Brooklyn Boro

It’s time to reopen all those closed subway entrances | Opinion

December 19, 2019 Raanan Geberer
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Everyone in the four boroughs in which the New York City subway system runs has had the same experience. You’re in the middle of a rainstorm or freezing weather and you need to enter the subway. Still, you have to walk another block or two because the former subway entrance that’s right in front of you is closed — and it’s been closed since you can remember.

There are currently more than 100 stations in which the MTA has closed at least one entrance. According to The New York Times, many of these were closed during the budget-crunch era of the 1970s and ’80s, when crime was soaring and population was declining in the city. Some of the entrances that were closed at the time led to long, right-angled and narrow tunnels that couldn’t be seen by either the token-booth clerk or passengers on the platform and were thus ideal “hunting grounds” for muggers.

Among the many subway stations in Brooklyn with at least one closed stairway or entrance, according to an NBC-TV survey, are:

  • At least seven on the J-Z Broadway-Brooklyn line
  • Broadway Junction, which serves five separate subway lines; several on the G line
  • The Seventh Avenue station on the Q and B lines
  • The Eastern Parkway station on the 2 and 3 lines
  • The huge DeKalb Avenue and Court Street-Borough Hall transfer stations

Since around 2010, interest in reopening some of these closed subway entrances has been growing every year. One reason is that population growth is booming in some of the neighborhoods served by these stations, thanks to gentrification. Another reason is because of increased pressure by community groups whose members are tired of walking two blocks to enter the subway when a closed entrance is right in front of them. 

One example, which has been widely publicized, is the Nostrand Avenue station on the A and C lines. Brooklyn Community Board 3 wants the MTA to reopen entrances near Bedford Avenue that were closed decades ago.

Commuters wouldn’t have to walk an extra five minutes to Nostrand Avenue just to catch an express train, if there was a station entrance at Bedford Avenue, where one stood decades ago. The block separating Nostrand from Bedford on Lafayette Avenue is an extremely long one. “You can’t have two to three thousand people living on the corner and sending all those people to one entrance at Nostrand Avenue,” Henry Butler, district manager at CB3, told NY1 News.

At times, community pressure has resulted in the MTA reopening some of these long-closed entrances. For example, for many years the only entrance to the Flushing Avenue station on the J, M and Z lines was at Flushing and Broadway. In 2017, the entrance at the other end of the station, at Fayette Street, was reopened. Still, at the time, the MTA issued very little publicity about the move, Gothamist said at the time. Perhaps this was because the MTA didn’t want to draw attention to the overall issue of closed subway entrances.

In another example, in 2012 the MTA reopened one of two entrances to the Fourth Avenue station on the F and G lines. The two entrances are across the street from each other. “Fourth Avenue [which separates the two entrances] is like the Indie 500 racetrack,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign told the New York Daily News. The stationhouse on the east side of Fourth Avenue had been closed in the ’70s because of safety problems, but when it was reopened it had new lights and floors.

Some commentators have speculated that the MTA is in no hurry to reopen these closed entrances because it might give rise to demands that disabled-accessible features such as elevators be installed there. Others, however, feel that this is just a subterfuge by the MTA to avoid the expense of reopening them.

Regardless, as someone who myself has sometimes had to walk two blocks past a closed subway entrance to get to an open one, I’m glad that the powers that be within the MTA are at least examining the situation and have reopened some closed entrances. At the same time, however, I would warn against pressuring the seriously cash-strapped agency to reopen all these entrances at once. A station-by-station, cost-benefit analysis is required. 

That being the case, I hope that as many entrances as possible are put back into service.

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  1. Andrew Porter

    The western entrances to the Eastern Parkway station were closed—there are blocking doors at the ends of the platforms—but at least on the southern side of Eastern Parkway, you can see a big slab of bare concrete where the steps down were. I have no doubt that the disused booth areas are below.

    Since the closure, the entire area has seen an enormous renewal, with new buildings everywhere. You wouldn’t even have to install an elevator there—there’s one in the process of being built at the entrance in front of the Brooklyn Museum/Botanic Garden entrances.

  2. Mike Suko

    I don’t think this article makes any mention of the REAL REASON those closures took place – when they are staffed, the cost per passenger (i.e., money the city loses by virtue of keeping those entrances in operation) is god awful. Maybe, you think that a token clerk should make 2 or 3 times what a teller does…. I do not – but that’s the chief stumbling block…. AND to have them with nothing but the cylindrical entrance-exit REALLY does create safety issues.

    I like a variant on your “wish” – more “yellow-orange” entrances – ones which are open approximately 6 AM to 8 PM. Come to think of it, it may be that the transit people threw that concept under the bus several years back. Might be worth another look!

    The whole thing needs a “re-think” – partly because technology and common sense say that the thousands of people “selling metrocards” is (salary-and-benefits) money grossly mis-spent. Similarly, if Nevins Street can be served adequately by one booth, so can hundreds of other stations. Yes, retrofitting is never inexpensive, but I’d bet that many such jobs would pay for themselves in 5 years or less.