Round-the-clock subway service resumed early Monday for the first time in more than a year and weekday ridership now regularly tops 2 million — about 40% of pre-pandemic levels.
But amid signs of a slow subway rebound, seven privately maintained subway entrances in Manhattan have remained off-limits to riders since the start of the pandemic, including two with elevators leading into some of the MTA’s busiest Midtown stations.
“A lot of people see that and think the subway is closed,” said Ibrahim Md, who operates a newsstand across from a locked entrance to the 42nd Street-Port Authority station.
The entrance at the southwest corner of West 44th Street and Eighth Avenue is among the approximately 150 gateways in a 472-station system where maintenance is left to not to the MTA, but to the owners of neighboring office buildings or hotels.
While the Intercontinental New York Times Square hotel has reopened, the entrance to the 42nd Street/Port Authority Bus Terminal station and its elevator have stayed closed. Representatives for West 44th Street Hotel, LLC could not be reached for comment.
“Opening up these entrances is a no-brainer to welcome riders back to the subway,” said Ben Fried of TransitCenter, a research and advocacy organization. “There’s no excuse to keep them closed, especially the entrances that provide much elevator access.”
THE CITY reported in October that 10 privately maintained subway entrances had been closed since the start of the pandemic — and found Monday that three in Lower Manhattan have since reopened, including a newly reopened passageway from the building once known as One Chase Manhattan Plaza to the Broad Street stop on the J and Z lines.
‘Open That Entrance’
Seven privately maintained station entrances — including ones that connect to the Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan and to 34th Street-Penn Station in Midtown — remain closed by building owners, according to the MTA.
“There are a large number of entrances to our 472 stations and these include a small number of privately maintained entrances,” said Andrei Berman, an MTA spokesperson. “We work with the property owners on a case-by-case basis to make decisions about when to reopen entrances that have been temporarily closed.”
At 33 Maiden Lane, escalators leading to an entrance at the Fulton Street stop on the J and Z line are cordoned off. At 7 Bryant Park, metal barricades at street level block the 39th Street entrance to the 42nd Street-Bryant Park station, where an elevator is out of service.
“Are they going to wait for September or for everyone to be vaccinated?” asked Alex Santiago, 50, after he encountered the closed subway entrance at 42nd Street-Bryant Park. “We’re at a point where so many people have been vaccinated and where ridership has gone up exponentially from a year ago, we most definitely should open that entrance.”
The entrance and elevator are maintained by 7 Bryant Park, home to the Bank of China. A representative for the building said the MTA had requested the entrance and elevator remain closed.
“In opening these entrances, it would send a clear signal that the subway is open for business,” said Jaqi Cohen, campaign director for the Straphangers Campaign. “Anything we can do as a city to welcome ridership as we come out of the pandemic is vital.”
‘It’s a Big Problem’
An MTA spokesperson previously told THE CITY that some of the 150 privately owned station entrances were closed at the request of building owners early in the pandemic, when subway ridership fell by more than 90%.
But after more than a year when the subway was closed to passengers during overnight hours, Cohen said landlords “need to buy into the reopening.”
“Anything we can do as a city to welcome ridership as we come out of the pandemic is vital,” she said.
Md, the newsstand worker on 44th Street, said the closed entrance has been bad for his business, too.
“The hotel is back now, but the entrance is still closed,” he said. “It’s a big problem.”
Here are the closed privately maintained subway entrances, all in Manhattan:
- 33 Maiden Lane (Fulton Street)
- 60 Wall St. (Wall Street)
- 7 Bryant Park (42nd St-Bryant Park)
- Hotel Pennsylvania (34th Street-Penn Station)
- 300 W. 44th St. (42nd Street-Times Square/Port Authority)
- 51 Madison Ave. (28th Street on the No. 6 train line)
- Lincoln Center (station-level exit at the 66th St.-Lincoln Center stop)