Image: Steve Duncan
1. 42nd Street – Lower Level
Rarely used and now abandoned: 42nd Street’s lower level. Don’t miss the graffiti on the left.
42nd Street Times Square is one of those super busy stations and exiting here is an adventure, with crowds, confusion and tourists asking for directions. In all the hustle and bustle, it is no wonder that few notice the secret of 42nd Street: an abandoned lower level platform on the southbound side located underneath the upper level downtown local track. The lower level was built with the rest of the station in 1932 but only used from 1959 to 1981 for special fare trains and rush hour E trains in the ‘70s.
It isn’t even clear why the lower level was built but speculations exist. According to the NYC Subway website, the following story is a popular one:
“The Independent subway was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The #7 crosstown IRT line terminates at Times Square; it is said that the bumper blocks of the #7 are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd St. IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the #7 line to the west side of Manhattan.”
Competition between the different companies running the various lines was a big issue from the beginning, between the following authorities in particular: Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT), Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT), Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) and the Independent Subway System (IND). In 1953, the New York City Transit Authority was created and placed under its current control of the Metropolitan Transit Authority in 1968.