191st Street (IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line)
|New York City Subway station (rapid transit)|
A view of one of the station platforms.
|Address||West 191st Street & Saint Nicholas Avenue|
New York, NY 10040
|Line||IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line|
|Services||1 (all times)|
|Transit connections||NYCT Bus: M3, M101|
|Depth||180 feet (55 m)|
|Platforms||2 side platforms|
|Opened||January 14, 1911|
|Accessible||ADA-accessible to mezzanine only; platforms are not ADA-accessible|
|Passengers (2017)||2,657,964 2.7%|
|Rank||193 out of 425|
|Next north||Dyckman Street: 1|
|Next south||181st Street: 1|
191st Street is a station on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line of the New York City Subway. Located at the intersection of St. Nicholas Avenue and 191st Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, it is served by the 1 train at all times.
191st Street is the deepest station in the New York City Subway system, at a depth of about 180 feet (55 m) below street level. Access to the station's main entrance is only provided by four elevators to the mezzanine. A pedestrian tunnel also extends westward to Broadway, 1,000 feet (300 m) west of the actual station.
The station opened in 1911 as an infill station, five years after the opening of this portion of the line. Two years later, a pedestrian tunnel opened, better connecting the station with the local neighborhood, whose access was hindered by the area's hilly topography. The opening of the station and the tunnel resulted in the development of the surrounding area of Fort George, including the construction of apartment buildings.
The West Side Branch of the first subway, which was constructed by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), was extended northward from 157th Street to a temporary terminus of 221st Street and Broadway on March 12, 1906 without a station at 191st Street. The population in Washington Heights grew rapidly with the construction of the line, and it was determined that a station should be built at 191st Street to bridge the 4,802 feet (1,464 m)-long gap between 181st Street and Dyckman Street, which were overcrowded. Engineers found that the construction of a station was feasible since the subway platforms would be on almost the same level as Broadway.
Work on the construction of the station began on July 20, 1909. Preliminary work on the new shafts began on August 18, 1909 after legal and engineering difficulties were straightened out in the previous months. More than 20,000 cubic yards of rock was blasted and removed from the shaft. The opening of the station was expected to spur development in the Fort George area prior to the station's opening. The original sponsor for the station was David Stewart. The construction of the station had been pushed for by property owners seeking better accessibility for their land. Following the announcement for the station's construction, and prior to the start of construction, interest in nearby real estate increased, after being nonexistent for the previous two years.
The station had not been deemed necessary as this area of Manhattan was less densely populated, and it was thought that there was need to have stations located as closely together as they were downtown. The first work done in the station's construction was the clearing of a site in a vacant lot south of 191st Street on the west side of St. Nicholas Avenue for a 177 feet (54 m) deep shaft to accommodate four elevators and a steel emergency staircase from the surface to platform level. The four elevator wells were located in the four corners of the main shaft with the staircase located between them. The emergency staircase, along with those at the 168th Street and 181st Street stations, which were also mainly accessed by elevators, was used for the first time on March 23, 1914 after the elevators stopped working due to a problem at the Dyckman power station. The use of the staircase resulted in extreme congestion.
Construction of the station was very difficult, requiring the sinking of a shaft and the widening of the tunnel bore on both sides to accommodate the platforms, and was done without interrupting subway service. The station platforms were constructed by building two new tunnels alongside the existing tunnel, and connecting them once the platforms were complete. Blasting for the station was limited to midnight to 5 a.m.. The station platforms were built to be 480 feet (150 m) to accommodate 10-car express trains. Originally, part of the old tunnel arch was going to be used for the station roof. However, the discovery of a mud seam and the development of cracks in the roof made it necessary to build a flat roof over the tracks, filling in the space between the roofs with concrete.
Along with the construction of the station, a 1,000-foot (300 m)-long tunnel was built to connect the station at 191st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue with Broadway, 59 feet (18 m) west of Fairview Avenue. James A. Lynch, the counsel for many subway contractors, recommended the construction of a tunnel street to provide better access to the station, and convinced local property owners and the city to fund it. The cost was levied on the neighborhood's property owners at their request. The tunnel street cost $76,000, of which the IRT provided $5,000. The title to an easement required for its construction was acquired in a proceeding under a provision of the City Charter, not under the terms of the Rapid Transit Act.
On October 5, 1909, the Board of Improvements of Washington Heights approved plans for the construction of a 1,900 feet (580 m)-long tunnel to Riverside Drive. Three entrances to the tunnel were proposed, one at Broadway, one at Fort Washington Avenue with two elevators, and at Riverside Drive, three at grade. The tunnel would have been bored from both sides, and was expected to be completed within 14 months.
In June 1910, the local board of directors sent a resolution calling for the construction of the street to the New York City Board of Estimate (NYCBOE). At the time, provision had been acquired for slightly more than half of the length of the tunnel, with the remainder expected to be secured by easements. The NYCBOE approved the petition for the improvement and agreed to hold a public hearing on December 29. Unlike other streets in the city, easements were only acquired to a height of 14 feet (4.3 m) above the tunnel. In January 1911, construction was expected to begin in the summer. The contract for the underground street was let on September 9, 1911, and was awarded to the Bell-Ross Contracting Company headed by Roswell D. Williams on September 25. The company was given a year to finish the work, but expected to complete it in nine months. In October 1911, construction of the tunnel was expected to be completed on April 1, 1912. Construction on the tunnel began in January 1912. In December 1911, the local Board of Improvements authorized plans to extend the tunnel west at grade across Broadway and Bennett Avenue and then in a tunnel to a point underneath Fort Washington Avenue, the highest point in Manhattan, from where elevators would take passengers to the surface. In April 1913, it was expected to be extended at a later date. An extension of the tunnel was expected to quickly develop that area. As such an extension was discussed, questions were raised concerning which agency would operate the elevators. In June 1912, blasting on the tunnel was completed, with its expected opening date being September 1912. To cut down the danger of accidents, the contractors sank a shaft halfway up the hill and tunneled east to the subway station and west to Broadway.
The tunnel opened on March 8, 1913. At a ceremony for the tunnel's opening, Manhattan Borough President George McAneny, Commissioner Williams of the Public Service Commission and other officials unanimously allowed the street to be named Tunnel Street. The tunnel was also intended to be used as a way for pedestrians to easily get to St. Nicholas Avenue at the top of the hill; pedestrians were allowed to use the elevators free of charge. On December 31, 1913, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court issued a decision denying a revision to the awards made for the easements for the tunnel's construction. Since both entrances to the tunnel were very windy, storm doors were later installed at either end of the tunnel.
At its connection to the subway station elevator, it is 225 feet (69 m) below the surface. The tunnel was built underneath a steep hill to save people a walk of 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 mile (0.40 to 0.54 km) and a steep climb. Before the tunnel opened, riders used circuitous routes to get to either the Dyckman Street or 181st Street stations. The tunnel provided better access westward to the Hudson River in the valley between 187th Street and Nagle Avenue. The tunnel was built to be 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and 12 feet (3.7 m) high in the center, with the sides going up 6 feet (1.8 m), with an arched room with a radius of 6 feet (1.8 m). The tunnel was built of concrete reinforced with steel, and excavated through solid rock, with the exception of 173 feet (53 m) at the street end of the tunnel, which was built as a roofed-over cut. The tunnel's construction was expected to increase development in this area of Manhattan as the difficult terrain would not longer be a deterrent. The underground street was the only of its kind in Manhattan. The tunnel was lined with glazed tile, lit for its entire length, and guarded at all times. The tunnel had a stationary post where a policeman was always on duty. Policemen were stationed at either end of the tunnel. The tunnel's grade from the steps at the Broadway entrance to the subway platform was one percent to allow water used in cleaning and collected around the walls to drain through a sewer to the subway. The difference between the two ends is 9.5 feet (2.9 m).
The approach to the entrance through the building at the southwest corner of 191st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue was rebuilt by the Morgenthau Realty Company in conjunction with the construction of a building at this location. In November 1916, work on rebuilding the station entrance was completed.
Opening and early years
As of June 1910, the station had been expected to open in fall 1910. On July 18, 1910, several tons of rail fell through the roof of the tunnel and onto the northbound track after an overcharge of powder was set off, nearly seriously injuring a dozen workers. The accident delayed service for two hours. 191st Street opened to the public on January 14, 1911, despite not being fully complete. The ticket booths, which were to be located in vestibules at street level, were not completed, and temporary booths for the sale of tickets were built and put in the mezzanine. A special train with guests ran from 137th Street to the station. Upon the station's opening, apartment buildings had been completed, with some lots still available for development. In the words of The New York Times, "prior to the opening of the 191st Street subway station... no high-class residential building was to be found north of 187th Street." It expected the Fort George area to become one of the choicest apartment areas of the city.
Construction of the station, done as a modification to Contract 1, the contract between New York City and the IRT for the construction of the first subway, cost $381,000. Space for four elevators in one shaft were built in the station going as far down as the mezzanine. However, initially, only two of the elevators were installed, with the other two to be put in once ridership at the station justified it. These elevators go up to the surface at a plot given to the city by the Henry Morgenthau Company. The elevators were located in one of the company's buildings, which was completed at the end of 1916. The Henry Morgenthau Company was a real estate development company and had profited on the increasing value of real estate around the station. In 1915, users of the station complained about elevator service to the IRT. They noted that it often took five or six minutes and sometimes ten minutes to wait for an elevator. At the time, except during a few hours at night and in the morning, there was only one elevator operator.
After the station opened, the walls were black and stained, ironwork was covered in rust, and portions of cement in the walls and ceiling had crumbled away due to water damage. The rock-bed above the station consisted of clay and shale, which allowed surface water to seep into the station. A similar problem occurred at the 181st Street station, and it took time to fix the leaks and waterproof that station. Drains were installed in this station and leaks were tended to. These temporary fixes were made until the city's construction of the pedestrian tunnel was completed. On January 3, 1912, IRT officials had hinted that if the problems could not be fixed, the station would be eliminated. The problem was eventually fixed, and a similar issue occurred at the Canal Street station in 1918.
On June 10, 1919, 500 lots in Washington Heights owned by the Bennett Family since 1835 were sold to the highest bidder. The sale of the land was expected to provide additional housing opportunities for the middle class. The construction of a new station in between the 181st Street and 191st Street stations, similar to the construction of the 191st Street station, with entrances at 186th Street and 187th Street was expected to relieve projected overcrowding at those two stops and to serve the development of the Broadway block, bounded by Broadway, Bennett Avenue and 187th Street, that was owned by the Bennett Family. A tunnel would have connected the deep station to Riverside Drive and Fort Washington Avenue. The construction of the stop was considered a "practical certainty."
On August 13, 1925, the New York City Board of Transportation (NYCBOT) announced that two additional elevators would be added to the station as ridership increased with the opening of the George Washington High School. The high school, which opened in February 1925, added 3,500 daily passengers to the station. The elevators at the stop handled 2,001 passengers a day in 1915, increasing by 200% to 5,187 in 1925. Bids for the project were received on August 28, with construction expected to be completed eight month after the award. On October 14, 1925, the contract was awarded to the Otis Elevator Company for $107,865. That company was the only bid received, and the NYCBOT found that other firms did not compete in the bidding as they were not able to meet the need for the elevators to be equipped with floor leveling safety devices. The elevators opened on September 16, 1926, coinciding with the opening of city schools. The addition of the elevators required the addition of additional power supply.
In 1948, platforms on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line from 103rd Street to 238th Street were lengthened to 514 feet (157 m) to allow full ten-car express trains to platform. Unlike the other stations being lengthened on the line, the 191st Street station already platformed 10-car trains. However, because it was only 480 feet (150 m), not all doors would open at the station. On April 6, 1948, the platform extension opened for stations from 103rd Street to Dyckman Street, with the exception of 125th Street.
On December 28, 1950, the NYCBOT issued a report concerning the construction of bomb shelters in the subway system. Five deep stations in Washington Heights, including the 191st Street station, were considered to be ideal for being used as bomb-proof shelters. The program was expected to cost $104,000,000. These shelters were expected to provide limited protection against conventional bombs, while providing protection against shock waves and air blast, as well as from the heat and radiation from an atomic bomb. To become suitable as shelters, the stations would require water-supply facilities, first-aid rooms, and additional bathrooms.
During FY1962, two of the station's elevators were replaced. Funding for the rehabilitation of the other two elevators was initially provided in the 1976 New York State budget, but was reallocated. Funding for the rehabilitation of these elevators and those at 181st Street on the IND Eighth Avenue Line would have cost $940,000. In 1981, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) listed the 191st Street station among the 69 most deteriorated stations in the subway system. On May 18, 1983, bids for the rehabilitation of elevators at the two stops were put out.
On August 21, 1989, with the start of 1/9 weekday skip-stop service, 1 trains began skipping this station between 6:30 am and 7:00 pm, while 9 trains served the station during these times. On September 4, 1994, midday skip-stop service was discontinued, and 191st Street was no longer a skip-stop station. Skip-stop service ended in 2005.
In 2001, the nonprofit group Upper Manhattan Together made a priority of improving the 191st Street station. At the time, passengers would have to wait on long lines to get to the platforms since only one or two of the elevators at the station usually worked. The group had persuaded the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) to paint and improve the lighting in the pedestrian tunnel, and turned their attention to the station's elevators. According to an MTA spokesperson, three elevators were supposed to be running during rush hours, and stated that one of the elevators was being renovated, with a second to be done later. She also stated that the station would be completely overhauled in 2003. The station was closed between July 1 and December 31, 2003 for the renovation project. The pedestrian tunnel was closed during the project. The $15 million renovation was done by New York City Transit crews in-house. As part of the project, the station's elevators were upgraded, new lighting, ceramic wall tiles, granite floor tiles, and a new public information system were installed, and steel and concrete supports were repaired. All deteriorating tiles and mosaics were replaced with exact reproductions made by Serpentile. The token booth was moved as part of the project.
In July 2003, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that as part of its 2004 budget, it would eliminate 22 elevator operator positions at this station and four others in Washington Heights, leaving one full-time operator per station, to save costs. The agency had intended to remove all the attendants at these stops, but kept one in each station after many riders protested. The change saved $1.2 million a year, after taking effect on January 20, 2004. MTA employees had joined riders in worrying about an increase in crime as a result of the cuts after an elevator operator at 181st Street helped save a stabbed passenger. In November 2007, as part of a savings cuts plan, the MTA planned to remove all the attendants as part of savings cuts, saving $1.7 million a year. On December 7, 2007, the MTA announced that the plan was shelved due to pushback from elected officials and residents from the area. In October 2018, the MTA again proposed removing the elevator operators at the five stations, but this decision was reversed after dissent from the Transport Workers Union.
The elevator attendants currently serve as a way to reassure passengers as the elevators are the primary entrance to the platforms, and passengers often wait for the elevators with an attendant. The attendants at the five stations are primarily maintenance and cleaning workers who suffered injuries that made it hard for them to continue doing their original jobs.
The elevators at this station will be closed between February 2020 and February 2021 for replacement of the cabs, though the station will remain open via the exit to Broadway. It is unclear whether the elevator operators will keep their jobs after the elevators' replacement.
Bank of elevators in northern exit. Note: Platforms and street level are not accessible
|M||Mezzanine||Fare control, station agent|
|Side platform, doors open on the right|
|Northbound||← toward Van Cortlandt Park (Dyckman Street)|
|Southbound||→ toward South Ferry (181st Street) →|
|Side platform, doors open on the right|
The 191st Street station has two tracks and two side platforms. Above the platforms is a mezzanine, and covered pedestrian footbridges connecting the two platforms, so people on the footbridges cannot see the tracks and platforms (and vice versa). The mezzanine and footbridges were finished in glazed white tile and ceramic sheet marble. The station roof is supported by 34 steel columns encased in concrete.
At approximately 180 feet (55 m) below street level, it is the deepest station in the New York City Subway system. In 1947, Victor Hess, who won the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of cosmic rays, wrote to the NYCBOT asking if he could use the station "to carry out experiments on the radiation emitted from rocks at a location well protected from cosmic rays." Hess ultimately was allowed to conduct his experiments in the nearby 190th Street station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line, which is also located far below ground. Despite the depth of the 191st Street station, the next station north, Dyckman Street, is just above ground level. This is because 191st Street is at nearly the highest point on the island of Manhattan and this station is deep in the Washington Heights Mine Tunnel, while Dyckman Street runs along a deep valley almost at sea level and its station is at the tunnel portal. The 191st Street station is actually at a higher elevation above sea level than the Dyckman Street station is.
As part of the MTA's Arts for Transit Program, $88,360 was allocated for the installation and creation of a mosaic tile piece of art titled Primavera by Raul Colon as part of the station's 2003 renovation.
There are two entrances/exits from this station via the same fare control. The main entrance/exit at the southwest corner of 191st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue is at the summit of a hill and accessible only by a set of four elevators. The elevators to the mezzanine still utilize elevator operators, and the station is one of the only stations in the system to do so. The station is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and thus cannot be used by patrons with wheelchairs, because access from the fare control area to the platforms is only possible via stairways. There is a staircase available in case of an emergency at this exit. The other entrance/exit, at 190th Street and Broadway west of the station, is at a hillside and accessed via a three-block long passageway, which passes under Wadsworth Terrace and Avenue.
As part of the Fast Forward plan to modernize the subway system, 50 more stations will become ADA-accessible during the 2020–2024 MTA Capital Program, allowing all riders to have an accessible station every two stops.:41 To meet this goal, one station in the Washington Heights/Inwood area will have to be made accessible on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line. The options for this group are the 191st Street, 181st Street, 168th Street, 157th Street and 145th Street stations.
The 900-foot-long (270 m) passageway between the station's Broadway entrance and the station itself is not maintained by the MTA, despite being marked as a subway entrance. It is a property of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and is officially called "Tunnel Street." The tunnel is also used as a connector between western and eastern Washington Heights; passengers using the other entrance, at 191st Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, need to take an elevator to access the station due to that intersection's height, and the elevators at that entrance, which are located outside fare control, are considered a convenient way to traverse the neighborhood without walking up a hill.
In the early 1990s, as the city's crime rates reached an all-time high, the station was considered very dangerous, with 11 crimes having taken place there in the year 1990, many of which were suspected to happen in the tunnel. The tunnel was dimly lit, covered with graffiti, and strewn with garbage at the time. Brighter lights were installed in the tunnel in 2000. In February 2006, State Senator Eric Schneiderman and others proposed having the city turn over the tunnel to the MTA, which they said had more experience in maintaining tunnels, noting that it owned the tunnels at the 181st Street and 190th Street stations on the IND Eighth Avenue Line, which were in better condition. In September 2014, improvements started on the tunnel, which area residents had complained about. The tunnel, which had graffiti and was frequented by cyclists riding bikes illegally, was slated to get several murals and some new LED lighting.
The passageway has been painted with murals since the late 2000s, in an effort to beautify the tunnel. In 2008, a mural was painted on the passageway leading up from Broadway to the station, as part of the Groundswell Community Mural Project. The mural was called "New York is a Rollercoaster". It was later vandalized, and in May 2015, it was painted over. Since then, the passageway's artwork has consisted of five murals. As part of a tunnel beautification program, the NYCDOT chose four artists and one team of artists, out of an applicant pool of 158. The agency mostly chose local artists. Each were chosen to paint a 200 feet (61 m) section of the tunnel. From the Broadway entrance to the station fare control, the artworks are Queen Andrea's "Prismatic Power Phrases"; Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn's "Caterpillar Time Travel"; Cekis's "It's Like A Jungle/Aveces Es Como Una Jungle"; Nick Kuszy's "Warp Zone"; and Cope2's "Art is Life". For $15,000 each, the artists worked for over a week on their art.
In 2017, the station had 2,657,974 boardings, making it the 193rd most used station in the 424-station system. This amounted to an average of 8,419 passengers per weekday. In Fiscal Year 1914, shortly after the station's opening, the station had 546,447, significantly lower than the figures for the adjacent 181st Street and Dyckman Street stations, which were 6,133,256 and 923,785, respectfully.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 191st Street (IRT Broadway – Seventh Avenue Line).|
- nycsubway.org – IRT West Side Line: 191st Street
- nycsubway.org – Primavera artwork by Raul Colon
- NY is a Rollercoaster – artwork by Belle Benfield and Chris Beck:
- nycsubway.org – Title unknown (191st Street) (about the NY is a Rollercoaster artwork)
- New York is a Rollercoaster (about the NY is a Rollercoaster artwork)
- David Emmanuel Noel work with Belle Benfield/Chris Beck
- Station Reporter – 1 Train
- The Subway Nut – 191st Street Pictures (before renovation of station)
- MTA's Arts For Transit – 191st Street, RAÚL COLÓN, Primavera, 2003
- 191st Street and St Nicholas Avenue entrance from Google Maps Street View
- Broadway and 190th Street entrance from Google Maps Street View
- Passageway from Google Maps Street View
- Platforms from Google Maps Street View