Strolling past the row of houses on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, you might notice that something is a little off. Take a close look at the red brick brownstone at number 58; the windows, you’ll see, are completely black. Suspicious, isn’t it? As it turns out, building number 58 is not what it seems; it is a fake brownstone, behind which lies a hidden subway ventilator.

Brooklyn Subway Tour

Nevins street platform

What would it be like to live next to an active subway ventilator, you might wonder? Judy Scofield Miller, who lives next door to the fake brownstone at number 58 with her husband and two kids, says they have grown accustomed to the buzz and hum of whirling ventilator blades that disrupts their quiet living room every few weeks (Daily News). The fake brownstone on Joralemon Street is also rumored to serve as a secret passageway to the 4/5 trains running in the tunnel below. A writer for the Brooklyn Heights Blog swears that he saw a glimpse of the 4/5 station when he peered inside the metal door marked “Exit 1.”

Brooklyn Heights-Substation-Joralemon Street-Fake-Subway Ventilator-NYC-003
Joralemon Street; number 58, the faux facade, is in the middle.

The fake brownstone on 58 Joralemon Street is one of the stops on Robert Lobenstein’s fascinating tour of MTA substations. Lobenstein was once the General Superintendent of  New York City Transit; now, according to Christopher Payne, the author of New York’s Forgotten Substations and Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, “Lobey” serves as the “unofficial historian” of the transit system. On a tour the Transit Museum last summer, we were  assured by Lobenstein that there wasn’t much to see inside the brownstone and we moved on to Substation #21 just nearby.

The fake townhouse on Joralemon Street is not the only MTA decoy in New York City. See more fake houses that hide infrastructure in NYC, London and Paris.