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Rail call! Smith-Ninth Street station back in business after two years of renovations

Transit happy: Straphanger Julia Nobikova was one of the first to hop on the F train at the Smith-Ninth subway station that reopened Friday after two years of renovations.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The long-shuttered Smith-Ninth subway station is finally back in business after two drawn out years of major renovation work.

The sorely missed transit hub on the border of Red Hook and Carroll Gardens that services the F and G lines reopened Friday after a $32-million makeover and months of delays.

“It’s no secret that we all thought this work should have been done sooner and we’re really grateful for the community’s patience. But here we are,” said Fernando Ferrer, the acting chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the revamped station Friday.

Rehabilitation of the 80-year-old subway station was originally supposed to be completed in nine months, but fell far behind schedule due to the contractor’s “poor management,” according to an MTA report.

“Insufficient manpower and quality control, and other design issues” contributed to the postponement, the report said.

But now the elevated transportation gateway, which the MTA says is the highest subway station in the world at nearly 88 feet above street level, is up and running better than ever.

Improvements to the station include a new and expanded ground level control house, new lighting, new canopies, rehabilitated stairs and platforms, fully functioning escalators, a new public address system, and a newly installed emergency intercom system.

The station is even adorned with touches of art such as a 14-foot blue tile mosaic by the turnstiles and nautical maps of local bodies of water printed onto 26 windows in the station created by a Red Hook artist.

“This is not your grandpa station that’s for sure,” said Borough President Markowitz just before the first train rolled through the station at 11:05 am to the sound of cheers. “It is just a beautiful rehabilitation.”

But transportation-starved Red Hook straphangers who have been without the vital subway station for two arduous years are just glad to have it back in use.

“I really missed it. We needed it the most and now we finally got a good train station in our neighborhood,” said Red Hook resident Quan Boyd, who added that the condition of the station used to be “disgusting.”

Rider Carolina Cuervo, who lives on the edge of Red Hook, said that without the Smith-Ninth station 15 minutes was added to her commute everyday to Manhattan because she had to walk or take the bus to next nearest stop – the Carroll Street subway station.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Cuervo as she waited for the F train. “I’m so excited, I don’t even know what I’m going to do with my extra 15 minutes – there’s all these possibilities.”

But not all straphangers anticipating the reopening of the station were happy with what they found.

Longtime Red Hook resident Gloria McWilliams, who said she has been diagnosed with lupus that causes immense fatigue, was outraged when she discovered that the multi-million dollar renovation did not include handicap accessibility.

“I’m very disappointed,” she said, adding that she won’t be able to make it up to the platform. “We need elevators and ramps.”

But MTA officials said lifts would have raised the price of the rehab exhorbitantly.

“The design for ADA elevators at this station was financially prohibitive due to the station’s layout,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

Although service has resumed at the station, minor work still has to be done, said MTA officials.

The renovation of the station is part of the agency’s $389 million Culver Viaduct rehabilitation project, which includes the restoration of several other stations, such as the Fourth Avenue-Ninth Street stop.

The closure of the Smith-Ninth subway station precipitated the extension of the G line to Church Avenue, which used to turn around at Smith-Ninth. But the extension, which gave Brooklyn straphangers a one-seat ride between Ditmas Park and Greenpoint without the indignity of going through Manhattan, became so popular the MTA made the extension preeminent.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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