that support the overpass. You can see the main column itself is actually bent."
The MTA also warned, "Customers should anticipate delays and extremely crowded conditions, and are encouraged to consider working from home or finding alternative transportation. Metro-North personnel continue to make repairs to a section of the viaduct, which requires the two inside tracks to remain out of service. Trains will be able to safely operate on the two outside track of the viaduct with train speeds reduced from 60 mph to 30 mph."
The Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire, but it's believed that the fire at East 119th Street and Park Avenue started at the Urban Garden Center, a popular nursery, around 6:42 p.m. The Urban Garden Center operates out of two construction trailers, and WCBS 2 reports that the fire started between the trailers. The nursery stored many chemicals there; Cuomo said, "It was a private business, I heard that it was a generator that [set] on fire and there were chemicals because there was a garden supply company, which then ignited and created extraordinarily hot fire. Literally, bolts popped off the bridge. So you know there was a certain amount of movement in the bridge for those bolts literally to shear off."
Over 150 firefighters battled the fire. Service was completely suspended last night to and from Grand Central Terminal, forcing passengers to find other ways to points north—like take the subway to stations in the Bronx to connect with Metro-North trains there or crashing with a friend.
— PIX11 News (@PIX11News) May 18, 2016
Miraculously, no one was injured. Ten cars were damaged and neighboring buildings were evacuated. MTA crews were working around the clock; Cuomo described the MTA's plan for bringing back service, which included bringing in "support columns, the stringers, et cetera—[so] they can actually run trains over the overpass by the morning."
The Urban Garden Center is a beloved fixture in the neighborhood, hosting a CSA, workshops and other events in the community. Right before the East Harlem building explosion in 2014, owner Dmitri Gatanas said, "Everybody is subject to things, and obstacles and destruction and happiness and good things. We just have to learn how to deal with them, that’s it."