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Washington Heights: Fix up 181st St. already

by Benjamin Kabak

Remember when, five months ago, a hurricane flooded the New York City subway system, thus washing out tunnels and a few stations? It certainly didn’t take too long for the MTA to get service up and running and implement solutions — from the temporary to the permanent — to restore service. The same has not happened at 181st St. in Washington Heights, and a neighborhood group is raising a stink about it.

In 2009, when a ceiling collapse at the deep station along the 1 train led to service problems and safety concerns, the MTA vowed quick, but it’s been nearly four years with only temporary construction in place. Now, WE ACT is speaking out. “When Sandy hit, they got stuff moving quickly at the South Ferry,” the group’s spokesman Jacob Carlson said. “It’s been four years since the roof collapsed and not a hammer has been lifted.”

Money doesn’t seem to be the culprit here. The MTA had vowed to start work a year ago, but each time the due date came around, the project was delayed. Last week, though, Citnalta won a $42 million contract for the work, but no start date has been unveiled. As various maintenance projects move forward, I’m left with the same concern: When the MTA has a fire under its belly lit by politicians and Board members, action happens quickly. When projects are left to languish, they languish with a vengeance. For riders at 181st St., they continue to eye the ceiling warily as repairs slowly inch down the pike.

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12 comments

Simon April 2, 2013 - 3:09 pm

Speaking of South Ferry, does anyone know when it will actually open? There were announcements playing in the subway this morning about a Thursday reopening. The “No Entry” signs at Rector St have been papered over and you can swipe through the turnstiles, but there’s not a peep online.

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Benjamin Kabak April 2, 2013 - 3:33 pm

Based on that info, my guess is, uh, Thursday. 🙂

Neither the MTA nor the Governor have officially announced an opening.

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Ryan April 2, 2013 - 3:47 pm

It ain’t going to fall down… Oh wait, it already did that.

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Duke April 2, 2013 - 3:53 pm

The problem is, it does not at all interfere with operations if 181 Street stays covered in blue plywood for the next decade, so there is no urgency. There will be workers on that repair job who won’t be old enough to remeber a time before the plywood went up.

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stevesliva April 2, 2013 - 4:38 pm

Is this one of those beautiful deep stations with the chandelier soffits? Are they required to restore it, or merely cover it all with cement?

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JMB April 2, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Yep, one of the lovely deep barrel vault stations (though I find 168th to be the nicest). I truly hope they restore its tilework, including opening up the shuttered crossovers (maybe even put in some new tech chandeliers). This being a working class nabe in a part of the city not visited by tourists though leaves me to believe that they will just do the basic treatment

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Someone April 2, 2013 - 7:05 pm

I’d suggest rebuilding the ceiling in the style of the Washington Metro, with waffle-shaped indentations and everything.

Of all the deep-vault stations in the NYCS system, I think Roosevelt Island is the nicest. 168th is actually pretty crappy-looking.

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JMB April 2, 2013 - 7:25 pm

168th St. – Built turn of the century
RI – Built in the ~80’s

Obviously 168th will look “crappy” when its that much older and from my recollection, hasn’t received any restoration.

168th was considered 2nd only to the City Hall loop station in terms of grandeur, and it could (in theory) be restored to much the same. Its unique in design, lighting, layout, as well as history. RI and 21st street are very different in styling, and personally I find them as inspirational as a hallway in a hospital.

To each his own I guess, but judging by your preference for DC’s/RI station design, I don’t think you would like the original IRT beaux-arts style.

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SEAN April 2, 2013 - 9:12 pm

There’s a place for both. The design on the DC Metro may not be as graceful as 168th street, but it’s still amazing with the valts. In the case where lines intersect as in Metro Center, you have cross valts wich are incredible in there own right.

Simon April 3, 2013 - 11:54 am

168th is a transfer point for tourists heading to the Cloisters and should be treated as an attraction in its own right! Northern Manhattan is seriously underrated.

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Ryan April 3, 2013 - 2:23 pm

The only station besides the NY Transit Museum/Court Street that is an attraction in its own right is Grand Central. And it’s the building itself that’s an attraction, not the station.

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pea-jay April 2, 2013 - 9:50 pm

For a moment there I thought you were speaking of the 181 stop on the A. While in much better shape physically than the 1 stop, they made some partial aesthetic improvements during the fast track more than a month ago — and never finished them.

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