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Introduction: Serving New York for More than a Century

The Mother Clara Hale Depot, 721 Lenox Avenue in Central Harlem, Manhattan was originally a trolley barn built in the 1890s. It was structurally modified in 1939 to become the 146th Street Bus Depot.  MTA New York City Transit rehabilitated the depot in 1990, renaming it in honor of Mother Clara McBride Hale in 1993.

About the New Depot

NYC Transit will replace the existing depot with a new green building that has environmentally friendly features.  The new depot will be a three-story, 70-foot above-ground structure built to accommodate 150 buses – 25 more than the current depot.  All buses will use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, and many of the buses will be hybrid-electric vehicles or other low-emissions technology buses. The new depot will allow more parking spaces for local residents, since all buses will park inside the facility. The new facility is also being designed to provide for employee parking on site. We will be working toward LEED certification as we build the depot.  The US Green Building Council created LEED, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design to set guidelines for construction that benefits the ecosystem.

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Mother Clara Hale Depot – Green Building Features

  • LEED Certification
    The US Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standard, LEED, ™ to ensure that a structure meets strict design and construction guidelines for green building certification.  The new Mother Clara Hale Depot will meet LEED specifications.

  •  Green Roof
    A green roof uses plants to cool a building in summer, sponge CO2 from the air and reduce storm-water runoff that worsens urban flooding.  NYC Transit installed a green roof on the rebuilt Signals crew quarters at Subways’ East 180th Street Yard and will build a larger green roof for the new Mother Clara Hale Depot.

  • Design for Future Technologies
    NYC Transit will consider adding new technologies to the Mother Clara Hale Depot between the time of the finished design and the building’s completion. 

  • Thermal Insulation
    The new Mother Clara Hale Depot will have a thermal design to save energy and reduce emissions. 

  • Trees and Landscaping
    NYC Transit will work with New York City to plant trees and set up landscaping near the new depot.  Trees help absorb Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants 

  • Natural Lighting/Day Lighting
    The depot will use natural lighting where possible to complement or replace electric lighting. Day lighting enters the building through side windows and skylights.  Special “Low-e” (low energy) coatings on windows allow visible light into the building, but block infrared light rays that emit heat.

  • Rainwater Collection
    A collection system on the roof of the new Mother Clara Hale Depot will send rainwater into an underground storage tank for use in depot operations, including bus washing. (See also Bus Wash Water Reclamation System)

  • Waste Recycling
    The contractor who demolished the old Mother Clare Hale Bus Depot recycled 99.5 percent of all waste materials, sending only 63 of 13,917 tons of debris to a landfill.   The salvaged/recycled materials included:

    • 7,567 tons of brick
    • 5678 ton of concrete
    • 609 tons of steel  (Since this many tons of new ore won’t have to be extracted, recycling prevents the release of more than 1,000  tons of CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere.)

  • Use of Recycled Materials
    Recycled content in building materials that will be used to build the new depot (such as concrete and steel) will save natural resources and extraction/processing energy.

  • Wind Power
    Harvesting energy from wind may be one of the most significant long-term alternative energy sources.  NYC Transit’s Environmental Engineering division is studying the possibility of adapting wind energy for the Mother Clara Hale Depot. 
  • Efficient and Low-NOx Boilers
    We will install Low-NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) boilers, which reduce Nitrogen Oxide emissions by 70 to 85 percent compared to older boilers.

  • Efficient Equipment, Motors, and Heat Recovery Units (HRU)
    Traditional ventilation systems bring air from outside a building and adjust its temperature to maintain an indoor environment.  The more cost effective and energy efficient Heat Recovery Units (HRU) on the roof of the new Mother Clara Hale Depot use a heat exchanger when it is cold outside.

  • Hybrid Buses
    We anticipate that the entire bus fleet at the rebuilt Mother Clara Hale Depot will be hybrid-electric buses, subject to delivery of the new buses.  Hybrid buses consume 30 percent less fuel than previous bus models, which means more greenhouse gas reductions.

  • No Idling
    MTA’s policy forbids buses to run engines when they are standing still.  Enforcing this policy at the rebuilt depot, will save fuel and reduce pollution.

  • Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel Fuel
    New York City Transit converted all diesel buses in its fleet to use ultra-low diesel fuel in 2000, the first public transportation system in the country to do so.  We will continue to use this fuel in all hybrid-electric and remaining diesel buses to reduce pollution.

  • Diesel Particulate Filters
    Buses with particulate filters greatly reduce the amount of particulate matter released through diesel bus emissions, which means less pollution.  NYC Transit has retrofitted more than 3,100 older buses with diesel particulate filters, and newer models come equipped with the filters. All buses in the Mother Clara Hale Depot will contain the most efficient emissions control technology

  • White Roof
    Since traditional black roofs absorb heat during the summer, the new Mother Clara Hale Depot will have a high efficiency roof that will prevent heat gain in warmer weather but will not reflect light onto neighborhood buildings and cause glare.

  • Energy Monitoring Systems
    A computerized energy monitoring system will be a component of the new Mother Clara Hale Depot.  The system will record the building’s energy performance so that NYC Transit can adjust energy usage for maximum efficiency.

  • Water Efficient Fixtures
    Low-flow fixtures, which release less water than conventional hand-washing and lavatory fixtures and toilets will be installed in the new Mother Clara Hale Depot as a conservation measure as well as a means of easing demands on local sewers.

  • Bus Wash Water Reclamation System
    A collection system on the roof of the new Mother Clara Hale Depot will send rainwater into an underground storage tank for use in depot operations.  The water used to wash buses will be treated and recycled as wash water, which will save Mother Clara Hale Depot a million gallons a year. 

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Demolition: Three Phases

  • Remove underground storage tanks and soil remediation
  • Asbestos removal
  • Building demolition

Projected Schedule for Demolition and Construction

  • Demolition of depot – January 2009 to September 2009
  • Construction of new depot on same site – 2010 to 2013
  • Completion – 2013

Working with the Community 

NYC Transit representatives are working in partnership with the community that surrounds the Mother Clara Hale Depot to keep residents informed about this important reconstruction project. 

NYC Transit will post air-monitoring results regularly during the demolition of the old depot. Please click here to view them.

We hosted a Community Design Charrette on September 20 to provide customers and neighborhood residents with the opportunity to identify the depot’s significant impacts on the community and to suggest possible strategies to address these impacts.

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Community Design Charrette

NYC Transit hosted a Community Design Charrette public event on September 20, 2008.
The purpose of the Charrette was to invite neighborhood members to discuss the impact that the Mother Clara Hale construction would have in the community and suggest green design features project engineers could incorporate.

The Design Charrette took place at the A. Phillip Randolph Senior Center, located at 108 West 146th Street, across the street from the depot site.  The event had a good turnout, and community attendees participated enthusiastically. Here is an overview of the day’s activities, with photographs.

Professor Achva Stein, Director of Landscape Architecture at City College led the Charrette. She discussed sustainable design and its application at Mother Clara Hale Depot and outlined the event topics: Site, Energy, Water, Materials and Air Quality (first photo).  Community members formed panels, or “break out” groups (shown in the next three photos). Each group, led by a community co-leader and a NYC Transit professional, studied different aspects of the new depot’s green design, and then gave a presentation with suggestions for “green” construction. The last photograph shows audience members listening to one of the presentations.

Now that the MTA Design Team has evaluated all of the community’s recommendations and reports to the Mother Clara Hale Community Task Force, here is a report that contains the Design Team’s assessment.

The Mother Clara Hale Task Force, which includes representatives from NYC Transit, community members, elected officials from the State Senate, Assembly, City Council and Manhattan Borough President’s Office, meets monthly to discuss the project’s status.  

NYC Transit representatives will continue to work with the community throughout the reconstruction process, utilizing the residents’ input to create a new depot that meets the needs of NYC Transit, the community, and the environment.

Photos from the Design Charrette Event

Professor Achva Stein, Director of Landscape Architecture at City College talks
Professor Achva Stein, Director of Landscape Architecture at City College,
talks about green design.

The Energy break-out (discussion) group
The Energy break out group.

The Materials break-out group
The Materials break out group.

The Air Quality break-out group; their ideas are on the sheets behind them
The Air Quality break out group.

Community members listen to presentations
Community members listen to presentations.


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Air Monitoring Results 

The air quality monitoring tests to be performed in association with reconstruction efforts for the Mother Clara Hale Depot are listed in the chart below.  MTA New York City Transit will evaluate its work practices if trigger levels of PM10 or TSP-L reach 80 percent of the figures listed on the chart, which represent maximum acceptable levels. 

To view the results of air quality monitoring tests taken for a particular day, click here and enter a date or click on the calendar to select one.  After tests are taken, evaluated and reported, they are posted here on this site, generally, on the next business day.  Please note that tests are performed only when the work is ongoing and only for the activities noted below.


Trigger levels

Asbestos removal

Tank removal



.01 f/cc





150 µg/m3 (24 hour average)





1.5 µg/m3 (24 hour average)





5 ppm + background (downwind)




PM10 = Particulate Matter < 10 micron
TSP-L = Total Suspended Particulate Lead
VOC= Volatile Organic Compound

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