New Transfer Opens at Bleecker Street
The new transfer between the Bleecker Street Station uptown platform and the Broadway-Lafayette Street Station is now open. In addition, the installation of five elevators now makes the station complex fully accessible to disabled customers in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The project also included the rehabilitation of the Bleecker Street Station, including a new control area, new platforms, improved lighting and upgraded communication systems. Customers now have the added amenity of an escalator, funded in part by NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, which takes customers directly from the uptown platform to the Bleecker Street uptown platform. As part of the rehabilitation, new artwork was incorporated into the design of the new transfer point.
"Today, you're seeing our capital program at work expanding and integrating our entire transportation network," MTA Chairman & CEO Joseph J. Lhota said. "In fact, through our current capital program, we will invest more than $2.5 billion dollars in New York City — just for station work creating thousands of jobs with an overall economic impact in the tens of billions."
"The opening of this new transfer marks yet another milestone in our continuing efforts to provide customers with better service through more travel options," said President Prendergast. "This transfer will benefit approximately 30,000 customers each weekday."
Work on this $127 million project, funded in part by the Federal Transit Administration, began in July 2008 and involved extremely complicated engineering and construction with many elements — utility relocation, platform extensions, and the installation of five elevators while maintaining subway service most of the time. In order to create the new transfer passageway and re-open the East Mezzanine linking the two stations, excavation of Lafayette Street was required in order to extend the Bleecker Street Station's uptown platform to the south (toward East Houston Street) to connect with the East Mezzanine located below East Houston Street, between Lafayette and Mulberry Streets. Additionally, the excavation of East Houston Street was required in order to rehabilitate the East Mezzanine, which had been closed since the early 1980s.
Until today, this connection had been the only "incomplete" transfer point in the subway system.
The process of merging New York's three separate subway systems (IRT, BMT, and IND) into a single system began in the 1940s, with transfer points being constructed where separate lines crossed, for example, Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center, Times Square-42nd Street, Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue, 161st Street-Yankee Stadium, among others. The "one way" transfer passageway at Bleecker Street station was opened in 1957.
The Bleecker Street station was built with a very unusual design. Its downtown and uptown platforms were not directly across from each other. The uptown platform ended nearly a block north of the downtown platform. There are a number of stations that are asymmetrical in this way, but generally the difference is measured in feet, not an entire city block.
What caused the Great Asymmetry? The answer to that is apparently lost to history. None of the documents from 1904, when Bleecker Street was built as part of the city's first subway line, or those from later years when the platforms were extended, completely explain the offset.
Transit planners have made some educated guesses. For those who want to want to know more, check out "The Great Asymmetry." There is some surprising information about the money issue.
The introduction of a free transfer connection between the Bleecker Street Station uptown platform and the Broadway-Lafayette Street Station is the fourth free, in-system transfer New York City Transit has been able to open for customers in the last four years. It joins the new connections at Whitehall Street-South Ferry in Lower Manhattan, Jay Street-MetroTech in Brooklyn, and Court Square in Queens.
The MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design installation at the re-opened East Mezzanine is called Hive (Bleecker Street), a light installation by artist Leo Villareal. The LED sculpture takes the form of a honeycomb, dramatically filling an architectural space in the shape of an ellipse above the stairs that marks the new transfer point. The enormous ceiling, hovering overhead, becomes a type of illuminated diagram as vivid colors, outlining each hexagonal honeycomb shape, move across the sculpture. Villareal created an unprecedented art experience for transit riders who use the station, in its use of technology and LEDs.
Hive has a playful aspect in its reference to games. Riders will be able to identify individual elements within a larger context and track this movement. The work explores the compulsion to recognize patterns and the brain's hard-coded desire to understand and make meaning. The patterns also take inspiration from the research of the mathematician John Conway who invented the Game of Life, the best-known cellular automata program. Hive speaks to a diverse audience - it is abstract and evocative and can have many different meanings. It creates an experience for riders through changing patterns presented in randomized progression. Overall, the piece resonates with the activity of the station, transportation network and the city itself. The work was fabricated by Parallel Development. For more on MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design, visit mta.info/art.