By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Smith-9th Streets station on the F and G lines – the world’s highest subway station and the rapid-transit gateway to Red Hook --is set to reopen the week of April 22 again after a two-year rehabilitation project.
The rehabilitation began in May 2011, in conjunction with the rebuilding of the crumbling Culver Viaduct, the term for the concrete elevated structure over the Gowanus Canal. Smith-9th Streets, opened in 1933, is one of only two elevated stations built as part of the old IND system, the other one being the neighboring Fourth Avenue-9th Street station.
The station reconstruction work included a new and expanded street-level fare-paying area (many longtime New Yorkers still call this a “token booth”), a new escalator system, new lighting and public address systems, and rehabilitated stairs and platforms.
Architectural details include new semi-circular guard railings bordering the open part of the station, rehabilitation of the original mosaic “Smith-9th St.” signs, and a 14-foot-tall mosaic installed as part of the MTA Arts for Transit program.
Due to the complexity of the job, the target date for completing the station rehab was postponed twice. It was originally supposed to be last spring, then was moved up to the fall, and finally to April.
“This has been a long and complicated project but we are grateful for the community’s patience while we performed this necessary work. This station will be 80 years old this summer and this rehabilitation will see it reach that milestone with a much improved appearance and functionality,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, president of MTA New York City Transit and interim executive director of the MTA.
Before the rehabilitation project began, the overall viaduct was so dilapidated that the transit system had to install netting below the structure so that cars and pedestrians underneath wouldn’t be hit by falling chunks of concrete.
From the station’s 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.
About 10 years ago, Borough President Marty Markowitz, calling for a repair of the station, said that if it was renovated, it could serve as a tourist attraction because of its views.