While visiting the major, most popular attractions of New York City can be fun, it can also be stressful, overwhelming and full of selfie-taking tourists. However, the great thing about the Big Apple is that plenty of other attractions exist that are far less known or even hidden in plain sight. To go beyond the tourist-filled sites and tour the city like you’re seeing it for the very first time, check out 6sqft’s list ahead of the 20 best underground, secret spots in New York City.
Grand Central Terminal
Ahead of repair work set to begin at Penn Station next week, Amtrak said it will reroute some trains each weekday to Grand Central Terminal. For the first time since 1991, passengers will use the iconic Beaux-Arts terminal to reach destinations along the Hudson River Valley, like Rhinecliff, Hudson and Albany. As the New York Times reported, Amtrak will reroute six of their Empire Service trains to Grand Central instead of Penn Station from July 10 to Sept. 1.
With major infrastructure repairs taking place at Penn Station this summer, state officials have suggested rerouting some Amtrak trains to Grand Central Terminal to ease train congestion. While no plans have been finalized, and it’s still unclear how long the switch would take to begin, crews are already training for the new path down Park Avenue into Grand Central, as Politico NY reports. Swapping stations, however, could cause temporary problems at the 42nd Street transit hub, which currently serves 750,000 passengers per day on four commuter lines via Metro-North.
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Though we’re getting used to bidding farewell to our favorite vestiges of old New York, the May 17 reopening of historic and elegant cocktail establishment Campbell Apartment brings a rare reprieve to that familiar scenario, as The New York Times reports. Shuttered in July, the iconic lounge tucked away deep within Grand Central Terminal will reopen as an expanded version of the original. Both its slightly hidden nature and the establishment’s dress code will not be returning in its newest incarnation. The new, easier-to-find bar will be run by the Gerber Group, who says they want the bar to be less stuffy, hopefully without losing any of the historic and genteel appeal that made it a favorite grown-up rendezvous spot and a great way to impress a date.
Perhaps the most detested Midtown skyscraper by the public, this huge tower has nevertheless always been a popular building with tenants for its prime location over Grand Central Terminal and its many views up and down Park Avenue. It is also one of the world’s finest examples of the Brutalist architecture, commendable for its robust form and excellent public spaces, as well as its excellent integration into the elevated arterial roads around it.
However, there is no argument that it is also immensely bulky with a monstrous height. As shown in the photograph ahead, to its north, the building completely overshadows the Helmsley Building, an iconic product of Warren & Wetmore’s Terminal City complex. The pyramid-topped Helmsley Building once straddled the avenue with remarkable grace, and as one of the city’s very rare, “drive-through” buildings, it was the great centerpiece of Park Avenue. But by shrouding such a masterpiece in its shadows, the Pan Am Building (today the MetLife building) desecrated a major icon that will unfortunately never recover from such a contemptible slight on a prominent site.
Grand Central Station in the early 1900s
Historic photos of the original Penn Station are almost as common as images of the current site, since its demolition in 1963 is often credited with spearheading the modern preservation movement (and because its grandeur is a startling reminder of how loathed the current station is). Conversely, Grand Central is typically celebrated as a preservation victory. In 1978, the courts ruled in favor of the Landmarks Preservation Commission when Penn Central Railroad sued them to build a huge tower atop the terminal and demolish one of its facades. But believe it or not, the 1913 Beaux-Arts building was not the first Grand Central, and photos of these grand earlier structures are rarely shared.
These days if an architect were to ask a developer “What’s your sign?” they probably wouldn’t be taken very seriously. But in the early 1900s, it was an entirely different story.
A century ago, wealthy industrialists, bankers, businessmen and civic planners were erecting opulent buildings with the help of top architects and artists. And in addition to elaborate ornamentation, celestial ceilings with zodiac symbols were also requested in a number of iconic building designs. Ahead we point out six historic New York area buildings where you can still encounter these astral vestiges.
Grand Central Terminal has a great deal of hidden history and underground secrets, but this powerful image of German helmets taken in 1918 might not be on everyone’s radar. The photo documents a collection of captured WWI helmets from German soldiers stacked in a pyramid shape on Victory Way. The politically potent tower was in view of the employees from New York Central Terminal with the famous train station visible in the background.
Grand Central Terminal is one of New York City’s most beloved landmarks, and over the years this historic transportation hub has stood the test of time. While the majority of the structure has remained intact, the businesses inside the station have seen their fair share of changes since first opening in 1871. But one of the station’s more notable and less widely known tenants includes a special movie theatre designed specifically for travelers. Read more
Image © Emily Nonko for 6sqft
The iconic Grand Central Terminal is a building with more than a few secrets. Constructed in 1913 with the wealth of the Vanderbilt family, there was a lavish private office (now known as The Campbell Apartment), glass catwalks, a hidden spiral staircase, and even artists’ studios on an upper floor. One of the most infamous secrets of the terminal, however, was a secret track used specifically for a president to access one of the most famous hotels in the world. Known as Track 61, it leads to a special platform that was never used or intended to be used in regular passenger service—it just happened to be in the right place.