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Canal Street Complex

This complex sits in the heart of Chinatown, and serves the BMT N/Q/R trains along with the IRT #6 (and late night only #4) trains, with the BMT J trains.  It is a classic example of a Dual Contracts station, and is unusal for the scope of work as one of two complex stations to require the use of the Lower level platform in order to transfer from one platform to another.  The 14th Street/7th Avenue to 6th Ave station complex is the other location because you must use the lower level BMT L line platform in order to transfer from the F to the 1/2/3 lines.  The Fulton Street/Broadway same can be done from Nassau St complex does not really count because you can transfer from either IRT East side 4/5 platform to the northbound BMT J platform and the the southbound J platform to the IRT West side 2/3 island platform without requiring the use of the A/C platform.  The entire complex was completed in 1998 and features nice artwork along the BMT Broadway Line platforms and passageway.  Each line travels in a north-south direction, the R along Broadway, the 6 along Lafayette Street, and the J along Centre Street.  All of these lines are connected to a lower level, running under Canal Street and served by the N/Q lines.  For some people, especially tourists, it can be confusing to find out which platform they are on and where they have to go.  However, NYCT has done their best, under the circumstances they are dealing with the limitations of a complex, in installing directional signs.  In recent years, they have added signs along the lower level station walls to identify the directions of the lines they must walk to, and even posted signs at the bottom of each staircase to the lower level to note the N stops at the R upper level platforms during late nights.  However, all of the signs are in English, and there are no signs printed in Chinese. 

Starting from the BMT R platform, let's work our way to the newly realigned platform at the J side.

BMT Broadway Upper level (On Broadway at Canal Street) opened 9/6/1915Also known as the Tunnel platform.  Station is 4 tracks on 2 side platforms.  The color on the bottom half of the platform walls are burgundy.  The 2 "express: tracks cannot be used at all, they were part of the original plans to have BMT Broadway express terminate at City Hall, Lower Level.  However, the BRT was able to use the Manhattan Bridge tracks, and the express lines were diverted over the Manhattan ridge, thus this area is now disused.  An old abandoned tower or RTO facility now sits on the north end on the express tracks; also this section is where the platforms extended to the north in the 1960's.  The F/T booth is at the northbound platform with 2 separate fare controls (one to the Uptown R/W platform and the other to the transfer passageway to other lines), while the S/B platform has ghost booth and 24/7 HEET access. Each side has 3 street stairs. An underpass inside fare control at the S/B side, connects both platforms and is part of the transfer passageway to other lines within this complex.  The Canal Street name tablet has Chinese writing symbols for "China" to the left and "Town" to the right, together they are appropriately named Chinatown.  Between each of the station tablets is a red mosaic that means "Money" and "Luck", they are part of the artwork in this station (see "Empress Voyage" below) and is a sign of welcoming everybody who uses this station. 

We now descend down the transfer passageway and at the wall end, is artwork.  Titled "Empress Voyage" by Bing Lee (1998), it shows 200 unique ancient Chinese designs spread out in 8 columns and 25 rows.  Mr. Lee uses ceramic tile and mosaics to create the 200 designs, as well as the "Money" and "Luck" mosaics on both BM Broadway line platforms.  Facing the artwork, the passageway splits up into 2 staircases, the left for the Uptown N/Q trains, while the right side is for the Brooklyn Bound N/Q trains.  At the same time, the lower level station doubles as a passageway to the IRT #6 and BMT J/M/Z lines.  Both platforms have the same transferability and features.

BMT Broadway Line, Lower Level (On Canal Street between Broadway and Centre Street) Opened 9/13/1915:  Just 7 days after the upper level BMT Broadway subway opened, the last connecting piece to the entire complex opened.  More affectingly know as the "Bridge" platform for it is the only access to the Manhattan Bridge, it has 2 tracks on 2 side platforms.   In order to avoid confusion with the upper level, the tile on the bottom of the wall is green, the tile band is green wrapped around by purple/yellow and "Canal Street" letters are purple lettering on yellow background.  The platform extensions is clearly to the north and is tunneled shaped at this end, a route selector box is also on the Brooklyn-bound side to allow Train Operators to select their routes before crossing the bridge.  There are 4 staircases along each platform and in order from north to south, they are as follows (all are 1 staircase each): BMT R/W platforms, IRT Downtown #6, IRT Uptown #6, and BMT Nassau St J/M/Z island platform.  At the last 2 staircases on the Brooklyn-bound platform, there are safety bars to prevent anyone from accidentally falling down to the roadbed when coming off from the staircase. 

IRT East Side Lexington Ave (On Lafayette Ave at Canal Street) opened 10/27/1904:  This station is part of the original IRT route, and was expanded during the 1950's platform extensions.  Until the 1970's, it was the only area to prohibit free transfers to other lines within the complex, the relocation of turnstiles now permitted free transfers in 1977-78.  The station has IND faux Canal St. tablets and green C's along the top of the station tile.  At the far north end of the northbound platform, a "C" mosaics is not properly aligned with the rest of the C's on both sides.  Full time side is at northbound end, with HEET access at one stair opposite fare control.  S/B side has ghost booth (removed during renovation to this station), and 2 sets of HEETs. Each side has an ADA elevator; access is only available to the IRT platforms, not to rest of the station complex.  The original 1904 "C" ceramic mosaic is preserved after the renovation, however the 1904 station same tablets may be authentic looking replicas.

BMT Nassau Street (On Centre Street at Canal Street) Opened 3/14/1913:  Station is now 2 active tracks on 1 island platform, in October 2004 NYCT completed a dramatic realignment of the Nassau Street line from south of Canal Street to Essex Street.  Before the realignment, the station was 4 tracks on 2 island platforms, today the west platform is used for all trains running in both directions, while the east platform is now abandoned and sealed.  This area has one F/T booth to the S/W corner of Centre and Canal Streets, there is at least 1 ghost booth and 1 closed exit on the east side of Centre Street, they were sealed prior to the start of the realignment project.  The Canal Street mosaics are restored along with new wall and floor tiles. Prior to the start of the realignment, the station was used as a on again-off again terminal, the last time it was used as a terminal was when weekend J service from Jamaica Center, ended here in 1990.  After a couple of years, the weekend J was restored to Chambers Street.  It also had a passageway in front of bumper blocks that allowed customers to go from one platform to the other without using the crossunder passageway.  Today the last surviving platform-level crossover can be found at Brooklyn College-Flatbush Ave IRT station.

According to the MTA Web Site "...Bing Lee's Empress Voyage commemorates the pioneering expedition of the American merchant ship, Empress of China, which in 1794 returned to New York harbor filled with silk, tea, and porcelain (commonly called china, due to its origin). Through the artist's lighthearted use of Chinese-derived icons, the tiles illustrate aspects of the then-new trade with Asia and celebrates today's Chinatown. On the platforms, interlocking teapots incorporate the Chinese symbol for "good life." Other symbols, on the station's upper level, are variations on the symbols for "Asia," "quality," and "cycle." As trains arrive, debarking passengers are given a choice of reading "Canal Street" in English or the Chinese characters for "Chinatown." "I want to give the viewers art that reminds them of history, but also speaks directly to them," says Lee, "something meaningful but also playful."

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 Last revised 01/31/2011

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