Discover Copper Online

Spring 2008

Brooklyn's Buried Treasure Saved by City

Rendering of 4th Ave. SubwayA rendering of the 4th Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, NY, restored. Courtesy of HDR/Daniel Frankfurt of New York City.

High-resolution version of this photo.

Just a short subway hop across the East River from Manhattan, the borough of Brooklyn is a thriving community with a fair share of tony townhouses, spacious parks, art galleries and museums. But the lion's share of attention-and budget dollars-has always tilted toward Manhattan, leaving much of Brooklyn's heritage to fade almost to invisibility over time.

Recently, however, a piece of that heritage has been rediscovered beneath the billboards and grime that have literally built up on it over the years. A key station on the New York City elevated subway line, built at a time when the nation was struggling to overcome the Great Depression and hailed as an Art Deco landmark, is about to be restored to its original glory by the City's transit system. When completed, the station will take its rightful place among other architectural icons saved in recent years from neglect and potential ruin.

The 4th Avenue Subway Station is located in Park Slope, an area dotted with landmarks such as the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Gardens, Prospect Park and the historic Montauk Club, which has hosted U.S. Presidential visits going back to Teddy Roosevelt. The station also serves a number of once-gritty but now emerging neighborhoods in Brooklyn, such as Red Hook and Carroll Gardens.

According to James McConnell, vice president of HDR/Daniel Frankfurt, the New York City architectural firm hired to guide the project over the next two years, the 75-year-old station will be meticulously restored to its authentic Art Deco appearance and stature.

Although it is a public works project, restoration funds have been allocated to return the structure to its original prominence. The work will require some 6,000 square feet of copper needed to reconstruct the station's exterior façade, barrel-shaped roof, gutters and flashing, and track-side fascia, McConnell said.

Initially, consideration was given to using less-costly substitute materials, but the city ultimately decided to remain faithful to the station's original architecture and restore or replace the materials that were installed when the structure was built.

Rendering of 4th Ave. SubwayA rendering of the 4th Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, NY, restored. Courtesy of HDR/Daniel Frankfurt of New York City.

High-resolution version of this photo.

"Everything that was once copper will be put back as copper," McConnell said. "When this project is complete, the 4th Avenue Station will be returned to its original glory and once again become a central part of the community."

The 4th Avenue Station was designed by the Thompson-Leopold-Fredburn Engineering Company and erected in 1933. Its structure includes a steel-framed arch that spans the avenue with a four-track railway platform that measures 660 feet in length and 95 feet in width. The platform accommodates two local and two express trains at a time on the transit system's F line, and offers transfer connections to M and R line trains. Roughly 10,000 riders travel the line daily.

The station is the second highest elevated railroad station in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's transit system. Before being purchased by New York City in 1940, the station was independently owned.

It also is the only station in the MTA system which incorporates authentic Art Deco construction of ornamental brick, steel and concrete. In 2005, the station was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.

Through the years, however, the station was neglected and allowed to fall into disrepair. Much of the structure, including the copper used for the roof and for adornments to the platform's interior, was damaged by water and gradually deteriorated, according to McConnell, who described it as "in terrible condition-it really hasn't been rehabilitated."

McConnell said copper was ultimately chosen for the station's restoration because it is considered a "green" material with sustainable qualities, including recyclability and longevity.

The restoration project will include the removal of a large advertising billboard that has obscured the station's arched exterior for many years. Repairs will also be done to the sheet metal covering the fascia and along the edges of the arch above the avenue.

An original aluminum curtain wall, which is visible from inside the platform, will be stripped of paint and restored, and metal sheeting that was once installed as a "temporary" covering for the windows under the arched canopy will be removed.

Rendering of 4th Ave. SubwayA rendering of the 4th Avenue Subway Station in Brooklyn, NY, restored. Courtesy of HDR/Daniel Frankfurt of New York City.

High-resolution version of this photo.

"We're going to replace [the sheeting] with clear windows," McConnell said. "You'll be able to see daylight through the fascia. It's really going to enhance the feeling of safety and security. The station will get its old identity back and its prominence will be reestablished in the community. It should be quite nice."

David Foell, lead design manager for the New York City Transit Stations Program, stated that the MTA is expected to bid out the restoration project, which began with initial design work in 2007. The work on the station will be part of a larger contract to rebuild a section of the transit system known as the Culver Viaduct, and the cost of the entire project would probably exceed $100 million.

McConnell said he expected the restoration work to begin this summer or early fall and take up to 18 months to complete. The station would remain open during construction. Cu


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