Why Is There a Huge, Half-Built Subway Station in Williamsburg Covered in Grafitti?

Over the weekend, the Underbelly Project exploded across the Internet. The work of dozens of street artists, they had taken over an abandoned subway station somewhere in the city and turned it into an underground (get it!) exhibition.

Yet when transit wonks saw the show online, their first wasn’t, “Whoa, nice tag!” but “Whoa, where’s that station?”

The answer, as Ben Kabak thoroughly details on Second Avenue Sagas, is South Williamsburg.

But the real question, with a complex yet compelling answer, is why the half-built station, with its six sets of nonexistant tracks even exists:

It exists in fragments – poured concrete, unfinished stairwells, no lightening, no through tunnels – and is a remnant of an era of larger plans. In a sense, it’s not an abandoned station because no trains ever served it nor could they. Rather, it is an abandoned dream. […] But back in 1929 and again in 1939 when the city was trying to build up its subway system, South 4th Street in Bushwick was to be a major intersection. The plans are aggressive: Both the Sixth Ave. and Eighth Ave. lines would have passed through this station, bound for multiple points east, south and north.

These grand plans, not surprisingly, were killed by the same flight to the suburbs that nearly killed the city for half-a-century to follow. Now that people have finally returned to the five boroughs, though, perhaps it could be reactivated? Yeah, and they’ll finish the Second Avenue Subway in our lifetime.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @mc_nyo