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New York's Hidden Subway Station
March 14, 2013 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Deep in the belly of New York’s subway system, a beautiful untouched station resides that has been forgotten for years with only a limited few knowing of its existence. But if you know what to do, you can see it for yourself. Bonus: The Underbelly Project, a secret underground art exhibition.

Underbelly Project previously.
posted by Lou Stuells (36 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sadly, it would appear that the most beautiful station on the line is the one that was closed. Thanks for the viewing tip though.
posted by jaduncan at 10:43 AM on March 14, 2013


The pictures of that station are so gorgeous. I wish we made things with attention to beauty and detail like that now.
posted by immlass at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any reason why all the other stations can't look like that? Was there some period in the past where someone decided, "Screw the beautiful tile work, let's make these stations look really hideous!"
posted by leotrotsky at 10:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Amazing that they spent all that work making the station beautiful but didn't think through how dumb building a curved platform would be.
posted by octothorpe at 10:50 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I challenge any other children of the eighties/nineties to look at photos of this place and read about it without thinking of one of the following at least a little bit...

"Everything west of this line is the richest, most expensive real estate in the world: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Everything on THIS side of the line is just hundreds and hundreds of miles of worthless desert land, which just so happens to be owned by...Lex Luthor Incorporated."

"Wise man say: forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza."
posted by trackofalljades at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2013


I believe it was when we ran out of fresh off the boat tile setters we could pay a pittance and force to live in squalor on the lower east side.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


So where the hell are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles supposed to live now?

Or Lex Luthor, for that matter?

Any reason why all the other stations can't look like that? Was there some period in the past where someone decided, "Screw the beautiful tile work, let's make these stations look really hideous!"

Good question. Perhaps people were a bit disillusioned after they tore down Penn Station?
posted by Melismata at 10:51 AM on March 14, 2013


Was there some period in the past where someone decided, "Screw the beautiful tile work, let's make these stations look really hideous!"

My favorite tile work is still the AMNH stop!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:53 AM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


We don't have beautiful stations anymore because our transportation funding is basically starvation rations.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:55 AM on March 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Isn't the City Hall station pretty well-known by this point?

In any event, the station is a pretty good example for why architecture shouldn't be allowed to trump engineering. There's only one platform, and it's *extremely* curved, making the whole thing rather dangerous for passengers and limiting the size of the trains that pass through it. Also, the one platform thing limited train throughput, and meant that the station could only ever be used as a terminus. It's a really odd track layout.

Based off of the photos, it also looks like the station would have some passenger flow issues if it ever got heavily used.... which it wasn't, because the placement of the station never made much sense. It only served 600 passengers a day in the last year that it was open. Amtrak has rural stations in the middle of nowhere that serve more people than that.

Basically, the IRT needed to build a track to allow trains to be turned around beneath city hall. The subway's private owners inexplicably decided to impress the city (and its government) by building a ridiculously opulent (albeit poorly-planned and impractical) station on the side of that loop. Because of how poorly conceived it was, it didn't last very long.
posted by schmod at 10:56 AM on March 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


I like the hats at 23rd Street.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:57 AM on March 14, 2013


Whats that stop way up in the middle 100s that has like an exposed walkway and bulb-light chandeliers and black stone work everywhere? It always seemed like the perfect location to encounter a shit ton of vampires.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whats that stop way up in the middle 100s that has like an exposed walkway and bulb-light chandeliers and black stone work everywhere?

Are you thinking of 168th St on the 1 train?
posted by kokaku at 11:06 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


168 1 train?
posted by Ad hominem at 11:07 AM on March 14, 2013


2bucksplus: "We don't have beautiful stations anymore because our transportation funding is basically starvation rations."

Also, because our public transportation is now publicly owned. It's hard to justify the kind of opulence that you see at Grand Central or City Hall when you're funded with tax dollars, your service is fundamentally unprofitable, and there are far more pressing needs elsewhere. (This applies doubly so to the NYC subway, which was criminally neglected and underfunded for much of its existence)

The IRT and the big railroads of the day were deliberately showing off their great wealth to impress people of their power, size, and stability. (Just like banks do). Simply put, this is something that is not done today -- Modernism dictated that efficiency should trump decoration. Needlessly ornate buildings are also now frowned upon, because they scream "wasteful" rather than "powerful." Just like the government needs to answer to its taxpayers, corporations also need to answer to their shareholders.

That all being said, the remainder of the NYC subway remains a shining example of why it's a really bad idea to cut corners on major infrastructure investments. The subway was built on the cheap, it was built haphazardly and in a hurry, and it was built with old technology. If you build a cramped, low-slung train station with poor drainage, it's going to be virtually impossible to fix any of those things in the future. It's financially irresponsible build stations like City Hall, but we also shouldn't be trying to replicate any of the IRT's old station designs in new construction either. The plans for the Second Ave Subway fail to impress in this regard -- it basically re-creates the same old shitty station designs that NYC is accustomed to.

Plan everything out in advance, plan for the future, don't cut any corners, and then remember to maintain the thing once it's done. I don't think that anybody regrets the extra bit of money that needed to be spent to build roomy and low-maintenance stations in the DC Metro.
posted by schmod at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It used to be (maybe still is - I don't live in New York anymore) that if you stayed on the 4/5/6 after it stopped at Brooklyn Bridge the train would go on through the loop at City Hall and you could see the station, albeit dimly. After 9/11 they got more vigilant (for a while?) about getting you off the train for the turnaround but I definitely rode past in late 2003. New York is such a city of secrets.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:11 AM on March 14, 2013



Are you thinking of 168th St on the 1 train?

yes! yes I am! Primo vampire real estate there.
posted by The Whelk at 11:16 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


schmod: "Isn't the City Hall station pretty well-known by this point?"

Yes, there must be dozens of high-profile articles about the City Hall station every year now. At this point, it's possibly the most well-known NYC subway stop.
posted by meehawl at 11:39 AM on March 14, 2013


Dude, toldja all the best art was underground.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:12 PM on March 14, 2013


The pictures of that station are so gorgeous. I wish we made things with attention to beauty and detail like that now.

We do, just not so much in the USA.

Bilbao, Spain
Westfriedhof, Germany
Olaias, Lisbon, Portugal
Stockholm,Sweden
Tokyo, Japan
Hamburg, Germany

Lots more here.





http://travel.cnn.com/europes-most-beautiful-metro-stations-528316
posted by pashdown at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was there some period in the past where someone decided, "Screw the beautiful tile work, let's make these stations look really hideous!"

Yeah, when transportation stopped feeling larger-than-life and all the money started going into the tech industry. That, plus people demanding that their tax dollars be spent as frugally as possible (which is also why government-funded offices are some of the most depressing places to be ever.)

Having said that, a lot of the Los Angeles Subway stations are really nice (and of course went way over budget.)
posted by davejay at 1:09 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man, when I was in college a friend of mine took a few of us down to the City Hall stop and when everybody got off, we asked the conductor to take us into the abandoned station. He was very, very happy to do so. Such an awesomely cool piece of NY, even if it's not much of a secret anymore.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:24 PM on March 14, 2013


Isn't the City Hall station pretty well-known by this point?

I know -- I keep wishing that they've somehow found another one.

Was there some period in the past where someone decided, "Screw the beautiful tile work, let's make these stations look really hideous!"

Well, two things. One, modernism happened. I don't think it's all bad to build something more simply, viz. Two, many of the "subway" stations of the era were actually not subway, but elevated -- and of course pretty much all of the NY elevated system was eventually demolished. Three, we have started understanding the importance of imbuing transit stations with at least functional elegance. Chicago's newest "L" station is a thing of contemporary beauty.
posted by dhartung at 1:37 PM on March 14, 2013


I thought I was the only person who found the 168th St. station creepy as all get-out. So many vampires. So many.

I believe it was when we ran out of fresh off the boat tile setters we could pay a pittance and force to live in squalor on the lower east side.

Also, the 1970s. That's when, strapped for cash, the city began plastering over what I think of as "IRT-style" mosaic tiling with cheap, big, ugly, easier-to-replace cinderblock tiling, especially on the BMT (e.g., the 45th St. R station, which still has some original mosaics).

In addition to poor infrastructural planning, fares weren't raised on a regular schedule until the 1970s, which is insane. The fare was a nickel for 44 years (and then a dime for five years, and then 15 cents for 12 years). And so the system was sapped by inflation, as if drained by a Washington Heights tunnel vampire, leaving too little money for upkeep, let alone beautiful capital projects and vaulted tile ceilings.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:41 PM on March 14, 2013


Humblest apologies to those for whom this is apparently the most stale of old news. I'd read of the station but never seen photos, and didn't know passengers had the opportunity to see it. Hopefully the banality of the topic is offset by an enjoyable opportunity to declare the banality of the topic.
posted by Lou Stuells at 2:00 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stayed on the 6 train a few years back to watch City Hall go by. The driver not only let me stay on, but he left the cab door open so I could stand in the doorway (I wasn't technically allowed in the cab itself) and watch from the front. The platform was illuminated solely by the sunlight still filtering in from the skylights above. It was fantastic, and I only wish I had thought to bring a camera with me.

The driver said he was more than happy to let people stay on the train as it goes round the loop; "otherwise you guys just try to break in yourselves and crawl around getting into trouble." He also said he infrequently saw film crews and other photographers on the platform. He once waved at Giuliani, who did not wave back. (Apparently that cost Rudy a vote.)

Glad to see the MTA is opening things up like this. People are naturally curious about hidden history and abandoned places, especially when they're well-preserved. Encouraging and accommodating the curious is much better than forbidding access altogether and screaming "YOU BROUGHT THIS ON YOURSELVES" when some urbex newbie who doesn't know any better gets hurt while trespassing.
posted by Spatch at 3:12 PM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mr. Funny Shoes and his new friend (just above the rightward curve of the track). Thanks for nothing, Susan Tyler.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:22 PM on March 14, 2013


Awesomeness, thanks for sharing! Abandoned train stations are my vicarious passion.
posted by the cydonian at 7:03 PM on March 14, 2013


There are multiple other "lost" stations in New York City and I've seen most of them - because they're on existing lines. I used to go past the Myrtle Avenue station all the time, ditto with the 18th Station on the East Side (why did they build that one there when there was a hub at 14th Street).

The most interesting one is the lowest level on the Port Authority stop. This was actually open until a few years ago...

This page has a list but I'm a littel doubtful that it's complete, because I know there are at least two stations with unused platforms that aren't on that list: Canal Street, which is interesting because, even though the platform is unused for trains, pedestrians can still walk through it to other platforms, and another stop on the G train (Hoyt-Schermerhorn?) where there's a central platform which the train stops right beside but the doors open on the other side - it took me several tries to realize that you can't ever get to that platform.

I love the subway - I wish people still remembered terms like IRT, BMT and IND (FYI, the IRT is the numbered lines, the IND are basically the lines from A through H, and the BMT was basically everything else...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:37 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: "The most interesting one is the lowest level on the Port Authority stop. This was actually open until a few years ago..."

It finally closed "for real this time," because the 7 extension is going to plow right through it at a 90° angle.
posted by schmod at 8:30 PM on March 14, 2013


I didn't know this about Portugal until I visited for the first time (admittedly, I didn't know really anything about Portugal other than "It's bordered by Spain and the Atlantic ocean and there was this really bad earthquake once."), but they're really big on their tiles there. Love tiles. Even the sidewalks are intricately tiled. And the houses. So many tiles.

This absolutely extends to the metro. The tilework is just gorgeous. Especially for someone coming from the US, whose main experience of public transit is the T in Boston, which I swear was designed to be as ugly and boring as humanly possible. The Lisbon metro is also unbelievably clean - like spotless. Immaculate.

I guess this is a bit of a scandal in Lisbon as they've spent a hell of a lot of money that could have arguably gone to better use elsewhere, but fuck if it's not gorgeous.
posted by sonika at 8:57 PM on March 14, 2013


There's supposed to be a half-finished station below the central Brooklyn Public Library in Grand Army Plaza; when I worked there, I tried to get someone to take me through it, but no dice.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:40 PM on March 14, 2013


I challenge any other children of the eighties/nineties to look at photos of this place and read about it without thinking of one of the following at least a little bit...
[Superman/TMNT]


CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:51 AM on March 15, 2013


There's supposed to be a half-finished station below the central Brooklyn Public Library in Grand Army Plaza

Perhaps, but these things are pretty well documented and the track configuration [jpg] in that area doesn't lend itself to one. Apparently there are some closed-off, grilled access stairs in the existing stations that may suggest to some a more mysterious hidden platform.

Except I guess there is some confirmation of that claim here. And here it's said that a subbasement serves as storage now but was intended for a subway connection, but that doesn't sound like a "half-finished station" at all, but maybe just a mezzanine of some sort with no actual connection to the track tunnel (allegedly this is because it took 30 years to build the library, and in the meantime there was a now-closed western exit from the Brooklyn Museum stop that was close enough).
posted by dhartung at 1:31 AM on March 15, 2013



The pictures of that station are so gorgeous. I wish we made things with attention to beauty and detail like that now.

We do, just not so much in the USA.


I will take, over pretty subway systems, an ugly, dirty, NYC subway that

i) runs 24h

ii) has air conditioning

iii) trains come frequently : weekdays 7am-11pm I've *never* had to wait more than 12 mins for a train (my average wait is ~5mins), and other times, never more than 30 mins (average~10-12 mins) (good luck with that in london or elsewhere)

iv) and is an affordable system :$112 for a monthly unlimited (bus! and) metrocard in the"1st world" is still an incredible bargain, e.g. paris is close to $150 for all zone now, tokyo $175, and London, for an all-zone 1-6 setup to be used in peak hours is ~$350/month!.


But I agree, maintenance and design is important.......
posted by lalochezia at 7:13 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always thought City Hall was one of the most magnificent stations of any underground network - amazing that its civic grandeur due to its location wasn't reflected in the amount of passengers at saw, and ultimately had to close. A hidden gem in disuse though!
posted by twamoran at 8:12 AM on March 19, 2013


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