by Kevin Walsh

The removal of a newsstand at West 3rd Street and 6th Avenue has revealed the presence of an old-style enamel sign attached to a stairway rail. Signs of this type were once prevalent in the subways before the current Unimark white on black signs appeared in the late 1960s. The Unimark syle gradually spread throughout the subways, but this kind of sign could still be found on occasion well into the 1980s.

The Independent Subway was built by the City between 1925-1948 as a competing service to Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) and Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT). Ownership of the latter two was transferred to the City in 1940, which then began to operate all three systems.

Hopefully, with a greater emphasis on preservation in the 21st Century, this sign will be vouchsafed to remain in place.

Photo: Kathy Feldman



Dan November 4, 2011 - 10:03 am

I miss the old subway signage. I still refer to the lines as the IND, IRT and BMT!

Larry November 4, 2011 - 4:30 pm

Do you still call the lines The West End, Sea Beach, Canarsie, and Brighton?

KevinJWalsh November 5, 2011 - 9:11 am


Daniela November 5, 2011 - 7:07 pm

When did those designations go away? I have been gone too long.

FerryBoi November 7, 2011 - 11:39 am

Pretty much gone by the mid-1980s, though some old-timers and conductors still use the designations.

Edwin January 29, 2012 - 11:34 pm

That means you are a real New Yorker!

Pat November 4, 2011 - 10:12 am

I remember a few of these lasted for quite some time down in the Wall St area.

FerryBoi November 4, 2011 - 2:47 pm

Awesome! This must predate the 6th Ave line, since it only mentions the 8th Ave Independent Subway System (or the ISS, as it was initially called). Give it a little TLC and keep it in place, I say!

Old Skool November 4, 2011 - 9:54 pm

My first reaction was ” Holy **** that’s my stop.” Across the street is the basketball court where Jaco Pastorius used to play some hoops and just down the street on 3rd is the Blue Note. This is where I access the Village whenever I am in town.

Doug November 5, 2011 - 6:58 am

I know of an IRT sign at an entrance on Wall Street. Anyone know if any BMT signs survive?

Larry November 6, 2011 - 12:39 pm

I think they preserved the one at the Stillwell Ave terminal.

FerryBoi November 7, 2011 - 11:38 am

Don’t know of any outside signage, but there are a few in-station arrows pointing toward “BMT Trains” at 4th Ave-9th Street Station in Brooklyn, and another toward “BMT Lines and Independent Subway” at 34th Street-Herald Square. I’m sure there are one or two others somewhere in the system that I’ve missed.

Raanan Geberer November 6, 2011 - 10:28 am

The BMT and the IND effectively merged in 1967 when the Chrystie Street Connection opened. I once had an idea for a funny short story about 1967 and a mythical group of 80-year-old Brooklyn oldtimers lining the Brighton Beach train tracks with shotguns, vowing that no newfangled IND trains will ever pass through on this historic BMT line. but I never followed through with the idea. Wouldn’t appeal to that many people.

Bob Sklar November 7, 2011 - 12:58 pm

They actually merged in the mid or late 1950s when the connection was opened between the 60th St. tunnel and Queens Plaza. Also, the IND took over the Culver Line in 1954. An extra trackway was built for the southbound side of Ditmas Av, and was used for the Culver shuttle. There were no track connections. This has since been obscured by a new station wall. BTW, the roll signs and the newer electronic signs in the cars still use the expressions Brighton, Sea Beach, West End and Culver.


KevinJWalsh November 7, 2011 - 6:56 pm

Yeah I think that 60th St tunnel was the first connector. The major connector was the Chrystie St because the 6th Avenue Line was enabled to use the Manhattan Bridge from that point. Before that trains used the Broadway Line or ended at Chambers St. The Chambers St-Manhattan Bridge connector was closed.

stever November 10, 2011 - 7:26 am

This great stuff is still all over the city, though buried beneath contemporary signage, and newly constructed walls and partitions, etc. Well into the 80s, Penn Station still had signs pointing the way to the “Hudson Tubes”, through a looong smelly tunnel that ran underneath 32st street to 6th ave. That sealed off pedestrian tunnel is still there, garanteed. The IND had great stations– with huge open concourses just below the street, and above the tracks. I remember those as a kid, wondering why so much open and unused space. Any thoughts– post war cold war bomb shelters? Was that the idea?

Mitch November 10, 2011 - 6:20 pm

According to “Building the Independent Subway”, John Hylan wanted the City’s subway to have everything that the IRT and BMT lines didn’t. One of the most complained-about aspects of the IRT and BMT stations are their often narrow and dark mezzanines (many stations didn’t – and still don’t – have mezzanines at all). Hylan insisted that the IND stations, wherever possible, have large, bright and airy mezzanines with creature comforts such as pay phones, newspaper sellers and the like. The idea was to attract people away from the IRT and BMT lines and use the competing IND lines. Today, many of the IND mezzanines are considered to be grossly overbuilt and some of the open space has been converted to other usage, such as police stations and storage rooms.

KevinJWalsh November 11, 2011 - 8:25 am

They were overbuilt. I don’t need to walk the length of an aircraft carrier to catch a train. Especially if said train comes and goes before I can get thru the turnstile.

BK December 8, 2011 - 8:08 am

Stever…are you talking about Gimbels Passageway? Here’s a quick link with some photos and info

You can find more info about it by just googling “gimbels passageway” of course. It would be great if they opened that because walking from Penn Station to Herald Square in the freezing cold is no fun.

ceya January 30, 2012 - 2:13 am

But it was good to walk from one side to the other without having to walk up and down the stairs like today.

Alot of the mezzanines had a whole bunch of stores you could do alot down there.

Today sealed up dusty platforms, make you feel like a mouse in the maze.

Yep that 6th ave tunnel to the Gimbels building was a fun thing to have.


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