Volume 73, Number 44 | March 3 - 9, 2004

A Grand opening for key Chinatown subway station

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Chinatown cheered the reopening of the Grand St. subway station last week, as residents raved over their streamlined commutes and merchants voiced hopes about an upturn in business.

Larry Ling, a teacher who lives on Chrystie St., couldn’t believe how quickly he shot up to Times Sq. on Wednesday morning.

“It’s made my life 10,000 times easier,” Ling said. A trip that could have taken as long as an hour before the Feb. 22 reopening took only 10 minutes, he added. The longer trip was mainly because the temporary shuttle train between Grand and W. Fourth Sts. was so unpredictable, Ling said.

Subway service to Grand St. stopped in the summer of 2001 due to track work on the Manhattan Bridge. The D and B trains’ return to Grand St. was part of a major restoration of subway routes marking the first time in nearly 20 years that trains are running over all four tracks on the Manhattan Bridge.

Other service changes include the N train running express from 59th St. in Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge to Herald Sq. on weekdays, the Q train running express in Manhattan and stopping at Broadway stations, and the W running local on weekdays on Broadway between Whitehall St. and Astoria, Queens. The rerouting of the N train has opened up space in the M,R subway tunnel, and that space is now being considered for use in a link from Lower Manhattan to the Long Island Rail Road and J.F.K. Airport.

With the subway changes, the Transit Authority has also phased out the shuttle train between Grand St. and W. Fourth St.

Even before Sept. 11, 2001, the closing of the Grand St. station had caused some nearby businesses to fold, said Don Lee, a member of Community Board 2 and executive director of community economic development projects at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. Traffic to the area dropped further after the terror attack, and for more than two years business in Chinatown was down 40 percent to 70 percent compared with pre-station closing levels, Lee estimated.

But the community hopes that will change. “Everyone is optimistic,” Lee said. While it’s too early to gauge the full impact of the Grand St. station’s reopening, merchants in the area reported an increase in business last week.

“It’s a little bit better than before,” said a woman identifying herself only as Yan, who runs a clothing booth at the intersection of Grand St. and the Bowery. She estimated that her business was up 20 percent since the reopening on Sunday.

The chief cook at the Nam So’n Vietnamese restaurant at 245 Grand St. had a similar estimate. Declining to give his name, he said the restaurant’s business was up 15 percent since Sunday, with a steadier flow of customers than before.

“Management feels good,” the chef said.

The new service was not without glitches, however. On Wednesday morning, a B train from Brooklyn didn’t stop at Grand St., and the conductor made no announcements when the train went straight from Canal St. to Union Sq. The new subway maps published by New York City Transit show the B train stopping at Grand St. Transit Authority officials did not return a call for comment.

And challenges remain. Park Row, a major artery linking Chinatown with the rest of Lower Manhattan, has been closed for security reasons since 9/11. The closing has restricted tour bus and other access to Chinatown, and community members have sued the city to reopen the road. Also, many fear encroaching gentrification as the Bowery continues its glitzy makeover.

Despite these hardships, the community hailed the reopening of the Grand St. station as a sign of better things to come.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Paul Lee, a Mott St. resident. “To have this come back at a time when we’re still suffering is terrific.”


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