As part of the 1913 "Dual Contracts" with the City, but not fully funded, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (later Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit or BMT) started digging a tunnel under Owl's Head Park in Bay Ridge, not far from the [Bay Ridge Av] stop of the 4th Avenue subway and the Bay Ridge LIRR/PRR yards. This began right after World War I. Around that time, (c. 1920), the Staten Island Rapid Transit came under the control of the B&O, which upgraded it from a ordinary steam passenger line to an electrified, 3d rail rapid transit line with high-level platforms and cars similar in dimensions, but not in style, to the new -foot long BRT "B" types. The plan was to connect the then 3 SIRT lines to the BRT subway line under 4th Avenue Brooklyn, which had opened in 1914. It was never clear who would operate the service.
The city had not funded the SI tunnel, but made provisions for its connections in the Dual Contracts plan for the BRT & the IRT. [In 1918, Mayor Hylan was elected. Hylan hated the two private subway companies: the IRT and the BMT. The BMT was the company which emerged from the BRT bankruptcy of 1918-1923. The bankruptcy stemmed from poor financial health and the liabilities of the Malbone Street wreck of 1918.] Hylan had it in for the private companies because he was fired from his position as a BRT trolley motorman after a strike which he led, so he . [It should be pointed out that most parties feel Hylan was fired due to operating a train in a 'reckless manner' in 1897 and Hylan's role as a "leader" in that strike is questionable.]
There was no way his administration would fund additional tunnels for the BMT, so the tunnel was stopped about 150 feet under the bay. (The Independent Subway System -- IND lines -- was started by the Hylan administration as a vengeance move against the private company.)
The shafts are still there to see in Owl's Head Park. The tunnel would have been longer than one mile, one of the longest in New York City. It would have come up in SI roughly where the Verrazano Bridge toll plaza is today, with a wye to the main SIRT line north & south, allowing for trains on 2 of their 3 branches.
A SIRT tunnel was later added in 1929 to the IND plans for its 2d phase (which never really got underway due to the Depression and the WW II). It would have come off the lower, express level of the Prospect Park branch (now the line to Coney Island) and run under Bay [Ridge] Parkway to Owl's Head Park, picking up where the BRT tunnel left off. There is a pocket in the tunnel for that branch.
When the Verrazano Bridge was being proposed, there was some movement to put tracks on the bridge, but Robert Moses was the vehement anti-rail highway czar at the time, and never would have permitted it.
In the 1950s, the City proposed a 5-mile tunnel under the bay directly from Battery Park in Manhattan to St. George, SI but it was never funded. It was not clear what subway line in Manhattan that tunnel would connect to.
The Port Authority of N.J. & N.Y. was originally formed after WWI to build a rail tunnel from Bay Ridge LIRR yards to the PRR/Lehigh Valley yards in Greenville, N.J., which would have provided a freight bypass around New York City via the Hell Gate Bridge. The Pennsy/New Haven electrification was extended to Bay Ridge in the '30s with this tunnel in mind. The Port Authority stalled for decades and then just forgot the tunnel, [due to both the PA's dislike of rail and the spiteful nature of the competing private railroads involved]. Before PATH, the only rail business they got into was a short transfer line they built -- the N.J. Connecting Ry. -- in Hoboken which connected the various lines terminating at the docks there. It is now part of Conrail.
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Last updated: 4 April 1999