History on Bay: Staten Island’s St. George Subway Tunnel

by | Jun 4, 2015 | History on Bay


Map via Wikipedia

Did you know that there was once a plan for a tunnel that allowed trains to run from Staten Island into brooklyn? It’s true! Back in the 1910’s there was actually a plan for a subway tunnel to connect Staten Island’s St. George to Brooklyn.

From Wikipedia:

The Staten Island Tunnel (also called the Saint George Tunnel) is an abandoned, incomplete subway tunnel that was intended to connect railways on Staten Island (precursors to the modern-day Staten Island Railway) to the BMT Fourth Avenue Line of the New York City Subway, in Brooklyn.

Construction began in 1923, but New York City Mayor John Hylan, a former BMT employee, canceled the project, and the tunnel only went 150 feet (45m) into The Narrows before it was halted. The tunnel lies dormant under Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.Later proposals to complete the tunnel, including the 1939 plans for the ambitious IND Second System, were never funded.

More in-depth info from Panix.com:

As part of the 1913 “Dual Contracts” with the City, but not fully funded, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit or BMT) started digging a tunnel under Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge, not far from the [Bay Ridge Av] stop of the 4th Avenue subway and the Bay Ridge LIRR/PRR yards. This began right after World War I. Around that time, (c. 1920), the Staten Island Rapid Transit came under the control of the B&O, which upgraded it from a ordinary steam passenger line to an electrified, 3d rail rapid transit line with high-level platforms and cars similar in dimensions, but not in style, to the new [67]-foot long BRT “B” types. The plan was to connect the then 3 SIRT lines to the BRT subway line under 4th Avenue Brooklyn, which had opened in 1914. It was never clear who would operate the service.

The city had not funded the SI tunnel, but made provisions for its connections in the Dual Contracts plan for the BRT & the IRT. [In 1918, Mayor Hylan was elected. Hylan hated the two private subway companies: the IRT and the BMT. The BMT was the company which emerged from the BRT bankruptcy of 1918-1923. The bankruptcy stemmed from poor financial health and the liabilities of the Malbone Street wreck of 1918.] Hylan had it in for the private companies because he was fired from his position as a BRT trolley motorman after a strike which he led, so he . [It should be pointed out that most parties feel Hylan was fired due to operating a train in a ‘reckless manner’ in 1897 and Hylan’s role as a “leader” in that strike is questionable.]

There was no way his administration would fund additional tunnels for the BMT, so the tunnel was stopped about 150 feet under the bay. (The Independent Subway System — IND lines — was started by the Hylan administration as a vengeance move against the private company.)

The shafts are still there to see in Owl’s Head Park. The tunnel would have been longer than one mile, one of the longest in New York City. It would have come up in SI roughly where the Verrazano Bridge toll plaza is today, with a wye to the main SIRT line north & south, allowing for trains on 2 of their 3 branches.

Interesting stuff. I wonder what Staten Island would be like if this project was actually completed!

Christopher Olivieri

Written By Christopher Olivieri

Chris is a communications professional with a passion for pop culture, media, and all things creative. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a specialization in Media Studies and has experience in running a pop-culture website, freelance writing, coaching, and speaking engagements. He has worked behind the scenes on music albums and co-founded a boutique web design and marketing firm. He is also an amateur photographer and musician. He is always looking for the next exciting project to dive into.

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