by Kevin Walsh

Since May I have spent not a little time on Broadway between Times Square and Columbus Circle for a freelance job, noticing the infrastructure. This stretch of Broadway features the twin 34th Street Partnership poles, but while they’re painted green elsewhere, they’re silver or metallic gray on Broadway.

Also, a few years ago, the eastern two lanes on Broadway became a pedestrian plaza and a bike lane, respectively, with Citibike rental bike docks arrayed at intervals. What this did was “orphan” several of the large, thick-bodied stoplights that feature guy wired arms. The Department of Transportation didn’t take them down, though. They took off the stoplights and arms and allowed them to become all-purpose utility poles; some carry signs that reach out over Broadway’s remaining two traffic lanes, while others, like this one, carry one-way signs, pedestrian control walk/don’t walk signs (featuring the Hand and the Man), control boxes that control the stoplight across Broadway, a somewhat redundant sign identifying the pedestrian plaza as a pedestrian plaza, and a traffic surveillance camera at the apex.

I have to say, though, that this post stumps me somewhat. It’s painted red, identifying it as Fire Department of New York property. There’s a “Siamese Twin” water stanchion next to it, also painted red. The sign says: FDNY Street to Station Communications, 7th Avenue Station, Queens Boulevard Line IND Division.”

There is indeed a subway beneath Broadway here but it’s the IRT 7th Avenue Line, which runs up Broadway north of Times Square. The station referenced here runs under 53rd Street and is a crosstown line connecting 6th and 8th Avenues with Queens Boulevard across the East River.

What the object on the pole actually does, I’m stumped on, but no doubt some of you know: fill me in in Comments.

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Frank November 8, 2019 - 1:58 am

It’s likely an old telephone allowing a firefighter to call the nearest fire station directly. Whether it’s still needed or even still works is anybody’s guess.

S. Saltzman November 8, 2019 - 7:36 am

The Siamese connection supplies the FDNY hose connections on the station platforms. The communications box provided a talking circuit between the crew of the pumper on the street and the firefighters on the platforms. Don’t think these are used anymore since the widespread use of FDNY handie talkies.
It is interesting that there was a similar communications circuit between street fire alarm boxes and the pumping stations of the High Pressure Fire Service. In the high pressure districts, the back of some of the remaining fire alarm boxes mounted on cast iron pedestals is a door marked” HP TEL”. This door allowed access to a telegraph key or telephone whereby the FDNY officer could signal the pumping stations to raise or lower the water pressure that was being supplied, and to shut the pumps when the high pressure supply was no longer needed.


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