In Brooklyn, an abandoned brick building can be seen on the corner below the Atlantic Avenue Station on the L line, adjacent to the East New York Long Island Railroad station. Ivy-coated and in a state of decay, it appears to have been long forgotten for years. It is enclosed on all sides by a chain link fence topped by razor wire, and the gates are padlocked shut. Cats can be seen slipping in and out from under the fence bordering one side of the building, and glass is missing from all the windows. Sheets of metal attached to the fence prevent curious passerby from seeing what’s behind.
Only the lettering on the west face of the building that reads “Sub-Station 2, Long Island Railroad” reveals what it used to be. Substations are used to convert AC voltage to DC voltage, and that electricity then powers trains running on the tracks.
This substation in particular used to operate for the East New York Long Island Railroad Station, part of the equally abandoned East New York Freight Tunnel and Passenger Station. The station was originally built to be one of several lines running to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, but eventually closed when the LIRR abandoned the line in 1937 as the beach’s visitors declined in number.
Manhattan Beach used to be an upscale resort area in the 1800s, and was a popular destination for its horse racing track and the famous Manhattan Beach Hotel. However, when New York enacted a law banning gambling, the horse racing track switched to motor racing. The track was eventually demolished and the hotels began to empty as they lost the customers the race track brought in. Many of the hotels eventually became demolished as well.
The decline of Coney Island’s golden days, inadvertently, was responsible for the ruins of the substation standing on the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and East New York Avenue.
Today, the substation appears to be inactive. However, the station has evolved to be given an informal second life. As we were walking the perimeter taking photographs, an employee of a bus company on the other side of the street called us over to tell us that the station, in fact, has been inhabited by a man for the past fifteen years. The cops apparently check in on him every now and then to make sure he’s okay, and while social workers had offered him an apartment, he chose to continue living where he was. The employee also told us that the cats coming in and out of the building generally stay away from people, but every now and then, a lady comes to feed them, and they swarm around her as soon as she appears.
The future of this substation remains uncertain. The LIRR has been replacing substations as part of a modernization program, though this particular station does not appear to be on the list for any future replacements or repairs. It appears that for now, it will continue to be a quiet and unassuming presence on Snediker Avenue, and a headquarters for the local stray cats.
Join us on our next underground tour of the New York City subway:
Next, check out 20 abandoned places in New York City and the abandoned subway stations and platforms in New York City.