Community

Tired of the York Street F Station? These guys can help!

If the worst part of your commute is the York Street station of the F train, Perla Delson and Jeff Sherman, principals at Delson or Sherman Architects PC, are proactively thinking of you. Their firm, located in DUMBO for over 11 years, has solved the problem of this confusing, overcrowded, and dangerous subway station. “You wait around for somebody to do something about it, and then you realize that maybe you’re the ones who are supposed to do something about it,” Jeff told us.

Currently, you get off the train and can’t see the exit because of the bulky columns on the platform.  It’s a safety hazard—a public space with a confusing dead end and only one exit.  “I walk the wrong way down the platform at least once a week,” Jeff laughs.

The staff at Delson or Sherman decided to right this wrong as a pro bono project—a refreshing divergence from their usual high-end residential work and a civic space that every member of their staff uses personally. Perla notes, “In something as complex as a subway station, there is an appealing amount of problem solving and an enormous opportunity for good design.”

Their design includes a reworking of the current York Street station both above ground and at the turnstile level, a new entrance located at the Manhattan Bridge Plaza on Jay and High Streets and improved lighting for the area under the Manhattan Bridge between Sands and Prospect Streets. Delson or Sherman Architects specializes in modern additions to historic buildings.  As passionate believers in adaptive reuse and understated solutions, they believe this design speaks to DUMBO, to its industrial aesthetic and its evolving history.

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The New Entrance

Believe it or not, the original design for the York Street station, which predates the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, included a second entrance, which for some reason was never built. Delson or Sherman’s proposed second entrance would be at the opposite end of the platform from the current one, eliminating the dead end. The design is unique in that its elevator is central to the layout, rather than a marginal afterthought, with staircases that wrap around it. The stairs will have tall ceilings and skylights to funnel natural light down to the token booth level.  Because the platform is unusually deep here, the new entrance would be fully accessible.  Perla critiques a common sight at the existing token booth: “there are inevitably a couple of people with strollers stranded there in shock. They’ve pushed all the way down the platform, up a flight of stairs, up the long ramp and still have two flights of stairs to climb!”

At the plaza level, their station design is understated and modest, with building materials chosen to weather gracefully and harmonize with the plaza. The principals note that the plaza already has a lot going for it:  the bridge, the Beaux Arts detailing and the old trees.  What it lacks are pedestrians, which is just what a subway entrance would provide.

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The Current Entrance

The architects’ biggest gripe is the daily congestion at the current entrance, which bottlenecks at the token booth. Researching the original plans for the station, they found that the token booth was meant to be recessed into the corner, but was probably moved to the north wall when the crime rate warranted a view of the ramp corridor. By moving the token booth back to its intended spot, they double the number of turnstiles and open the bottleneck.  And by restoring gender neutral public bathrooms, they allow the space to truly serve the public.

Above ground, the firm proposes adding lights to the entrance building so it softly pulses with light from within, expressing the energy of the subway system. Lights encircling the columns under the bridge at Sands and Prospect will mirror the light coming from the station. Existing drainage pipes are reconfigured to create a glistening cascade of water and light when it rains, highlighting the classically detailed columns that are currently lost in the dark of the overpass.

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How can you

help?

Delson or Sherman Architects conceived of this plan out of personal concern; they didn’t respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP), and there’s nothing on the MTA or DOT’s agenda that prioritizes a new entrance.  But with density increasing in DUMBO Heights and the city-wide concern for flood resilience, the firm believes that the new higher-ground alternative might provoke a conversation. The principals plan to meet with the MTA and Community Board 2, but note that theirs is a unique topic, having no RFP or true client. They have begun a petition to demonstrate community support, which can be found here, and urge interested parties to keep in touch and attend public meetings as they come up. Tune into http://dumbo.is/happening/ for updates on this project!