A J train leaves the southbound platform
|Address||Chambers Street & Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
|Line||BMT Nassau Street Line|
|Services||J (all times)
M (weekdays until 11:00 p.m.)
Z (rush hours, peak direction)
|System transfers||4 5 6 <6> at Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)|
|Platforms||3 island platforms (2 active), 2 side platforms (1 walled up; 1 disused)|
|Opened||August 4, 1913|
|Passengers (2008)||10.697 million (station complex) ▲ 6.98%|
|Rank||27 out of 422|
|Next north||Canal Street: J M Z|
|Next south||Fulton Street: J M Z
(Terminal): J M
Chambers Street is a station on the BMT Nassau Street Line of the New York City Subway. It is located at the intersection of Centre and Chambers Streets beneath the Manhattan Municipal Building, and it is served by the J train at all times, the M train on weekdays, and the Z train during rush hours.
There are four tracks, three island platforms, and one side platform (originally two). In 1931, the center island platform and both side platforms were closed as unnecessary. The west side platform was walled up and partly demolished when the Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall station on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line was rebuilt on the other side of the wall in 1960–62.
This station is the southern terminal for J trains on weekends (approximately from 1 a.m. on Saturday to 5 a.m. on Monday) when trains do not continue to Broad Street. During this time, the inner tracks are used for J trains to begin their return trip to Brooklyn and Queens. M trains also use the inner tracks during weekday afternoons when trains do not continue to Broad Street or Brooklyn.
The south platform is slightly higher at the southern end of the station. This is because the next stop south, Fulton Street is a bi-level station and the south platform is above the northern one.
North of this station, there are provision for 2 tracks, and ends behind the now-closed Queens-bound side platform.
There is a cavernous empty space at the south end of this station that appear as two darkened trackways that cross over the entire width of the tunnel. These trackways were supposedly built for the proposed Brooklyn Bridge connection. There is also provision in the trackways for a diamond crossover. The unused trackways are only two tracks wide and run approximately 200 feet.
This was one of the earliest BMT subway stations opened in New York City, built at a time when Lower Manhattan was the city's principal business district. It was designed to be the BMT's Manhattan hub, with trains arriving from Brooklyn in both directions, and terminating here. Originally, trains arrived from the north via either the Williamsburg Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge.
The Nassau Street subway loop was completed in 1931, making Chambers Street a through station south to the Montague Street Tunnel to Brooklyn. The loop configuration permitted trains arriving in either direction from the BMT Fourth Avenue Line in Brooklyn to pass through Chambers Street and return to 4th Avenue without turning around. A track connection to the Brooklyn Bridge, which would have made a similar loop through the Williamsburg Bridge, was planned in the station's design, but never built. (See BMT Brooklyn Loops.)
By the 1950s, Chambers Street was no longer as important a station, as many of the city's business interests had shifted to Midtown. The Chrystie Street Connection, completed in 1967, severed the Nassau line's connection to the Manhattan Bridge, so that the bridge tracks could connect instead to the uptown IND Sixth Avenue Line. The tracks heading towards the Manhattan Bridge (now used for train storage) are clearly visible from northbound trains leaving Chambers Street.
Although altered over the years to account for changing ridership patterns, the station has not been renovated. In one poll, it was voted the ugliest station in the system:
|“||When it was being built before World War I, Chambers Street was envisioned as a City Hall terminal, a kind of downtown Grand Central at a time when the business and population center of the city was still closer to the southern end of the island. Three years after it opened, its four wide platforms were so overcrowded that one newspaper article described them as more dangerous during the rush hours than at the Grand Central or the Fourteenth Street Stations.
But by the mid-1920s, the subway itself was pushing the city's population north and leaving Chambers Street behind. By as early as the 1930s, in fact, the station's ridership had dropped off so steeply that half of it was closed.
Walking around the station now, it seems as if half of the station has not been cleaned or repaired since the 1930s, either. Platforms are piled deep with the detritus of the years — an old push broom, a broken umbrella, a toaster and several foothills of soda bottles, all of which could be precisely dated according to the depth of the dark-brown steel dust coating them. In one part of the platform, an original Heins and LaFarge terra cotta plaque of the Brooklyn Bridge seems to have been crowbarred off the wall. In another, the yellowish-white water damage is so extensive it appears that a crew of C.H.U.D.s has tried to eat its way to daylight.
—Randy Kennedy, "They're Subway Experts. Take Their Word on What's Ugly," The New York Times, May 13, 2003
There are two provisions for things unbuilt. During the hiatus in work on the station, the Public Service Commission added two more tracks to the plan in 1909, and then in 1910 went back to four tracks. There was some provision for adding two more on the east side if ever wanted. More significantly to the station, the 1909-1910 revisions called for only the west pair of tracks to rise south of the station and curve east to reach the Brooklyn Bridge railway. The high ceiling was a provision for starting the incline farther north, within the station. Transit staff today reports that some parts of the ramp still exist. Most of it was destroyed in 1928-1931 and nothing can be seen from the station or trains.
The tile work on this station includes a depiction of the nearby Brooklyn Bridge that suffers from an interesting gaffe: it features the parallel up-down cables between the main cable and the roadway (as seen alone on most suspension bridges) but misses the second set of diagonal cables that radiate from the bridge to the roadway (as seen on cable-stayed bridges).