Monday, November 10, 2014


Out of Dust and Debris, a New Jewel Rises
Fulton Center, a Subway Complex, Reopens in Lower Manhattan

The city’s newest subway hub is finally ready for straphangers.
The long-awaited $1.4 billion Fulton Center, which connects nine subway lines and will serve and estimated 300,000 travelers a day, opened to the public at 5 a.m. on Monday.

New Yorkers, accustomed to thinking of transit hubs like Penn Station and Times Square as places to suffer through, will find on Monday morning a kind of Crystal Palace, crowned by a dome that funnels daylight two stories below ground.

Even with ballooning budgets and repeated delays, Fulton Center was the kind of megaproject designed to inspire hyperbole, and it did: “Forget the Grand Central clock,” said Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, at Fulton Center’s opening on Sunday afternoon. “They’re going to come here.”

She and the other politicians and transit officials who spoke at the opening reminded the crowd of the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when dust and debris entombed the surrounding streets. As daylight streamed through the oculus’s “Sky-Reflector Net,” the speakers all came to the same point, most succinctly summarized by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York.

“This station,” he said, “is a metaphor for a revitalized downtown.”

Around Fulton Street, the scaffolding and cranes that chopped up lower Manhattan have come down. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened in May. The skyscraper at 1 World Trade Center welcomed its first tenants last week. Up to 300,000 passengers a day are expected to pass through Fulton Center.

But like the others, Fulton Center was never intended simply to restore: with retailers like Tom Ford claiming space in the World Trade Center and a food court drawing buzz in nearby Brookfield Place, officials envision the new building as downtown’s answer to Grand Central Terminal.

A classical guitarist serenaded the opening-event guests. Burberry ads flashed across large screens. About the only humble touch was the greeting Monica Williams, a supervisor at the complex, had written on the information booth’s whiteboard for Monday: “Have a nice day.”

“It is a big job,” she said, smiling. “A big challenge.”

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s architects and construction workers had to resolve century-old rivalries among the nine subway lines around Fulton Street, the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z and R. Their stations originally belonged to three competing subway companies.

The builders smoothed out connections, diminishing the bobbing-and-weaving that had made navigation at Fulton Center an ordeal. Now, among other changes, the A and C lines run a few flights of stairs down from the 4 and the 5. Passengers can reach the 4 and 5 trains from any point along the platform, rather than from the three doors they squeezed through before. And the entire complex is accessible to the disabled.

They threaded a 350-foot-long pedestrian passageway under Dey Street to link Fulton Center with the R and, sometime next year, the World Trade Center PATH train complex, designed as a companion hub. Once the World Trade Center’s complex opens and the Cortlandt Street station is rebuilt, passengers will also find the E and 1 lines through the passageway.

They encircled the central hub with shops and kiosks.

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