One More Ghost Station


The IRT‘s original City Hall station was part of NYC‘s first major subway project and designed as a sort of ceremonial terminal. Construction began on 24 March 1900 in front of City Hall; the steps of the building leading to the station’s entrance. From this vantage point, NYC mayors could expound on the benefits of mass transit and, more or less, interact with the citizenry

The station was open to the public in October of 1904. Unlike most subway stations, it had a unique, sharply curved platform; a Guastavino tile arched ceiling in addition to the more basic (for the time) skylights and plaques honoring its construction.

Unfortunately, its location at this turning loop, at a time when more practically configured uptown and local trains were coming into service, rendered the station noisy and poorly situated. Improperly designed platforms, riddled with gaps, also made it unsafe. The station was closed at night, local trains by-passing it on their way to South Ferry; and even when it was open it was limited to an “entrance only” station. After a disappointing forty-one years of service, the station was finally closed in 1945.

In April 1995, efforts to reopen the City Hall station as part of the newly created NYC Transit Museum were introduced. The loop track was re-classed from “yard track” (or maintenance track) to “mainline,” which allowed the public to view the station without special permission. The commemorative plaques which had been moved to Brooklyn Bridge station in 1962 were reinstalled in their original positions in 1996. Everything fell through when the awaited funding never materialized and in 1998 the plans were canceled.

The City Hall station remains, an unseen yet ghostly presence frozen in time beneath Manhattan’s crowded streets and alongside its speeding trains: Out of sight in the onrush of progress and out of mind in the onrush of history.


For more on this and other NYC Subway curiosities, Abandoned Stations (the source for this post and accompanying photos) is a great site for NYC’s vast collection of underground stories.


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Wringing in the New


“Le meilleur de tous les mondes possibles.”

Let me begin by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping that 2014 will be a whole lot better (or, at least, not any worse) than 2013. Of course, since I’m a quietly amused pessimist, I invariably expect the worst if only to allow for less disappointment and increased surprise. But this probably stems from the fact that I’ve read the complete works of Voltaire (in the original French…er, sort of) with whom I share a spirit of skepticism along with a passion for coffee.

However, we here in NYC began the year with a snowstorm and a snow job (namely, Mayor de Blasio); the latter, I predict, will be much more difficult to dig ourselves out from under. Nevertheless, after 12 years of the Emperor Bloomberg it was only natural that the imperial opposition of crackpots should have their turn on the throne…at our expense, of course.

For those of you who might have wondered where I’ve been over the past year, oftentimes disappearing from blogging for months at a time, I’ve embarked on a series of studies. Coursera and edX offer an incredible panoply of free online courses of which I’ve indulged myself. Everything from Music to Classical Studies to Architecture, Philosophy to Literature to History (a few of my favorite things) were there to illuminate and delight me. Indeed, I never had such a workload of course material since I attended college/ university in physical form, some three or four decades ago (yes, I’m that old).

Again, Happy New Year to All. Best Regards from me, my wife Steffie, and our fascinating if inscrutable cat Zoltan. See you soon. Ciao!

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Wheel Inspection

wonder wheel

Throwback Thursday photo of the Wonder Wheel on May 28, 1952: NYC elevator/ride inspector Alexander “Mac” McIntyre and Freddy Garms of the Wonder Wheel “ride on top of one of the cars to check the working of the ride,” says the original caption. AP photo/Robert Kradin 

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park

Cutting the Battery Ribbon


Battery Tunnel Opening, Ribbon Cutting by a boy wearing a [Brooklyn] Dodgers Cap

Brooklyn Borough President Robert F. Wagner (photo right: future Mayor of NYC) alongside unidentified man and boy (no, that’s not Jerry “Beaver” Mathers, but probably Wagner’s son, Bobbie).

By the way, Robert Moses, the omnipotent King of the Roadways, envisioned a bridge not a tunnel when he commenced the Brooklyn-Battery project. Needless to say, a bridge here would’ve been terribly awkward as well as terribly unsightly.

via Old Images of New York

A Bit of Something Cheesy?


via EV Grieve

At some point this week an intriguing new piece of artwork or garbage or unfinished Muppet head prop turned up in the shadows of the Astor Place cube. It’s unclear how it landed here, or what it is, but it’s lasted at least a full 36 hours on the mean streets of NYC, which is 10 years when you convert inanimate object time into human time. Which means it’s basically a New Yorker now. via What Is This New “Sculpture” In Astor Place?: Gothamist.

Atelier Deep, Concept High


Art has really gone underground with NYC’s artistic community’s latest effort to tap into one of the city’s more out-of-the-way venues for creative expression: an abandoned subway station. Beginning last year, The Underbelly Project secretly escorted 103 artists into the lower depths of the subway and onto an “unfinished, unused and undiscovered” station. Their mission: create works of art throughout the length and breadth of this dark and crumbling canvass.

Working with various paints and aerosols, these (in every sense of the term) “underground artists” created a numerous assortment of murals and installments that range from the luridly whimsical to the provocatively grotesque. Conceptual art rarely had a better atelier for profound expression than deep within mass transportation’s inner recesses.

Stepping into the station was like stepping into a space outside of time. Utterly devoid of light, there was no way to mark the passage of time except for the occasional dull roar of a train in the distance. I had only a flashlight to light my way, yet it only barely cut into the inky blackness of the station. The air was cool and damp. My every step kicked up swirls of the rail dust that blanketed every surface. If it hadn’t been for the reassuring presence of familiar art adorning the walls, I might have quickly succumbed to the illusion that I’d arrived amidst the remnants of a forgotten city. RWK Street Spot

Unfortunately, while this is a unique and noble effort, it’s also an illegal action: trespassing on city property. I would imagine that the project’s future remains uncertain…alongside my personal wishes for its success. Such startling resourcefulness out of the city’s startling failures is no small feat indeed.


see Gothamist (photo gallery)

originally posted: 11/03/2010

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