Several years ago the west end of Rochester’s abandoned subway tunnel was filled as part of the Broad Street Improvement Project. Now a planned downtown development could permanently close off one of the last remaining entry points to Rochester’s old subway tunnel. Morgan Management is waiting for approvals to build a five-story luxury apartment complex at Court Street and South Avenue, right smack on top of the subway’s east entrance and the former site of the Court Street subway platform…
Although the City of Rochester discourages the public from entering the tunnel, it is currently accessible via an open gate along the Genesee Riverway Trail at South Ave (near Woodbury Blvd).
A few other access points exist, but are either too dangerous or too difficult for your average person to use — one way in involves an eight foot drop through the arches of the aqueduct bridge and another involves walking through the pitch dark tunnel from the opposite end of downtown near Nick Tahou’s. With the construction of this apartment complex, the storied subway tunnel (and the awesome graffiti murals it contains) would be effectively sealed off.
One well-known local artist I spoke with, Thievin’ Stephen was not happy to learn of the news. “Graffiti artists will find a way in to keep painting,” Stephen said, “but the families and tourists will be lost.”
“There is only one abandoned subway like ours in the country, perhaps the world. Why would anyone in their right mind trade such a strong source of local identity and excitement for a handful of overpriced bedrooms? Downtown Rochester is packed with EMPTY apartments.”
Rochester has drawn international acclaim for its street art scene – even before the Wall\Therapy project. Just take a drive up North Clinton Avenue and check out the work of Rochester’s FUA krew for example.
But, Stephen says the subway walls are still Rochester’s “crown jewel.” He regularly meets people who drive up from NYC and Toronto (among other places) just to see the artwork in our subway and the murals around town. He believes the subway should be used as an urban tourist attraction – to support nearby businesses, not blocked by business.
“The ever changing walls of the abandoned subway, and watching live art, are the most true and genuine sources of entertainment in all of downtown Rochester,” Stephen points out. “Any construction project that blocks access to the subway, or that stifles graffiti within it, will be the same sort of short sighted blunder that led to the decommissioning of the subway in the first place.”
Of course, there are still a few technical issues and approvals that need to be worked out before any of this becomes reality. Part of the property (between South Avenue and the project area) is owned by New York State. Because the plan calls for a driveway to traverse it, the State will either need to approve an access point through it, or transfer the land to the developer.
And not all the neighbors are thrilled either. According to one City document I reviewed, Excellus BCBS which owns the building across the street, has expressed concern that this new development would block their views.
Then there’s the issue of public access to the riverfront, and the Erie Harbor Promenade Project (a City plan to construct an elevated walkway to connect the Genesee Riverway Trail with Court Street around the back side of Dino BBQ). Either the apartment plans or the promenade plans (or both) would need to be altered to accommodate each other. For example, the elevated walkway as it’s currently planned would block the view of the river from the complex.
All red tape aside, construction could begin early next year, 2015. At that point a big part of Rochester’s identity will be forever changed.
No doubt there will be some debate. But this is nothing new. Cities by their very nature are alive and evolving. Walls go up, walls come down, and layers are built upon layers. In the end someone will decide money and jobs (not art or history) are what’s best for this little pocket of our city.
Still, I can’t help asking myself, “Is nothing sacred?”
Tags: Court Street, Court Street Bridge, development, development plans, Dinosaur Bar B Que, downtown Rochester, infill, Morgan Development, Morgan Management, Rochester, Rochester NY, Rochester Subway, Rochester Subway tunnel, Rundel Library, South Avenue, urban development
This entry was posted on Monday, September 8th, 2014 at 7:48 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester News, Rochester Subway, Train/Railroad Stuff, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.