By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Completion of rehab work on the Smith-9th streets F and G train station – an elevated station with a view so spectacular that Borough President Marty Markowitz once speculated that it could be a tourist attraction in itself – has been postponed yet again, this time until March or April or 2013.
“The contractor is behind schedule on this project due to problems with sub-contractors and the challenges associated with the unique design of the station,” an MTA statement read. “We are holding the contractor to the terms of the contract.”
The Smith-9th Streets station is part of the Culver Viaduct above the Gowanus Canal. From its platforms, passengers can see the skylines of Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as the huge, iconic “Kentile” sign, which advertised a long-defunct type of floor covering.
Built in the 1930s, this sturdy steel and concrete viaduct has been damaged by poor track drainage to the extent that black netting has been installed under it to protect motorists from chunks of falling concrete.
The station also showed other signs of deterioration. Because it is the highest point in the subway system, it is dependent on a system of escalators. But before it was closed by the MTA for repairs in mid-2011, these escalators were often out of service.
The MTA assures us that “Work on the platform level of the Smith-9th Sts. station is complete with the installation of all new platform surfaces, new platform edge rubbing boards, new lighting and a new public address system.”
When finished, it will have a new escalator system, new stairways, new lighting, an expanded entrance area, new waterproofing, new track drains and a 14-foot-tall mural, courtesy of the Arts for Transit program.
The station is also the gateway to Red Hook because the B61 bus historically has connected the station with that isolated neighborhood. Now that the station is temporarily out of service, Red Hook residents can take it from the neighboring 4th Avenue-9th Street station, also part of the F and G lines.
The rehab was talked about as early as 2005. In an article published in the Daily Eagle in that year, longtime Cobble Hill activist Jerry Armer, at that time the chairman of Community Board 5, said, “Smith-9th Streets is the highest station in the transit system; yet its escalators are frequently out of order. Paint is peeling from the walls. Black material sheathed around the outdoor pillars and beams is meant to keep the crumbling concrete from falling on passers-by and motorists.”
Neighborhood activists took their complaints to the MTA, according to the article, but were told that because of the transit agency’s budget process, repairs were unlikely to be made until the next five-year capital plan, meaning 2010-14.