For more than 50 years, the 13-story white limestone building at 370 Jay St. housed the headquarters of New York’s evolving transit agencies: first the Board of Transportation, then the Transit Authority, and finally New York City Transit. As the home for staff and operations of those agencies, its 420 perfectly uniform windows hid a secret elevator used to move cash from fare collection trains to the Money Room on the second floor, the famed Subway Command Center, sleek sunlit offices for employees from the chairman to the mail clerks — even a Lost and Found Department full of abandoned umbrellas.
The New York Transit Museum’s upcoming exhibition “The Secret Life of 370 Jay Street,” which opens to the public on Wednesday, Oct. 28, examines the building’s form and function as well as its exciting future. Built as part of the Brooklyn Civic Center Urban Renewal project following World War II, 370 Jay St. is now again at the center of change. In 2012 the City of New York and New York University entered into an agreement to transform 370 Jay St. into a modern, sustainable academic center that will be the foundation of the University’s expanding engineering and applied sciences programs, including their Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP).
“The Secret Life of 370 Jay Street” will reveal the inner workings and the quirky history of one of New York’s first mid-century modern office buildings. Photographs, architectural drawings, maps, models and ornamental details removed from the building will highlight the aesthetic form and diverse functions of the building as it transitions into its new life.
While the show touches on topics such as architecture, urban planning, new technologies, and sustainability, the star of the show is the building itself. Designed by famous subway architect Squire Vickers, an early 1935 watercolor rending and an original model of the building — complete with miniature trolley cars — help tell the story of the design and ornamentation of 370 Jay Street and its storied place in New York City transportation history.
The New York Transit Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and is closed Mondays, major holidays and for special events. General admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children 2-17 years old, $5 and free on Wednesdays for senior citizens 62 years and up, and free for museum members.
New York Transit Museum Curator Brigid Harmon will lead a public tour of the exhibition at 2 pm on Friday, Nov. 13. The tour is free with paid museum admission ($7 adults, $5 children and seniors).
The exhibit is made possible in part by a grant from New York University. New York Transit Museum exhibits and programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.