76th Street: NYC’s Legendary Abandoned Subway Station

NYC's legendary abandoned 76th Street station (Image: Dark Cyanide via Untapped Cities; is there really a 76th Street station in NYC?)

It’s been described as the Roswell of the New York City subway system, and to this day remains a classic urban legend. Long rumoured and hotly debated by transport buffs, 76th Street station allegedly lies on the IND Fulton Street Line near Ozone Park in Queens. According to NYC folklore, it’s been sealed off for decades behind a cinderblock wall just east of Euclid Avenue station. (Urban explorer Dark Cyanide took these photographs of the rumoured location for Untapped Cities.)

The mythical 76th Street subway station was reportedly part of a unrealised plan to extend the A line out to 229th Street in Cambria Heights. But, at least officially, the extension never went ahead. So why do some rail enthusiasts seem convinced that there’s a hidden, long-abandoned station beneath 76th Street in Queens? Could this urban legend be rooted in reality? New York City certainly has its fair share of abandoned subway stations.

There is – arguably – precedent. The unfinished North End Tube station, buried 221 feet below Hampstead Heath on the London Underground network, remained in the shadows for many years before its existence was revealed. Though the bare platforms were in place, construction on North End station was abandoned in 1906. No surface structures had then been built and when its platforms were sealed off from passing trains, there was little visible evidence of its existence.

During World War Two the ghost station was used as a top secret war archive, and throughout the Cold War it formed part of London’s civil defence system. A shaft was sunk into the ground at that time, but for years this was masked by a fake electricity substation.

NYC's legendary abandoned 76th Street station 3 (Image: Dark Cyanide via Untapped Cities; the mysterious cinderblock wall)

If nothing else, the history of North End illustrates how a ghost station remained off the radar for years before its existence was publicly unveiled. Of course, 76th Street station has never been confirmed, nor (to the best of our knowledge) has anyone seen it. Like all good urban legends, the tale refuses to go away. But as the New York Times states: “If it exists, in fact, it is nothing more than a dark four-track IND subway station with blue tiles, on the A line near Ozone Park, Queens.”

A main source of inspiration for the myth was subway historian Joseph Brennan’s 2002 article on Abandoned Stations. In it, Brennan writes that 76th Street station was in use for less than a month in 1948, but soon closed when union leaders threatened to take transport bosses to court over non-union work. (Presumably that would have been when the cinderblock wall, concealing the station, came about.) The article even included a photograph of a train at the platform. But this was dismissed as a clever piece of Photoshopping by Benjamin Kabak, who explained that Brennan’s article was actually an April Fools’ Day joke.

There were other clues, however. Chief among them was the appearance of 76th Street station on the electric light board in the control room of Euclid Avenue station. This was confirmed to Randy Kennedy (for his 2003 NYT article) by transit official and part-time subway historian Joe Raskin. But Mr Raskin pointed out that he could find no evidence or documentation that the station was ever built.

NYC's legendary abandoned 76th Street station 2 (Image: Dark Cyanide via Untapped Cities)

Perhaps inevitably, urban explorers, legend trippers and amateur transportation historians with an interest in abandoned underground stations have picked up the trail. As Dark Cyanide told Untapped Cities, it’s an “urban explorer’s dream to uncover the 76th street station that lies behind a concrete wall. I took [these photos] and behind the buffer is the wall.”

However, Benjamin Kabak points out on 2nd Avenue Sagas that “we do know what was supposed to go past that cinderblock wall sixty-plus years ago… but the details are immaterial. Eventually, due to costs and some engineering concerns, the plans for such an ambitious extension were scrapped. It is true that a signal schematic references the “future 76th Street interlocking,” but that is ultimately a future that never came to pass.”

He adds, however, that “the cinder block wall is an oddity; other transit workers and police officers claim the station exists on the other side of the wall. It’s a case based on circumstantial evidence, but until someone returns with photos, 76th Street will remain forever a debated part of subway lore.”

Related – Ghost Stations: 9 Abandoned Subways & Rapid Transit Systems

 
 


 
 
 

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