A Village resident opposed to the Port Authority’s controversial plan to build new entrance/exits to two PATH stations in Greenwich Village has found evidence in the historic records to back up her opinion.
LindaAnn Loschiavo, who has extensively researched W. Ninth St.’s history, has uncovered long-forgotten PATH train exits. Loschiavo has also written a play about Mae West’s obscenity trial in Night Court at the former Jefferson Market Courthouse, in background, at left, today a public library library branch.
LindaAnn Loschiavo, a writer who lives on W. Ninth St. a block east of the PATH Ninth St. station at Sixth Ave., shares the fear of many of her neighbors that construction of a new entrance/exit there would shake the very foundations of the neighborhood.
To make her case, she went to the Internet and looked up real estate records and newspaper files dating back to 1908 and earlier to when William G. McAdoo built the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad tunnel between Manhattan and New Jersey.
And she found that McAdoo, a lawyer from Tennessee who became a railroad magnate, had provided four stairways for the principal stations on the line. McAdoo had built a double-tube tunnel that allowed for separate exits and entrances for each tube.
“The entrance [for the Uptown track] was on Ninth St. on the east side of Sixth Ave. about where the stairs are now and the exit was on the west side of Sixth Ave.,” Loschiavo said. McAdoo learned from the subway system in Manhattan — built in 1904 — and the Sixth Ave. El — built even earlier — that incoming and exiting passengers on the same set of stairs are bound to collide.
She pointed out to a reporter and a photographer from The Villager last month that an indication of where the exit to the station had been on the west side of Sixth Ave. “Hudson and Manhattan Railroad,” barely legible, is painted high on the wall of a two-story building adjacent to the newsstand near the southwest corner of Sixth Ave. and Greenwich Ave.
Loschiavo cited a real estate notice from May 1902 that McAdoo had acquired the property at 686-692 Greenwich Ave. for a station site. The citation was confusing at first because the address does not exist, but it soon became clear that Greenwich Ave. was subsequently renumbered and the property would correspond today with 3-7 Greenwich Ave. The property was sold at public auction in 1941 just after the Sixth Ave. El was taken down, so presumably the PATH exit was closed at that time or earlier.
The Port Authority announced its plan to build the secondary entrance/exit stairs at the Ninth St. station and at the Christopher St. station shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack, which destroyed the Downtown PATH station and caused overcrowding at the Christopher and Ninth Sts. stations. The agency also said that passenger safety during emergencies was a prime reason for the second exits.
Fears that construction of the new access places would threaten the fragile historic houses in the Village prompted broad opposition to the projects. “When they were building the [railroad] tunnel beginning in 1902 people were afraid the 50-year-old houses in the Village would not survive,” Loschiavo said. “Now those houses are 100 years old or more and less likely to stand up to construction vibrations,” she added.
A New York Times news item from Jan. 9, 1907, has the headline,” Christopher St. Trembles,” and says, “Explosions of dynamite or compressed air have caused people who live or do business in Christopher Street, over the McAdoo tunnel, a great deal of uneasiness.” The item goes on to say that the sidewalk in front of 22 and 24 Christopher St. had been pushed up 2 feet and that compressed air was escaping from cracks in the street at Sixth Ave. and Christopher St. all night.
The original Hudson and Manhattan Railroad company was bankrupt in 1954 but continued running the trains until Sept. 1, 1962, when the Port Authority took the system over.
Early in 2002, after Loschiavo began delving into the history of the railroad tunnel, she e-mailed the Port Authority to ask for maps of the tunnel system. “They called me back and said their archives were destroyed on Sept. 11,” she said. “But I think there’s an element of deliberate deception, because the Port Authority wants to do things their own way,” she said.
But a Port Authority spokesperson said on Jan. 3 that an environmental impact statement study of the proposed Ninth St. secondary entrance/exit would look at all conceivable options. The Port Authority board of directors on Dec. 11 awarded Parsons Brinckerhoff the contract to conduct the E.I.S. with the city Department of Transportation acting as the lead agency.
“We’re still working out the terms of the contract and we expect it to be final in the first quarter of this year,” said Steve Coleman, P. A. spokesperson. The Parsons firm will then schedule a scoping session and take testimony from the public. If anyone asks about the now-closed second exit, “the E.I.S. would have to look into it,” Colemen said. He would not guess when the scoping session would take place.
In any case, the environmental study would take about 18 months, so nothing would be done until the second half of 2006. The study will focus on the environmental impact of a Ninth St. second exit, but the proposed Christopher St. second exit would likely be considered, as it might affect the Ninth St. station, Coleman said.
Loschiavo, a Village resident since 1970 and a W. Ninth St. resident since 1975, has also researched the history of her street and of the Jefferson Market Courthouse. She is the author of a play about the Night Court obscenity trial of Mae West and her 53 fellow performers in the burlesque review, “Sex,” in the Jefferson Market Courthouse on Feb.9, 1927. The former courthouse today lives on as the Jefferson Market Public Library branch.
The play, “Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship & Secrets,” had a concert reading in February 2004 in the Jefferson Market Library and will be the subject this month of an art exhibition from Jan. 3 - 30 in the library about the play. For more information, visit http://MaeWest.blogspot.com.