Home Abandoned Stations With boost from local pols and ADA upgrades on the way, MTA to re-open Bedford Ave. entrances to the IND’s Nostrand Ave. station

With boost from local pols and ADA upgrades on the way, MTA to re-open Bedford Ave. entrances to the IND’s Nostrand Ave. station

by Benjamin Kabak

This vast mezzanine, a hallmark of the IND stations, will reopen as part of the work to restore entrances to the Nostrand Ave. A/C train at Bedford Ave. (Photo via Dan Rivoli on Twitter)

After years of requests from neighborhood activists and transit advocates alike, the MTA will finally reopen a pair of shuttered Bedford Ave. entrances to the Nostrand Ave. express stop along the A and C lines, the agency and a pair of local politicians announced on Thursday. The move reverses a late-1980s or early-1990s decision to close a giant mezzanine and staircase to Bedford Ave. and will help provide a shorter connection to the B44-SBS and better disperse passengers at the 77th busiest subway stop in the city.

For riders who live west of Nostrand Ave., reopening the entrances at Fulton St. and Bedford Ave. is a huge boon. The long-closed staircases are approximately 1000 feet away from the station’s remaining entrance and could shorten commute times by as much as four minutes each way. The work to reopen this entrance and a massive IND mezzanine will also restore a long-lost free in-station transfer between Nostrand’s northbound and southbound platforms.

The work involves rebuilding street-level staircases and station entrances, which were decked over as emergency exits decades ago, cleaning up corridors and staircases that haven’t seen passengers in over twenty years, and installing turnstiles and other elements of a modern fare control area. The MTA expects to reopen the entrances by the end of the year at a cost of approximately $2 million, $500,000 of which is being provided by Assembly Member Tremaine Wright and $250,000 of which comes from retiring State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. The MTA will pony up the rest as an operating expense.

“I am delighted to stand with the MTA, Senator Montgomery and our community partners to announce the much-anticipated re-opening of the second exit at the Nostrand Avenue A/C train station,” Assembly Representative Tremaine S. Wright said in a statement. “Every day, more than 36,000 people pass through this station and the re-opening of this passage way will alleviate much of the congestion. We are certain that this will improve the daily experience of subway users as well as enhance safety.”

Stenciled signage in areas of the station closed for decades recall a time when the C train provided service along the Concourse Line in the Bronx. (Photo via Dave Colon on Twitter)

In announcing the reopening, the MTA noted that these entrances were closed 30 years ago “during a period of concerns about crime,” and it’s certainly a testament to the safety of the system today that the agency has embarked on an effort to reopen numerous closed entrances around the city. It’s a topic I first explored in a post nearly a decade ago that highlighted the walkway connecting 7th and 8th Aves. underneath 14th St. and the Gimbels Passageway. Internally, the MTA had identified the Bedford Ave. entrances as prime candidates for reopening in a 2015 line review of the A/C trains [pdf]. Better five years later than never, I guess.

That said, the Bedford Ave. entrances at Nostrand have a tortured history. Although the IND Fulton St. Line originally opened in 1936, the entrances at Bedford will kept sealed until 1950 when the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood Council finally convinced the Board of Transportation to install turnstiles and open the exits. It’s not quite clear when the entrances were closed as the MTA’s own release puts the date around the 1980s, and available public newspaper articles suggests that the uptown/downtown crossover was shuttered in 1991 in the aftermath of a headline-grabbing rape in a deserted passageway connecting Herald Square to Bryant Park. In essence, then, since the IND’s Brooklyn debut in the mid-1930s, the Bedford Ave. entrances have likely been closed for longer than they’ve been opened.

Recently, the MTA has opened a number of old entrances, largely in conjunction with work on the L train, but they still have many more to go as attention has slowly shifted to these elements of the built environment that have been unused for most of the past three decades, if not longer. One Wikipedia contributor has built what many consider to be the master list of closed entrances, and recently, NYC Comptroller and a likely 2021 mayoral hopefully Scott Stringer penned a letter to the MTA asking for information about closed entrances. Stringer noted that as of a few years ago, the MTA had identified 298 staircases closed to the public at 119 different stations and requested the agency develop a five-year roadmap for opening these staircases.

“Millions of New Yorkers rely on the subway system every day to commute to work, attend classes, go to job interviews, see a doctor, and take their children to day care. At a time when system failures and overcrowding are already crippling commutes, especially for low-income New Yorkers, the abundance of shuttered subway station entrances across the five boroughs is problematic and unacceptable,” he said in his letter. “This is not just about reducing commute times, it’s about equity and fairness. We need a roadmap to improve mobility and accessibility for transit riders throughout the five boroughs.”

Well-preserved signs recall another era of NYC subway history. (Photo via Dave Colon on Twitter)

As the Bedford Ave. entrances ready for their reopening, I’m reminded of a story I once told regarding the opening of the giant mezzanine during the 7 line extension ribbon-cutting. I overheard an MTA official marvel at the open space as they said “I’ve spent my entire career closing these mezzanines.” For years, the MTA has hidden behind trumped-up concerns about safety to close off vast public spaces that make transit easier to reach and then relied on the argument that the ADA required them to include full accessibility upgrades if they were to reopen station entrances. As Nostrand Ave. is due for those upgrades as part of the 2020-2024 capital plan, the MTA feels that promise is sufficient to overcome legal challenges to reopening the entrance prior to (rather than concurrent with) any ADA work, and the entrances, it seems, are finally coming back to life.

As far as maximizing transit capacity and improving operations, reopening closed entrances is low-hanging fruit that can pay big dividends. For a minimal one-time spend, the agency has made an express station far more convenient for thousands, and by opening up the western end of the Nostrand Ave. station to passengers, the move should better disperse crowds along the platform, improving dwell times and crowd control. With an entrance to the express train now significantly closer for many, the move should also ease some crowding along the C train, and the 6-8 minutes in reduced walking time per passenger each day will add up quickly. This move makes transit more accessible and easier to reach for thousands and should be replicated as fast and as frequently as possible throughout the city.

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20 comments

Larry Penner February 7, 2020 - 6:46 am

I also remember decades ago as a LIRR rider transferred at Penn Station using the underground passageway known as the Hilton Corridor. It was also known as the Gimbels passageway. Gimbels was Macys chief competitor at Herald Square. This provided a simple indoor connection to the 34th Street Herald Square IND and BMT subway, along with Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) station complex.

Further, there was an underground passageway along 6th Avenue which went as far north as 42nd Street. As a teenager, I remember avoiding the rain and snow by using this indoor path. It would provide easy access to both the New York public library main branch and Stern’s 42nd Street department store.

Both passageways were closed decades ago by NYC Transit and the LIRR, due to security issues. If reopened today, commuters would have easy connections to the Broadway N, R, Q & W and 6th Avenue B, D, F & M subway lines along with the PATH system – rather than walking outside on the street exposed to both inclement weather and heavy vehicular traffic. By using either the subway or walking, riders would have direct access via these subway lines to Manhattan midtown and east side along with the Broadway, 6th Avenue, 42nd, 53rd, 59th or 63rd Street corridors, served by numerous subway lines and stations. Reopening this closed asset could provide another transit option at a fraction of the $11.2 billion LIRR ESA Grand Central Terminal project..

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.

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BL February 24, 2020 - 11:32 am

Gimbels should absolutely be reopened, but also reconstructed since it’s decently narrow. The passage from Herald Square to Bryant Park, however, now houses a tower for the BDFM lines so that won’t be reopening any time soon, unfortunately.

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Peter February 7, 2020 - 11:11 am

The MTA needs to crawl before it can walk, so it’s good they’re finally taking the minimal step of reopening these shuttered facilities. But in the long term I hope they will also start imagining better uses for these vast underutilized mezzanines. Bike storage would be amazing. Retail would make the stations more welcoming and useful and provide the MTA with revenue. There are numerous opportunities for this, particularly in the big IND stations. Look at all the space in that picture above! Probably half that area could be devoted to other uses without degrading circulation in the mezzanine. They successfully added retail a few years ago at Columbus Circle and I’ve heard a rejuvenation of the retail spaces at the Port Authority station is also planned. Hopefully this is a sign the agency is thinking more creatively about these assets.

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smotri February 12, 2020 - 5:04 pm

I agree with making use of vast underground space. Something like that is done at 59th Street – Columbus Circle, and in cities like Seoul and Busan in South Korea, where I have traveled, there are big underground markets in major subway stations.

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Ethan Rauch February 7, 2020 - 11:25 am

In paragraph 5, I think the author means 34th Street, not 14th Street.

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Ethan Rauch February 7, 2020 - 11:29 am

Oops, I was wrong. The author did mean 14th St.

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Shaul Picker February 7, 2020 - 4:50 pm

I am the person who created the so-called master list, being Kew Gardens 613 on Wikipedia. It is great that the work that my colleagues and I at ACCESS (Accessing Currently Closed Entrances to Subway Stations) have been doing has borne some fruit, but we need to keep on working hard to put pressure on the agency to open more closed entrances. We meet once a month, and we could really appreciate if any of you reached out to us and agreed to come to our monthly meetings. Thank you Ben for writing another story on closed subway entrances.

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Jeff Erlitz February 9, 2020 - 9:44 pm

I’m updating my database of all-time fare control areas with the reopened ones on the BMT Broadway-Brooklyn Line (JMZ). When I’m done, I’d like to share it with you. It’s something I’ve been maintaining for years now.

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Shaul Picker February 10, 2020 - 9:13 pm

Oh, wow. That is amazing. I would love to see it. Thanks for all the work you have done over the years!

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Vinny O'Hare February 7, 2020 - 8:05 pm

I was working in the subway back when they closed the 34th & 6th. It was about 4 weeks later they closed the Nostrand crossover. There was a mugging there and a cop got seriously hurt breaking it up.

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Kai B February 8, 2020 - 6:22 pm

Great to hear this. I always knew there was a closed Bedford entrance/exit but didn’t expect there is a mezzanine due to the “train in mezzanine due to last-minute express stop” layout of the station.

Ben, just FYI, your site triggers an outdated security certificate warning in both Safari and Chrome which takes several steps to circumvent.

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Nathanael February 9, 2020 - 8:21 pm

The MTA does have to put in those elevators, but as long as the project is fully funded and happening, nobody’s going to complain about getting the staircases reopened ahead of finishing the elevators. If they cancel the elevators there would be hell to pay though.

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Nathanael February 9, 2020 - 8:33 pm

MTA still violating the ADA, 30 years after it became law:

https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-mta-construction-no-7-line-subway-accessibility-elevators-20200115-7ykacmj4indedeyk2moncou5je-story.html

There’s a reason why advocates don’t trust the MTA. Too much history of criminal activity by MTA managers.

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Jessica February 11, 2020 - 3:06 pm

Yes, and if MTA were to settle the (nearly 3-years old) lawsuit for an enforceable timeline for the remaining stations, advocates wouldn’t get upset about accessibility being left out of necessary repairs to stations that are decades or even more than a century old. It says so much about how they feel about all of their customers that they would hold out on improving service by opening shuttered entrances because they don’t want to fulfill their responsibilities under ADA as a federally-funded public transit agency.

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keith February 10, 2020 - 8:23 am

Love the idea. I remember the free transfer as a child. Good looking MTA!!

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John February 10, 2020 - 1:45 pm

Nice! I live get on the A train at Utica stop and there are frequently delays when we get to Nostrand because all the exiting and entering passengers are concentrated at the one entrance/exit. The bigger issue on the A/C line is the delays between Nostrand and Hoyt-Schermerhorn due to train congestion, which occur virtually every day on Manhattan-bound A trains during morning rush hour

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AMH February 12, 2020 - 2:53 pm

Does the station have a full mezzanine or just at the western end of the station?

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Jeff Erlitz February 12, 2020 - 3:07 pm

The mezzanine is only at the west/Bedford Avenue end of the station. This may be the ONLY mezzanine on the IND with NO platforms under it!

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BL February 24, 2020 - 11:33 am

The mezzanine at West 3rd St at the West 4th St station also comes to mind!

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smotri February 12, 2020 - 4:49 pm

Is the MTA ever going to proceed with renovating the 68th Street – Hunter College Station on the Lexington Avenue local (6) line? And installing entrance/exits on 69th Street? There was talk of that, then opposition from the immediately surrounding community, now nothing.

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