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'Magical' $1.4B Fulton Center Finally Opens After 12 Years

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At 5 a.m. this morning, the first commuters passed through the brand new, $1.4 billion Fulton Center. The station was conceived in 2002 as a way to connect the "spaghetti mess" of 10 subway lines, and to help revitalize and rebuild downtown after 9/11. The Fulton Center is a key part of Lower Manhattan's rebuilding, and even though it was plagued by delays (it's only seven years late) and cost overruns (it was supposed to cost $750 million), its opening is a pretty big deal. As such, everyone from the New York Times to the American Institute of Architects to commuting Instagrammers has weighed in on the "magical," "monumental," and "gleaming" new station.

The new Fulton Center is expected to service up to 300,000 passengers per day, and its crown jewel is a 120-foot-tall oculus designed by Grimshaw. The oculus, roughly the same size as the Guggenheim spiral, holds a "sky reflector net" created by James Carpenter, which brings sunlight deep into the station. In spring 2015, the station's 65,000 square feet of retail on five levels will open.

The Good:

From Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas:
"As I toured the new station on Sunday, I was struck by its size. There's nothing quite like it in the New York City subway system today. While we're used to cramped corridors with low ceilings and narrow spaces, the Fulton St. Transit Center is massive with wide open vistas and a lot of space for people. The transfer between the A and C platform and the 4 and 5 will be instantly easier and quicker, and the East Side IRT platforms are much wider."

From the American Institute of Architects:
"It represents how architecture and design can improve our daily lives in significant ways—including how we move around a revitalized Lower Manhattan. The building is a symbol of post-9/11 resurgence and resilience and the AIA New York Chapter was proud to have conducted three peer reviews during the design process."

[Looking up at the oculus. Photo via the MTA's Flickr.]

From the New York Times:
"New Yorkers, accustomed to thinking of transit hubs like Penn Station and Times Square as places to suffer through, will find on Monday morning a kind of Crystal Palace, crowned by a dome that funnels daylight two stories below ground."

From Gothamist:
"...the Fulton Center is spacious and clear, with the three large staircase-and-escalator combinations and exits on the ground floor very obvious. More importantly, the whole facility is ADA-compliant, so commuters with disabilities will be able to travel seamlessly. Horodniceanu was beaming during the ceremony, 'Magical wouldn't be too strong a word.' [...] In providing a better commuter experience, the MTA broke through walls to make as much of platforms accessible for transfers as possible. [MTA Capital Construction Senior Vice President and Engineer Uday] Durg said that the biggest transfer was between the 4/5 and the A/C, and prior to the Fulton Center, most people would pack the first few train cars for the transfer—and when that happens, other commuters will kindly hold the door open for others, but then that adds to delays. Now, there isn't that problem."

From DNAinfo:
"Commuters were impressed by the station when they used it for the first time Monday morning. 'I love the light, the openness, the design and the escalators. It's like something out of 'The Jetsons,'' said Rick Rubin, 56, a sign language interpreter from Downtown Brooklyn. 'I've avoided the station for a while because it's been hard to transfer, but I'll definitely be coming around a lot more now.... It was well worth the wait.' Eddie Vasquez, 53, a handyman from Bushwick, paused to marvel at the natural light filtering down through the glass ceiling. 'It's nice, it's beautiful,' he said. 'It's so much different than before. It's like I've stepped into the future.'"

The Not-So-Good:


From Benjamin Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas:

"Is it all worth it though? During his remarks on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, quoting the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stated that great public works are 'worth the dollars.' But he also said the same thing about the Calatrava hub, and he's a big supporter of Moynihan Station. These three projects are all, to varying degrees, nice to look at, but they do little to nothing to solve problems of regional mobility. For a combined expense of over $7 billion — the total of the Fulton St., PATH and Moynihan expenditures — the city could build train tunnels it needs more than another fancy building."

From the New York Times:
"What went unmentioned in the fact sheet were the major setbacks along the way: cost overruns, delays and a corresponding downgrade in ambitions, problems that have plagued other transit authority projects in recent years. The dome was scaled back, a planned direct connection between the R and the E lines scuttled. What was supposed to open in 2007 at a cost of $750 million took seven more years and totaled $1.4 billion."

From the Wall Street Journal:
"Philip McManus, of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said the money would have been better spent elsewhere in the city. 'Transportation is so bad in Queens, especially in Rockaway,' said Mr. McManus, who added that he believed the Fulton Center was 'pretty, but it doesn't really make much of a difference.' 'The outer boroughs do count, and we're not second-class citizens,' he said."

The This-Is-Nice-To-Look-At:

A photo posted by Claire Bryant (@cvbryant) on

At the end of the Dey Street passageway, this ceramic tile art by Margie Hughto, called "Trade, Treasure and Travel," was installed. The piece was originally installed in the Cortlandt Street R station in 1997.


· A look inside the new Fulton St. Transit Center [SAS]
· Out of Dust and Debris, a New Jewel Rises [NYT]
· Fulton Center Lights Path to Subway [WSJ]
· Photos: Your First Look At The Gleaming New Fulton Center Subway Hub [Gothamist]
· PHOTOS: $1.4B Fulton Transit Hub Finally Opens [DNAinfo]
· All Fulton Center coverage [Curbed]

Fulton Center

Fulton Street and Broadway, New York, NY