HARDLY KNEW YE: PATH Station, 2003-2007

by Kevin Walsh

In a move that caught your webmaster as something of a surprise, the “new” PATH terminal that was constructed in 2003 at Church and Dey Streets at the edge of Ground Zero was quietly closed in June 2007 and, at present, is being razed to make way for the new multibillion-dollar PATH station due to open in 2009.















PATH stands for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson line, and it is a commuter railroad linking Newark, Jersey City, and Hoboken, NJ with Manhattan. In NYC it runs through the West Village, ending at the West 33rd Street station (exits, however, let passengers out on 32nd and 34th Streets, but not 33rd). It has a pedigree almost as lengthy as the NYC subway system, having begun service as the Hudson and Manhattan RR in 1907 (old subway signage around town that offer transfers to the PATH sometimes still carry H&M signs.)

This was the third PATH terminal on this site. The first was constructed in 1909 under the old Hudson Terminal building, located between Greenwich, Cortlandt, Church, and Fulton Streets. Space in a pair of 22-story towers–the original Twin Towers–was rented to office tenants by the H&M until 1962, when the new World Trade Center plans were aborning and the city began to clear out land for the massive project. While the “old” Twin Towers came down and the new ones, 80 stories higher, went up, the original PATH station soldiered on until a new PATH station, in the basement of the complex, opened in 1971. Your webmaster often used this station and was a patron of the shops surrounding it; I was there, as a matter of fact, on September 9, 2001, never suspecting that it would be my last visit. No one there that day did. photo: wikipedia


I got these pictures November 23, 2003, opening day of the new terminal, designed by Port Authority chief architect Robert Davidson. It was spacious and airy, with large, color coded signage leading passengers to the PATH lines or the subways that transferred to them.

Bright sunshine fed into the terminal; since it was on the edge of Ground Zero, where nothing had yet been built (and in 2007 still hasn’t) the trains’ approach and exit from the terminal offered fleeting glances of the cleanup work being done in “the pit.” However, passenger waiting areas did not. Most outside views were shielded with semi-opaque panels offering inspirational quotations.

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Here’s a look at one of the panels, and a look at the staircases that led to escalators to Church Street.

The new PATH station, that as of now is slated to cost $2 billion (and there are always cost overruns) is a grandiose project conceived a few years ago when there were wild dreams of running the Long Island Rail Road all the way to downtown Manhattan, likely via a tunnel from Flatbush Avenue terminal in Brooklyn. (There were also proposals to convert the IND tunnel carrying the IND A and C lines to LIRR use).

It’s a rather jarring break from the usual NYC architectural forms (till now, some groundbreaking architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry and the PATH station’s designer, Santiago Calatrava, have not designed much in NYC if at all). This rendering is one of the initial ones of the project: the soaring “spikes” have been cut back for security purposes, among other changes.

Is $2 billion or better the best expenditure for what will likely always be a commuter transit terminal?