Home Subway History Video of the Day: Inside the 6th Ave. passageway

Video of the Day: Inside the 6th Ave. passageway

by Benjamin Kabak

The subway system is replete with shuttered passageways whose existences are known only to those who remember the old days. The most extensive of those walkways lies abandoned under 6th Ave., and it connects the Herald Square IND station to the southern end 42nd St./Bryant Park stop. Opened in the early 1940s with the idea of, according to a 1940 New Yorker article, “reliev[ing] congestion at these points by distributing passengers over a greater area,” the passageway closed in 1991 after a horrific sexual assault in what was then a largely abandoned section of subway history.

The video above, shot in 1991 shortly before the MTA shuttered the tunnel, takes us back in time. It offers a glimpse inside the passageway before it was shuttered. The signs are vintage IND, and the ads are vintage early 1990s. From the video, it’s clear to see how foreboding and empty the walkway appeared at a time when crime in the subways was still relatively high. Today, few signs of the walkway exist, but it still lies there abandoned and unused underneath Sixth Ave.

For more on this tunnel and others lost to time, budget cuts and safety concerns, check out my post on the shuttered passageways from April 2010.

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Gracie July 11, 2011 - 12:07 pm

Would love to see the 14th Street passageway between 7th and 8th Avenues reopened!

Marc Shepherd July 11, 2011 - 1:46 pm

It isn’t a high priority. There are already several stations that have connections between those lines within fare control (Fulton Street, Park Place/Chambers; 42nd Street; 59th Street, 168th Street). It’s hard to think of very many plausible commuting patterns where one would actually need that connection.

In some situations it would be “nice to have.” But because that passageway is outside of fare control, it would likely attract homeless people and buskers in droves, and the station reconfiguration needed to put it inside of fare control strikes me as not worth it.

Kai B July 11, 2011 - 4:26 pm

That one is now actually inside fare control on the 8th Ave side and still outside fare control on the 7th Avenue side. They’d need to build a new ramp up to the passageway by the elevator to the L too.

But yes, would be nice.

TP July 11, 2011 - 12:37 pm

They should reopen them but put them inside fare control.

Christopher July 11, 2011 - 1:00 pm

That would kind of work like the other side I suppose but the room for the booth and ticket machines would be several compromised as there is an exit to 14th between the passageway and the fare control area.

Scott E July 11, 2011 - 3:19 pm

I wonder how much of this and other abandoned corridors are still truly abandoned, and how much space has been repurposed for other uses. Technology upgrades, however slow they may take, require racks of computer equipment for upgraded signal systems, CCTV camera storage, wireless/radio transceivers, etc – they could go here. It’s also not a bad place for equipment storage, so if a Metrocard machine, train window, turnstile, etc. breaks, they don’t need to go far for a replacement.

Henry Man July 11, 2011 - 8:26 pm

Perhaps the MTA should consider using some of the space for retail.

Peter July 12, 2011 - 8:23 am

The 6th Ave 35th – 40th passage is occasionally bruited about for re-purposing (One brainiac wanted to use it as a PARKING GARAGE. No, I’m not kidding. Seriously). But while its IND-dimensioned, its still pretty cramped, and now used for haphazard storage and for locating various operating hardware like Signal & Communication equipment and other things that need to be near the active tracks. This passage allows easy installation & maintenance, but such uses impinge on the width of the passage, and probably precludes it ever being opened for unlimited public pedestrian use. The 38th St sidewalk stair entrances were also slabbed over, leaving only one (NE corner, I think) with a Bilco hatch.
Retail? What would be offered for sale, and who would walk even 20 feet – much less blocks – out of their way to buy it? FAR more than any other kind of retail, Subway retail is all about convenience & location.

Jason B July 12, 2011 - 5:09 pm

The description on the YouTube page says it was part of a larger underground network to get people from Grand Central to Penn Station underground. I know of the Penn Station/Herald Square tunnel, and now this one. What tunnel existed to get people on foot to Grand Central from 40th street? Anyone know?


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