UNDER 6th AVENUE

by Kevin Walsh

A friend was in the 34th Street BMT/IND station, which connects the R/N/Q lines, the B/D/F/M lines, and the PATH trains to New Jersey, and got this photo of a closed corridor apparently being opened up temporarily for station work.

My initial feeling was that this was the so-called “Gimbels Passageway” that connected 6th and 7th Avenues under 33rd Street and so allowed people coming in from Penn Station to walk underground to the 6th Avenue trains, but it’s not.

It is a closed passageway but it ran lengthwise on 6th Avenue from the 34th Street station north to the 42nd Street station. It was one of a number of subway pedestrian connectors that sometimes offered free transfers, sometimes not. There are lengthy passenger tunnels under 14th Street connecting the 6th, 7th and 8th Avenue lines, but today only the section connecting 6th and 7th Avenues is open. Today, a well-traveled underground walkway lined with shops, plazas and restaurants remains under 6th Avenue between 42nd and 49th Streets.

Maintaining many of the passageways, convenient as they were, became problematic in the 1970s as budget cuts pared subway maintanace down to dangerous levels. The police did not patrol them and they became homeless camps and muggers’ haunts. As Second Avenue Sagas explains, after a rape in March 1991 the 6th Avenue passageway was closed along with several other ones.

However, many of them are still there, if the city ever wants to reopen them and make them safe.

Here’s a video taken in the 6th Avenue passageway: copy and paste into a new window.

Photo: Victoria Metzger

9/4/15

 

15 comments

ron s September 4, 2015 - 10:24 am

Also, the Gimbel’s passageway was much more narrow, with windows on one side.

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Jamie September 4, 2015 - 3:55 pm

I think you mean a passageway between 47th St and 50th St not 42nd St and 47th St. I remember the passageway between 42nd St & 34th St and used it a lot during the winter when transferring between the #7 and the Path train.

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Bobby korngut November 11, 2017 - 11:14 pm

No they meant a tunnel from Penn st st to 7th and 6th aves

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David Hornish September 4, 2015 - 5:45 pm

There are so many cops and National Guardsmen in Penn Station and the Herald Square subway station now that they could reopen the Gimbels passage. It would make a lot of sense actually and be a nice thing on a rainy day.

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William Mangahas September 4, 2015 - 6:06 pm

The Gimbels passageway that was under 32nd St between 7th and 6th Ave. was a scary dungeon of sorts.

Lit by a single 40 watt florescent fixtures yards apart, it was still dark, dingy smelling of urine.

With one way in and one way out, I always found myself walking a but faster, then breathed a sign of relief when I exited the other end.

I can see why they closed it.

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Andy September 7, 2015 - 12:04 pm

The Gimbels passageway also had entrances and exits to/from the basement of its namesake store. In the 60s I used it regularly to walk between Penn and the Herald Sq subway/PATH complex, but it had deteriorated in the 70s and was not a safe place to walk anymore.

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Bobby korngut November 11, 2017 - 11:15 pm

Agreed

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Tama Harbor December 6, 2019 - 6:50 pm

I always wondered which of Dante’s ‘Levels of Hell’ this corridor most resembled.

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jt bklyn September 4, 2015 - 7:43 pm

I walked it once in the mid-70s when I didn’t get off a D at 34th Street and discovered this tunnel between 35th & 40th Streets. It was pretty empty, and I recall it had stairs at even numbered blocks. Never needed to walk it again, and never wanted to.

If the 80s it was part of a proposed Underground New York, modeled on Montreal, that would have linked up various midtown passageways and added stores & other attractions. That never went past the talking phase.

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Sergey Kadinsky September 9, 2015 - 2:03 pm

If the underground shops at the Columbus Circle station are successful, the MTA could revive this passageway as a retail corridor.

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Ceya October 25, 2018 - 9:49 pm

They had stores there at Columbus Circle already.

Barber shop, cleaners ,shoe shine, florist etc.

People had more space to walk and now its so narrow.

Alot the of the subway survived the 70s to 90s that can be reopened.

Every time I remember spots no longer used or torn down.

17th St exit on 8th ave line, Staircase from 6th ave to street level at west 4th St.

L train 6th ave having alot of space on the mezzanine level.

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Bruce September 5, 2015 - 10:58 am

I remember as a kid being able to walk between the south end of the 6th Ave IND station at 42 Street to the north end of the 34th Street station through an underground corridors — outside of the fare zone. Very helpful when it was raining and I did not have an umbrella.

And there was another passage along I think 33rd Street between 6th and 7th Aves (Penn Station). This one I recall was little used, a bit dark, and potentially dangerous, so it was not a surprise when it was closed off.

And I also remember the passages connecting the various lines along 14th Street.

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bushwicknative September 23, 2015 - 12:54 pm

I remember that passage well. It was a great way to stay out of the weather when walking from Penn Station to midtown 6th avenue.It was wide and you could make faster time underground than above.I recall the passage way was even open during a transit strike .

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Carter Fisher January 23, 2016 - 8:33 am

One of the superb pieces i’ve read this week.

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Haydee Torres August 18, 2017 - 12:55 am

I also remember back in the day that I used the passageway of 14th Street and 6th Avenue to 14th Street and 8th Avenue to be able to take the “E” train on a snowy day. After it was closed, I started walking in the street.

Reply

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