by nycgo.com staff, 10/09/2012
City Hall station. Courtesy, New York Transit Museum
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Any system as extensive and venerable as the New York City subway is bound to have a secret or two lurking within stations and below platforms. Beneath City Hall Park lies the hidden gem of the IRT past, the City Hall station. Designed in Beaux Arts style with arched ceilings covered in interlocking Guastavino tiles and decorative features like antique brass chandeliers, wrought-iron skylights and glass-tile City Hall signs, this station is architecturally unique and ornate. While City Hall station hasn't been used since 1945, lucky riders of the 6 train who don't get off at the Brooklyn Bridge stop can get a glimpse of the underground jewel as the train loops back northbound toward the Bronx. The Transit Museum offers official tours for members only.
Farther uptown, hidden beneath Track 24 in Grand Central Terminal, is Track 61, which was used in the 1930s when bigwigs looking for a private entrance to the Waldorf-Astoria were in town. Its most notable passenger, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used it to hide his disability from the public. The platform was wide enough to fit FDR's armor-plated Pierce-Arrow limousine, which could be driven directly from the train to the interior of the Waldorf. The limousine is still housed inside the old train car today. Operation on the track stopped in 1945 when FDR died. Legend has it that Andy Warhol threw an underground party on the platform in 1965.
The three-story dark-red brownstone at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights doesn't house a local family–it's actually home to electrical equipment and serves as a ventilator, releasing exhaust from the tunnel system. This facade also leads to the world's oldest train tunnel, the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, built in 1844, which at one time could be toured by visitors who were comfortable with descending into a manhole in the middle of the Atlantic Avenue/Court Street intersection. Unfortunately for us, the tours ended in 2010.
Back in Manhattan, the PATH rail system can bring you to New Jersey from 33rd Street, but on the way it stops at central hubs (23rd, 14th, 9th and Christopher Streets) throughout Manhattan. From these stations, you can get where you need to go for just $2 per ride, a 50-cent discount from the MTA single-ride fare. Shh! Don't tell.—Christina Parrella