Home View from Underground Photo of the Day: At 50th St., a passageway reopens

Photo of the Day: At 50th St., a passageway reopens

by Benjamin Kabak

What: A reopened passageway outside of fare control that connects the southbound 1 train at 50th St. and Broadway with the northbound C and E station at 50th St. and 8th Ave.
Where: This photo, snapped last week by NYC Transit Forums member R33WF, was taken from the 8th Ave. end of the tunnel.

Once upon a time, as I wrote last April, numerous passageways within the subway system provided for inter-station transfers. Most of these passageways were outside of the fare control area — meaning that the transfers weren’t free — and many were operated by building management companies and other private entities. After a spate of high-profile sexual assaults in the early 1990s, the police asked the MTA to shutter these passageways, and many were lost to time.

A few weeks ago, the Paramount Group Management Company decided to reopen the tunnel between Broadway and 8th Ave. on 50th St., according to the MTA. The passageway is now open from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m. during the week and is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. When it reopened, it still featured evidence of the dearly departed 9 train, giving us all a since of just how long it has been since passengers had walked through the tunnel. It’s good to see unused infrastructure being reactivated for the convenience of pedestrians looking to avoid the madhouse of Times Square.

On another note, I’m taking a light day of posting for Martin Luther King Day. I’ll be back tomorrow with a full slate of posts, including a post mortem on the MTA’s December 2010 blizzard response.

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Harlan January 17, 2011 - 11:54 am

Doesn’t sound that useful. Maybe if you wanted to catch a Queens-bound E from the 1 line on the UWS, or vice-versa? Certainly the transfer between the Southbound 1 and the Northbound C is pretty useless…

Bolwerk January 17, 2011 - 1:56 pm

I think they’re useful for those times of day when streets are heavily trafficked. More capacity.

BrooklynBus January 17, 2011 - 2:09 pm

or during bad weather,

Al D January 17, 2011 - 2:59 pm

This picture reminds of a foreboding passageway in a psychiatric care center. Perhaps the actual passageway looks better live or more likely it needs, like many other places in our beloved system, a pretty good fixing up.

Marty Barfowitz January 17, 2011 - 4:18 pm

Totally. Glad to see the passageway opened back up but, wow, aesthetics-wise, this looks like something straight out of a Bellevue inmate’s fever-dream.

John January 17, 2011 - 5:09 pm

Yeah, but it’s good enough where I don’t think it needs to jump to the top of the fix-up list.

Jon January 17, 2011 - 5:13 pm

Right, if they did fix it up, then plenty of people would be criticizing them for bumping it up ahead of more necessary projects. But at least someone saw that’s having it open is better than nothing.

Christopher January 18, 2011 - 10:27 am

If it was high traffic enough this would be a fixer upper that could work well as a public-private partnership. Get a bunch of change to clean it up, give them exclusive advertising rights in the space for a while. Seems like exactly the kind of space that a single advertising campaign would work well in.

Peter January 17, 2011 - 7:02 pm

Yes, that pic does make it look a little something out of Jacob’s Ladder, but maybe because it’s a straight shot, I remember it not really being claustrophobic at all.

It’s Elysian Fields compared to the Gimbels passageway.

I have lived in New York my whole life, and can honestly say that was the scariest place I knew. Like a scene out of the Omega Man.


kvnbklyn January 17, 2011 - 4:31 pm

FWIW, the 1 train is at Broadway, not Seventh Avenue.

Alon Levy January 17, 2011 - 5:52 pm

It would be very useful if the MTA provided northbound-southbound connections at the two stations. It would turn what’s now a three-seat ride between the UWS and Queens into a two-seat ride, in both directions.

Duke87 January 17, 2011 - 9:35 pm

Seeing as a free transfer between E and the 1 already exists just one stop down the line at 42nd, that would be quite redundant. Besides, 42nd is an express station while 50th is not, so it’s a better transfer point anyway.

Bolwerk January 18, 2011 - 1:19 am

It might be good redundancy. 42nd is a rather busy station.

Alon Levy January 18, 2011 - 2:31 am

42nd is a bad option, for two reasons. First, it’s a detour – just the extra travel between 50th and 42nd and back is about 3 minutes. And second, the the passageway at 42nd is longer, and the Times Square station complex is more complicated to navigate. In practice, for service from most of the UWS (i.e. the 1) to the bulk of Queens destinations (i.e. the E/F), it’s a three-seat ride, with transfers at 59th and 53rd/7th.

Andrew January 20, 2011 - 10:54 pm

It’s a good option, because it’s an express station and it’s already a transfer point with several other lines. Replicating the same passageway one stop up, with fewer services available at either end, would not be cost effective.

The passageway at 50th is at the level of the 1 and the C. It doesn’t cross any tracks. To get across the 1 tracks, it would have to drop down one level. To get across the C and E tracks, it would have to drop down two levels. Underpinning would be required at both ends.

I agree that it’s a good route from the UWS to Queens for people starting on the 1. With an unlimited, the passageway works well in that direction. The return trip, alas, has to be done at street level, and I don’t see that changing.

al January 17, 2011 - 10:17 pm

There are several existing UWS Queens 2 seat rides.
Between 41st and 53rd St there are:
B,D to E at 7th Ave
B,D to F,M at 47th-50th St-Rockefeller Center
1,2,3 to N,R,Q, 7, plus the A,C to E a block west of the 7 up an incline underground at Times Sq-42nd St Station complex.

If you’re going to add a connection there, then consideration should be given to a connection and cross under to 49th St-7th Ave (N,R,Q). The south end of 50th St-Broadway (1) station is under 49th St and is closer to 49th St-7th Ave than to 50th St-8th Ave. It could be an extension of Rockefeller Center’s underground complex. Think Fulton St Transit Center, with retail and underground access points to buildings. The adjacent property owners would love the underground retail possibilities, though how much they would contribute is questionable.

Chris O'Leary January 18, 2011 - 8:30 am

It would be nice if someone would reopen the station exit at 52nd and 8th at the same station. How long has that sat dormant?

SubwayWeekender January 18, 2011 - 8:37 am

In an age of unlimited metrocards, these kinds of out-of-system transfers are much more useful because if I lived on the UWS and needed to get to Jackson Heights, this would be the way to do it.

New York Online | Taxi, Take Me to the Bedbug Lecture - NYTimes.com January 18, 2011 - 5:45 pm

[…] long-disused underground passageway connecting the No. 1 with the C and E trains at 50th Street has been reopened. You have to pay an […]

Paul W February 28, 2011 - 1:57 pm

I walked this tunnel back in the 90’s. I think this tunnel has less to do with providing a convenient transfer (especially as it’s out of fare control), than with providing a convenient out-of-the-elements walk between Broadway & 8th. For example, if you take the C or E to work, which is near 50th & Broadway. You can get off the train at 50th & 8th, and walk to Broadway away from the traffic, weather, and crowds. The same holds true for getting from the 50th St. 1 station to 8th Avenue. I did this myself several times before it closed.

This connection also allows you to walk from 8th to 5th Avenues now almost entirely underground, popping up for only a brief section from 50/Bway to 49/7th, before dipping back into the Rockefeller Center system.

Second Ave. Sagas: 2011 in review :: Second Ave. Sagas December 30, 2011 - 1:07 am

[…] Photo of the Day: At 50th St., a Passageway Reopens The MTA reopened a long-shuttered walkway between 7th and 8th Aves. at 50th St. earlier this year. […]

Woody December 30, 2011 - 6:21 pm

If I recall this correctly, the builder of the adjoining tower (1515 B’way) was coerced into putting in this passageway by the Zoning and Planning authorities, and perhaps Community Boards too.

So of course, he built the passage as ugly and as useless as he could get away with, to demonstrate his hatred of the city and its mass transit system. Note that the building does feature a massive underground parking facility for the convenience of drivers coming into the city.

A friendlier developer, or the current owner, might have found retail opportunities along at least part of a corridor beneath such heavily pedestrianized streets. Shop windows, a few doorways, and better lighting could make the tunnel much more attractive. But alas, nothing has changed.

Someone October 12, 2012 - 9:44 pm

Ben, when I clicked on the link “evidence of the dearly departed 9 train”, it just sent me to the home page of the NYC Transit forum, as I was not logged in. Is there a way you view the photo without being logged in?


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