Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Windows on the Van Wyck

A few weeks ago I went for a walk in Briarwood and Kew Gardens Hills. I got off the train at Jamaica-Van Wyck, the first time I’d ever used that station. It was full of red brick, reminding me of other stations that were opened or renovated in the seventies and eighties, like 21st Street-Queensbridge and 49th Street, but it was uncomfortably dark, despite the high ceilings and fairly bright lights.

I looked up and saw an elevated walkway inside the station, leading to the exit, similar to other grand stations of that era like Queensbridge, Auber in Paris, or Dupont Circle in Washington. On the other side of the station I saw what looked like balconies or windows above, but there was no light coming through them.

When I got outside, I crossed the Van Wyck Expressway on Jamaica Avenue. I looked down, and could actually see the outside of the station in the trench next to the highway. It's even more obvious in this Bing aerial photo:

It's hard to tell through the fence, but the panels on the walls look like they could be windows covered with paint or plastic.

I then looked up the station on the web, and found more information. The windows were uncovered as late as 1998, when Wayne Whitehorn took a series of pictures including this one:

Nycsubway.org has that photo, plus a couple of other good ones. According to user R32 3671 on the NYC Transit Forums, they were covered over by the year 2000, due to "vandals." Some commenters on SubChat said that the vandals actually broke the windows; others only say that they spray-painted graffiti over them. There was certainly graffiti all over the window covers when I took these pictures.

If they uncovered the windows now, in 2016, how often would people try to tag them? How much would it cost to keep them clean and guard them? Would it be more than the cost of maintaining the "Low Line" park proposed for the Manhattan Terminal, plus the amortized cost of constructing that park, estimated at $55 million in 2013?


Matthias Hess said...

That 1998 photo is incredible--the station actually looks nice!

capt subway said...

The Archer Ave subway is a depressing $hithole - paradigmatic of everything that was wrong with the MTA's grandiose but totally misguided and poorly thought-through schemes of the late 1960s / early 1970s. If it had become the long proposed SE Queens subway it might have served an actual purpose (despite the crappy, terminally ugly station designs / cheesy on-the-cheap construction). As it stands now (for what - 30 years and counting?) it's accomplished absolutely nothing - less than nothing actually, as it cut back the J line by one full station stop, from 168 / JA to Parsons / Archer (160 / JA). And Parsons / Archer on the E is an incredibly poor design - the crossover is closer to Sutphin than Parsons so the terminal cannot handle all E trains - some must be sent to 179 in the peak periods, causing no end of confusion amongst passengers who regularly get shanghaied onto the wrong trains due to improper signs and poor / garbled announcements. In that regard it is no different from the 63rd St line, which after 20 years of on-again off-again construction and around a billion $$$ in construction costs added exactly - 0 trains to Queens Blvd service.

oinonio said...

Would the windows actually need glass? couldn't the station be open to the air? That'd avoid tagging…