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96th Street is the northern terminus of Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway that cost a total of $4.45 billion dollars, making it the most expensive subway ever constructed on a per-mile basis and opened on January 1, 2017. The evening before, Governor Cuomo threw a New Year’s Eve Party for dignitaries, invited guests, and municipal employees; complete with New York State beer and wine occupying the newsstands.

The station is the only one on the extension that was built using the cut-and-cover method due to soil conditions. Consequently this station is much shallower than the other two stations on the line at 49 feet deep. It is the only Second Avenue subway station at which the public can get the entire distance from street to train platform only using stairs. The station was location of the launch box for the Tunnel Boring Machines used to drill the twin tubs down to 63rd Street. The tracks extend north of the station to 105 Street (used for train storage), using an already existing cut-and-cover tunnel that was built in the 1970s as part of a previous attempt to build the Second Avenue Subway which was abandoned due to New York City’s fiscal crisis.

The station’s entrances are the best example on phase I of the power of the Special Transit Easement district that became part of NYC zoning law in 1969. This part of the zoning code requires any new building construction or major building modification along 2nd Avenue at proposed subway stations to have designated space whether inside the ground floor at street level or in a public plaza setting the building back from the street, for future subway entrances. This 50 year-old zoning law will help Second Avenue subway entrances from cluttering the sidewalk, any place where construction has occurred in the last 50 years on all future Second Avenue subway extensions.

The stop consists of a single, wide island platform for the two-track line with trains reversing using a diamond crossover just south of the station. The platform is equipped with the previous generation rudimentary blue/green dot matrix information signs that can’t display the B-division countdown clock information that requires more modern color signs. These signs do display Next Train track information with an arrow. The only modern color countdown clocks are above the turnstiles at both station entrances. There are a few LCD information screens that display next train arrival times along the platform. The island platform contains no structural columns holding up the full-length mezzanine above although the mezzanine has a noticeably thicker floor that at the other two deep cavern stations, the lack of columns are a problem for service change information, like when I visited, M trains instead of Q trains were serving the station. The platform walls are grey panels with black lines and 96s in them at regular intervals.

To leave the platform the station has a nearly full-length mezzanine. Connecting the mezzanine to the platform, starting at the northern end of the mezzanine is a staircase/up escalator, this is followed by a staircase and then platform elevator that primarily serve the exit to 96 Street. This is followed by a staircase/escalator, followed by a staircase and a final staircase/escalator up to 94 Street at the southern end of the platform. The northern end of the mezzanine contains public restrooms (closed between Midnight and 5:00am).

The main 96th Street exit is through a fare control area in the west wall of the northern end of the mezzanine – the only exit of the first 3 Second Avenue Subway Stations that is not at the northern or southern end of the mezzanine. After turnstiles and a modern token booth directly along the fare line, an elevator leads up to the middle of the block, and a staircase/up escalator leads up to SW corner of 96 Street and Second Avenue in a Privately Owned Public Space. The public space has a brown tiled surface that looks much older and doesn’t match the modern glass elevator entrance or glass canopy and black fences that surround the modern Second Avenue Subway entrances.

The southern end of the mezzanine contains a very wide fare control area with two separate banks of turnstiles leading to two exits at 94 Street and 2nd Avenue. 3 escalators lead directly up to the street level in a wide plaza at the NE corner. This plaza is part of an apartment high-rise that is set-back from the corner and had all of its apartments converted into the Marmara Hotel. A staircase and escalator lead up to the SW corner and are located inside the first story of a high-rise apartment building with the actual entrance along 2nd Avenue about a third of the way from the corner towards 93 Street.
All Photos Taken on October 7, 2018

Art For Transit at 96 Street

Arts For Transit at 96 Street

Blueprint for a Landscape, 2017
Porcelin Tile
By Sarah Sze

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Last Updated: 21 June, 2019
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