Is It Legal to Ride the 6 Train Through the Abandoned City Hall Station?
City Hall Station in its heyday
New York Municipal Archives
Consult any subway map printed in the last 69 years and it will tell you the 6 train dead-ends at Manhattan's Brooklyn Bridge Station. An older map would show the train's original track--the one it still uses everyday--loops through the now abandoned City Hall station before ending up on the north-bound side of the track and heading back to the Bronx.
When it was opened in October, 1904, City Hall station, with its intricate skylights and Guastavino tile arched ceiling (just like the whispering gallery in Grand Central Station), was the jewel of the subway system. It wasn't used nearly as much as the nearby Brooklyn Bridge station, though, so in December, 1945, the station was pulled out of commission.
Today, it's technically possible to stay on the 6 train at Brooklyn Bridge as it trundles through the ghost station and before shuttering to a stop at the uptown platform. We always thought it was perfectly legal, too, but our beliefs were shaken when we heard how one man's odyssey through the abandoned City Hall station dragged him through the Transit Adjudication Bureau's byzantine arbitration process too.
At Brooklyn Bridge station, Joshua Patchus remembers hearing the announcement informing anyone left on the train: "This is the last downtown stop on this train, the Next stop on this train is the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall on the uptown platform. Not only is it unlawful but also dangerous to leave a moving train."
He and his buddy stayed on the train as it passed through City Hall station ("which is boring when it is not lit," he says). His problems began when, as the train headed back to Brooklyn Bridge's uptown platform, the pair were summoned over by two officers.
"Thinking they wanted us to report on something that happened, we agreed. Came off the train, they asked to see our IDs so they could 'Run them,' we handed our IDs," Patchus explains via email. "Next thing we know, they handed us the ticket for violating 1050.6(d)2, failure to adhere to a posted sign or announcement."
The problem is, Patchus and his friend didn't violate any posted sign or an announcement--They stayed on the train through the station. He was fairly confident that the officers were wrong, so vowed to fight the $50 ticket with the Transit Adjudication Bureau.
Patchus went to the T.A.B office in Brooklyn "a REALLY sad place" where says he was patted down, before waiting more than two hours to plead his case. He played them recordings of the train announcement itself and a recording of Patchus asking the train conductor if he was allowed to stay on the train... And two weeks later he got a letter: the court was siding with the officers, and upholding the citation.
The letter read: "The NOV is legally sufficient to establish a prima facie case of Transit Authority Rule 1050.6(d)(2) and that for reasons stated below, I find that the Transit Authority has proven that the Respondent committed the violation charged by clear and convincing evidence and the violation is upheld."
He had to pay the $50, and the whole, awful experience gave Patchus, a statistician, some time to contemplate the economics of things like turnstile jumping, which he recorded in a blog post about his ordeal, "The Cost Benefit Analysis of Fighting a Ticket."
The maximum ticket a TAB officer can give is $100--normally the penalty for jumping the turnstile. The cost of a ride is $2.50, so again the simple math is
Loss = cost*risk 100 = 2.5(#times jumping)
As long as you only get caught once every 40 times, it is actually smarter for you to jump the gate. That means if you get caught about once a month, it may be smarter to risk it and jump the turnstile and not pay the MTA machine.
Good to know!
Even better to know (though slightly unnerving) is the fact that the officers and the T.A.B. were both wrong. After his blogpost generated some interest, Patchus got in touch with a spokesman for the MTA who told him it was all a big misunderstanding.
On Friday, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz assured the Voice it is not, we repeat not, illegal to ride the train through City Hall station. Ortiz didn't say how the error occurred (and wasn't remedied by the T.A.B.), but he did say Patchus' ticket "is in the process of being dismissed."
On Sunday, Patchus emailed to tell us the case had indeed been thrown out. Here's an excerpt from the letter he received:
In investigating this matter, I have confirmed that, at the time the summons was issued, the Authority's policy was and currently is to permit customers to ride trains around the Brooklyn Bridge loop track. ln this regard, the announcement that you have indicated that you heard at the time of this incident is consistent with the announcement that is required to be made pursuant to such policy. ln light of the above, I have determined to withdraw prosecution of the NOV on behalf of the Authority.
File that lesson away for the next time you're caught arguing over a citation for riding the train through City Hall. Or, if you don't want the hassle, you could always just sign up for one of the tours the Transit Museum occasionally leads through the abandoned station.
Here's what it looks like inside City Hall station from the 6 train:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.