IRT (MTA) Electrical Substation No. 14 Demolished




IRT Substation 14, one of eight original substations constructed by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company has fallen. Founded by Andrew Onderdonk and August Belmont, Jr, in 1900, The Rapid Transit Subway Construction Co. was created.  It eventually became Interborough Rapid Transit or the IRT, which constructed and created the stations, tunnels, laying tracks, manufacturing trains, and subterranean tracks. All of this would be needed to be provided with electricity to power the trains. Colossal generators had to be constructed and housed in powerhouses and substations. Substations were generally located near passenger stations which transformed the high voltage AC electricity to low voltage DC electricity from the main power plant. You can view a demonstration of this process here at MTA Substation #13.


 Photo © NYC Municipal Archives, Local History, and Genealogy. "Manhattan: West End Avenue - 96th Street (West)"


Substation No.14 conveyed electrical currents from the 59th Street Powerhouse designed by McKim, Mead & White. Designed by IRT architect Paul C. Hunter,  the Beaux-Arts limestone facade had two large arched doors, tripartite windows, a terra-cotta design, a mansard roof, and decorative cornices. The three-story electrical substation was built at the cost of $55,000 by contractors John McDonald and William Barkley Parson the chief Engineer. By the 1940s, the substation was becoming obsolete and on June 12, the IRT was acquired by the MTA and the substation was transferred to the city. 


Arched doors with rot iron gate.


Only fifty years later, the substation was taken offline. Subsequently, the Division of Real Property tried to sell not only the lot but the adjacent parcels on 268 and 270 West for a minimum bid of $6.2 million in a combined three-owner sale. In 2021, Fetner Properties, developers, purchased the former substation for $20 million from the city through the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Recorded mortgage and agreement here. The other two adjacent parcels were also sold to the developers. 

The substation was demolished and the neighboring private properties next door were also razed. That included the Salvation Army Family Store since 1973 and an upholstery store in the 1940s (268 W 96th), and NAACP Mid Manhattan Branch from 1978 (270 W 96th St) had different commercial businesses before it occupied the building. For example, it housed Weber Bunke Lange Coal Company which sold coke, coal, oil, and wood. In its totality, the property will become 270 West 96th Street. A 23-story residential unit building with 171 market-rate and 83 affordable micro-units (studios). 


Looking East towards West End Ave




Currently, the only one of the eight substations still around and online is Substation No. 17, the Dyckman-Hillside Substation. For more history and inside details of these substations, check out Christopher Payne's esteemed book, "New York's Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway".

I was not able to peep inside this substation but nevertheless, a remarkable and historical building has met its fate in the booming residential New York market. 


As of July 2022.


Location: 264-266 West 96th Street, Manhattan, New York, 10025


Sources:

1. Carlson, Jen, "One of NYC's First Substations Will Demolished Soon", January 25, 2022, Gothamist

2. The IRT Electrical Substation No. 14: A Report from Daytonian in Manhattan, February 20, 2018, LandmarkWest

3. Bergmann, Joy, "Demolition Imminent for 1904 Substation to Make Way for New Rental Building with Affordable Units", January 13, 2022, West Side Rag

4. Scott, Max, "NYC’S Beaux-Arts 96th Street Substation Will Be Demolished", January 20, 2022,  Untapped New York

5. Fetner Properties Closes on 270 West 96 Street on Manhattan's Upper West Side, December 20, 2021, PR Newswire

6. MTA Substation #13, April 16, 2017, Geeky Girl Engineer

7. Miller, Tom, "Pitiable Neglect - The West 96th Street Substation 11", February 20, 2018, Daytonian in Manhattan

8. IRT Substation 14, January 29, 2022, Wikimedia

9. Payne, Christopher, Substations, ChrisPaynePhoto

10. 1940s NYC Municipal Archive, 1940s.nyc

11. Katzive, Daniel, "Remediation Work Beginning on 96th Street Following Demolition of MTA Substation", April 27, 2022, West Side Rag

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