Getting the shaft: Dumbo residents demand second entrance at York St. subway station

Getting the shaft: Dumbo residents demand second entrance at York St. subway station
Photo by Jason Speakman

It is the tunnel of shove!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority must add a second entrance to York Street station, say Dumbo residents and workers, who claim the daily hordes are already pushing each other out of way to get in and out of the F stop’s lone, long egress and an emergency situation could end in tragedy.

“It’s unsafe now,” said Dumbo resident Anna Lawton. “If anything ever happens, there’s going to be a massive problem.”

Modern stations have to sport at least two escape routes, but the only way to enter or exit the 79-year-old station on the corner of Jay and York streets is make a lengthy trek up or down a single ramp and flight of stairs — a set-up that leads to impenetrable crowds moving in one direction en masse at rush hour, according to one commuter.

“There should be another entrance because there are huge crowds and it’s overwhelming,” said artist Elizabeth Hazan, who works in Dumbo and avoids the station altogether during rush hour. “If you’re trying to go against the grain it’s impossible.”

The pit-stop’s popularity has swelled in recent years as the formerly industrial area has boomed with new residents, businesses, and tourists — an average of 9,000 people swarmed the station every weekday in 2014, up from around 6,000 in 2009, according to agency data.

And the neighborhood’s numbers are set to surge even further in the coming years — there are several huge office buildings in the pipeline, plus a massive empty lot for sale next door, where real-estate experts say a developer will likely build several big residential towers that could add more than a thousand additional denizens to the ’hood.

A rep for the transit agency said it is speaking with the city about forcing developers to help pay for station upgrades when their buildings add a significant number of riders. And local leaders are demanding the city lay down the law before the new towers rise in Dumbo.

“They shouldn’t move on anything until there’s two exits in the York Street subway,” said Doreen Gallo, who is president of the area civic group the Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance and who saw how things could go disastrously wrong at the stop first-hand in 2014 when an unprecedented throng showed up to outdoor arts gala the Festival of Lights, overwhelming the platform and forcing police to functionally shut it down.

The agency spokesperson refused to comment on any hypothetical changes at York Street, but one unaffiliated transit maven was more than happy to.

Flatbush railroad aficionado Bob Diamond — who has been traversing the city’s rail tunnels since he was a teen — speculates that adding a new entrance at York Street would be particularly challenging because the tracks are so deep underground. The transit authority would need to install high-speed elevators or escalators to cover the distance, and may have to extend the platform — which runs between York and High streets — as well. But, he added, it would be money well spent.

“It would be costly but it would be worth it from the point of view the area is developing very quickly,” said Diamond, who guessed escalators could cost run between $7 and $15 million alone, and a full renovation could balloon up to $100 million if a platform extension is required.

The transit buff also had a proposition for covering the costs — he expects the streetcar Mayor DeBlasio is planning to build along the borough’s waterfront will run nearby on Water or Plymouth streets, and suggested the city foot the bill for a new entrance at the corner of Water and Jay streets itself.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Subterraneum blues: A map shows where York Street statation runs underground.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority