IRT Sixth Avenue Line

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Not to be confused with IND Sixth Avenue Line.
New York City's Sixth Avenue elevated railway and the crowded street below

The IRT Sixth Avenue Line, often called the Sixth Avenue Elevated or Sixth Avenue El, was the second elevated railway in Manhattan in New York City, following the Ninth Avenue Elevated.

The line ran south of Central Park, mainly along Sixth Avenue. Beyond the park, trains continued north on the Ninth Avenue Line.

History[edit]

The elevated line was constructed during the 1870s by the Gilbert Elevated Railway, subsequently reorganized as the Metropolitan Elevated Railway. By June 1878, its route ran north from the corner of Rector Street and Trinity Place up Trinity Place / Church Street, then west for a block at Murray Street, then north again on West Broadway, west again across West 3rd Street to the foot of Sixth Avenue, and then north to 59th Street. The following year, ownership passed to the Manhattan Railway Company, which also controlled the other elevated railways in Manhattan. In 1881, the line was connected to the largely rebuilt Ninth Avenue Elevated; it was joined in the south at Morris Street, and in the north by a connecting link running across 53rd Street.

The Sixth Avenue El in Greenwich Village

Due to its central location in Manhattan and the inversion of the usual relationship between street noise and height, the Sixth Avenue El attracted artists; in addition to being the subject of several paintings by John French Sloan, it was also painted by Francis Criss and others. [1]

As with all elevated railways, the Sixth Avenue El made life for those nearby difficult. It was noisy, it made buildings shake, and it bombarded pedestrians underneath with dropping ash, oil, and cinders. Eventually, a coalition of commercial establishments and building owners along Sixth Avenue campaigned to have the El removed, on the grounds that it was depressing business and property values. The city of New York acquired the line from the bondholders of the Manhattan Railway Company for $12,500,000 (of which the city recovered $9,010,656 in back taxes and interest) in 1938,[2] and the El was closed on December 4, 1938 and razed during 1939, paving the way for the replacement underground IND Sixth Avenue Line, which opened between 1936 and 1940.

The footings for the El were rediscovered in the early 1990s during a Sixth Avenue renovation project.[3]

Looking down from 33rd St station

Allegations demolition scrap was sold to Japan[edit]

When the El was taken down, concern was expressed that scrap metal from the demolition would reach the Japanese. It was widely believed during World War II that some of this metal was being used in armaments against Americans. That notion became the ironic suggestion within the lines of E. E. Cummings's 1944 poem "plato told."[4]

Twenty thousand tons of scrap metal from the El was sold to a dealer on the west coast who was in the export business. The New York Times pointed out in December 1938 that even if the scrap did not go directly to Japan, for possible use against China, such a large amount of scrap metal arriving on the market would free up metal to be sent to Japan.[5]

At a meeting of the New York City Board of Estimate in 1942, Stanley M. Isaacs, the Manhattan Borough President, denied that steel from the El was sold to Japan. Isaacs said that when the demolition contract was drafted in 1938, "at my insistence the contract provided that not one ounce of that steel could be exported to Japan or to any one else."[6] Isaacs said that the contractor was prohibited from exporting the steel from the El, and carried out his obligation to the letter.[7]

Reports of the supposed sale of the scrap to Japan persisted. In 1961, an attorney for the Harris Structural Steel Company, which was involved in the demolition, told syndicated columnist George Sokolsky that continued reports of the sale of steel from the El to Japan were not accurate. The attorney said that none of the steel from the El reached Japan directly or indirectly.[8]

Station listing[edit]

Station Tracks Opening date Closing date Transfers & Notes
merge from IRT Ninth Avenue Line at 59th Street
Eighth Avenue local December 4, 1938
tracks merge from 58th Street Terminal and Eighth Avenue
58th Street Terminal terminal spur June 16, 1924
50th Street all December 4, 1938
42nd Street all December 4, 1938
38th Street all 1913[9] December 4, 1938
33rd Street all December 4, 1938
28th Street all December 4, 1938
23rd Street all December 4, 1938
18th Street all December 4, 1938
14th Street all 1870s December 4, 1938
Eighth Street all December 4, 1938
Bleecker Street all December 4, 1938
Grand Street all December 4, 1938
Franklin Street local December 4, 1938
Chambers Street all December 4, 1938
Park Place all December 4, 1938
Cortlandt Street local December 4, 1938
Rector Street local December 4, 1938
merge into IRT Ninth Avenue Line
Battery Place all June 11, 1940
South Ferry all various ferries (see South Ferry)

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ ""Elevated to seek 7-cent fare soon"". The New York Times. 10 January 1939. 
  3. ^ NYC rehabilitates Sixth Avenue American Cit and County, February 1, 1996
  4. ^ "Topics of the Times: Whither Sixth Avenue". Lapham's Qarterly. March 6, 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Topics of the Times: Whither Sixth Avenue". The New York Times. December 7, 1938. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Estimate Board Dooms 2nd Ave. 'El'". The New York Times. 29 May 1942. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Transit Body Gets El Demolition Job". The New York Times. June 7, 1940. Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Sokolsky, George (19 September 1961). "Congressional Probe of Dealings with Reds Urged". The Florence Times (Florence, Alabama). Retrieved 12 August 2011. 
  9. ^ "Transit Benefits for 38th Street", The New York Times, February 9, 1913, accessed March 29, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jackson, Kenneth T. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of New York City, "Elevated Railways", Yale University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-300-05536-8.

External links[edit]