72nd Street Subway Station Reopens, With Yoko Ono ‘Sky’ Mosaic

Photo by David L.

The 72nd Street subway station for the B and C lines reopened on Thursday afternoon after being closed since May for repairs and other upgrades. The project also includes a new artwork designed by Yoko Ono called Sky, which the MTA said is actually six separate mosaics.

“In mezzanine and platform areas where wall tiles were in need of replacement, MTA Arts & Design installed a new ceramic mosaic titled “SKY” by Yoko Ono. “SKY” comprises six separate mosaics spanning both station platforms and mezzanine. The mosaics altogether measure 973 square feet and show a blue, cloud-filled sky embedded with written messages of hope. As riders move through the subterranean subway station, the messages of hope appear in the clouds as the perspective shifts in each mosaic. The transformation of photographs into mosaic sky paintings with subtle gradations in color and tone has created a visually striking station environment. Two mosaics are above the mezzanine stairs leading to the southbound platform where two more pieces are featured, and one mosaic each is installed on the northbound platform and in the main turnstile area on the mezzanine level.”

“I’m thrilled that my new work, ‘SKY,’ will be opening at the 72 St subway station just steps from my home and Strawberry Fields, which I created in memory of my late husband,” said Yoko Ono in a statement. “It will bring the sky underground, so it’s always with us. I hope this will bring peace and joy to my fellow New Yorkers for many years to come.”

There are also new digital signs, LED lighting and countdown clocks, the MTA said. Other enhancements were more structural: “Crews repaired concrete slabs and steel columns, conducted waterproofing in areas of known leakage, cleaned and repaired rusted infrastructure, replaced floor slabs and existing tiles on platform and mezzanine walls, and power-washed the concrete floors and wall tiles.”

This is the second of three local stations to close for upgrades. The one at 110th reopened over Labor Day. The station at 86th Street remains closed for work.

NEWS | 35 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      I’d rather they had put in an elevator than a new mosaic.

    2. JER120 says:

      Any idea how much the MTA paid for the art work?

      • Harriet F. says:

        New York City law states that 1% of the budget for any project which receives any public funding must be spent on artwork. That law has been in place since 1982. We were world leaders on the “Percent for Art” law, which has been picked up all over the world. We are much better for it. The Museum of the City of New York has just concluded a year long exhibit about “50 years of Public Art in New York,” which includes statistics about how much new business (both tourist and commercial job development) have been attracted to the City as a result of our world leadership in Public Art.

    3. A.C. says:

      Is it going to flood in five days again? I know I should be grateful for this, but honestly, the MTA has a really bad history, especially considering what happened at Cathedral Parkway when they reopened that station.

      Also, why spend millions of elevator if there’s no elevator?

      • A.C. says:

        My mistake: Millions of dollars. They could’ve at least put in an escalator, or something…

        Hopefully this station stands up for more than 5 days before it floods.

        • patrick says:

          Are you kidding? The river is over a mile away. This is far outside any flood zone. If this station floods we’ll have much bigger problems to worry about!

      • jbucko says:

        Flood – really? Water pooled on several stair treads after a heavy rain. Hardly what I would refer to as flooding – and it was quickly addressed by the MTA’s contractor. As one who uses the 110th St station on a daily basis, I am very happy with the work completed. And there are no elevators for the reasons indicated by B.B. below. Why must there always be such negativity and naysay?

        • A.C. says:

          Okay, you’re right, we should be grateful for them completing the project in a timely fashion. I just had a whole slue of ideas which they could’ve done. You’re right jbucko. It’s nice that it’s done.

        • Accessibility for all says:

          There is negativity and naysay because not everyone can get up and down stairs like I assume you can. If you experiences excruciating pain every time you tried to enter or exit a subway station, and if the number of stairs you took during the day were directly proportional to the level of pain you felt at night, a sky mural (though pleasant) would not appease you. This is all more lipstick or an unjust pig. I don’t care how much it costs the MTA, or how long it takes–accessibility is not just window dressing. Murals are.

    4. wombatNYC says:

      Impressed with the swift and timely work by the MTA .

    5. Sharon says:


    6. harry j petchesky says:

      why aren’t they putting in escalators? The 86th Street Station closed for 4 month on October 5. That period expired today. Has the MTA given any clue as to when the grand reopening (without artwork) will be?

      • B.B. says:

        Posted an answer to your query in another MTA related thread.

        MTA did a terminus to terminus study of 8th Avenue subway line several years back. Main goal was to determine what improvements could be made in terms of modernization, speeding up trains and so forth.

        Study clearly states many issues regarding compliance with ADA. This includes facts that thanks to new federal and city strict interpretations of said act it would simply be too costly for elevators and escalators.

        ADA states basically that once a structure or whatever undergoes “major” renovation it must then be bought up to compliance with said act. Hence reasons MTA did not do major overhauls of entrance/exits of the recently closed CPW stations.

        There just isn’t room along CPW at 72nd and 86th long city owned sidewalks for escalators and elevators. You cannot do one without other because former aren’t wheelchair accessible.

        Nor is the MTA likely to ever get the white glove co-ops and other buildings along CPW to grant them easements or whatever to install same. Any attempts at taking real estate from those buildings via eminent domain would surely face a stiff legal battle.

        Probably best place/chance for elevators/escalators would be at the 79th street MNH station. With the planned new construction for that park area it might not prove difficult to incorporate.

        • Donald says:

          Well and good–except if you are handicapped or disabled! It may not be too difficult for the able bodied to shift from 72, etc., to 79 St. But it can be like shifting to Wyoming or the Dakota’s if walking is a challenge! Ever try to travel by wheelchair those seven city blocks? It “the cavalier, thoughlessness of such self-centered thinking that make things much harder for those already struggling. Try thinking of people who must truly battle to get around before declaring that elevators and esculators can be omitted from new subway plans because another station might have them!

          • EricaC says:

            Is that really how you read that response? I read it as a sympathetic explanation of why the situation turned out this way, not a justification.

            In any event, I think there are very few who think that these reservations made any sense at all – the stations were functional and apparently safe, while other stations aren’t. The one thing they needed was elevators, and we didn’t get them. Cosmetic fixes aren’t a priority until substantive issues have been dealt with, and as you can see in the daily news, there are plenty of substantive issues that haven’t been addressed. This whole situation seems pretty stupid and wasteful to me.

          • RK says:

            Did you actually read BB’s argument?

            It is not physically possible to put elevators in the stations, no matter how much one may demand them, without demanding concessions from white glove buildings (and even then it would be physically problematic, depending on the station).

            You can’t have escalators without elevators

            ADA demands that major renovations include ADA accessibility.

            Ergo the MTA can not do major renovations, restricting the scope of what they can do.

            Seems more of a problem with the ADA to me.

          • B.B. says:

            No one is saying getting around CPW from basically Columbus Circle to 96th and beyond is “easy” for the mobility impaired.

            Yes, the sidewalks are narrow, but that isn’t the MTA’s fault per se. Blame there goes most to city who created the street/avenue grid pattern.

            Eighth avenue is the same width (50 feet IIRC) as nearly every other in Manhattan. This is true north of Columbus Circle along Central Park as it is below.

            Since obviously property lines are what they are, only way to add sidewalk space is to extend into avenue. City has done this in places but it creates other issues since now you’re narrowing traffic lanes.

            Issues you describe apply to nearly all avenues in Manhattan. Which is why nearly universally where you do find escalators/elevators for subways they are located either in plazas created on city streets (Chambers Street station), or via easements if not taking through eminent domain private property to create same in buildings.

            Perhaps best recent example of ADA compliant subway stations, and their huge cost for MTA is the new Second Avenue Subway.

            Even with eminent domain MTA spent *very* dearly to acquire properties along Second and Third avenues for new stations.

          • Think about others says:

            Amen, a thousand times over! No one who endures the daily pain and stress of ambulating while injured or disabled would EVER sympathize with and study concerning the impossibility of elevator installations. If elevators are impossible, consider other options such as Access-a-Ride that actually works, discount partnerships with car services for those with doctor-documented impairments, chair lifts that can be attached if a patron calls the station agent. I know the latter will temporarily obscure passage for the able-bodied. I don’t care.

          • Zulu says:

            Your plight is clear and understood; however, you’re missing the point. As B.B. clearly explained above, elevators and escalators cannot be installed if the MTA does not own the land to build them on. Further, if you were to install an elevator on some stations they would end up in the middle of the road.

            People forget the subway is an old system that predates ADA by decades. Installing an elevator on some of these stations is akin to putting on your underwear after you’ve buckled up your pants.

            • B.B. says:

              Other major issue relating to 8th Avenue subway line and escalators/elevators is fact that along CPW all stations are on west side of street.

              Because trains run on two levels along CPW you’d have to seriously redesign 72nd, 81st, 86th and 96th street stations. This is to get passengers to and from not only northbound platforms, but also one level below to southbound tracks.

              Using SAS as a recent example escalators are on one side of street, while across you find elevators. Again neither is going to work along CPW because MTA (nor city) owns enough land, and the grad co-op or rental buildings will fight to the last man before granting easements, and or allowing eminent domain taking.

              As one said, again likely only stop along CPW that could work for escalators/elevators would be the MNH at 81st.

              There is plenty of “empty” land there, and the museum is about to launch a major construction project.

              Instead of fighting same, local community should be looking into making that station ADA compliant.

            • Zulu says:

              Agreed. But most don’t like to listen to reason. I believe it’s based on a lack of basic knowledge on the subject. But in some cases it’s also the refusal to learn.

        • Thrown_out_of_the_Kremlin_for_Singing says:

          But WHEN will the 86th St station re-open?

        • Empathy says:

          Understood. So why can’t the MTA make its metrocards half-price for those who can only use less than half of its stations? We aren’t in like 1900. Inclusivity ethics aren’t optional. If anyone in the disability activism community is reading this, please let me know how I can get involved in your work. I want to put my outrage into action.

          • Zulu says:

            If you want your outrage to produce any action better target it towards access-a-ride. We might be living in the 21st century but you forget that the subway is in fact from the 1900s and as such it’s fundamentally limited by the design of the era. Inclusivity ethics is a just cause deserving of outrage but unless you figure out how to teleport people from the platform to the street you’re fresh out of luck to getting the MTA to comply with the unrealistic expectations put forth by ADA.

            As explained multiple times here and in other similar postings, a lot of stations simply cannot accommodate elevators for a number of significant reasons.

            You’re heart is in the right place but you’re targeting the wrong agency. Don’t take my word for it. Ask any design engineer involved with subway projects and they can explain in much better detail why I’m trying to convey here in a few words.

        • Joe Rappaport says:

          Several disability organizations have sued the MTA, precisely because of this kind of short-term thinking.

          “Too costly?” Did the MTA bother to do a cost estimate? Not to my knowledge. Not a “major renovation,” the MTA says. I don’t know, but when you shut a station for months and spend tens of millions of dollars, I think that qualifies as major, though you’re right, the MTA may get away with this because it didn’t redo the stairs.” Hard to get easements from fancy co-ops? That’s a supposition, and given the tremendous support for more subway access, one that is worth challenging.

          Elevators help all kinds of people who otherwise can’t use or have trouble using our vast subway system, whether they use a wheelchair, a cane or just have trouble walking. Or if they want to bring their child easily into the system. They’re worth the investment, and should have been put in place in these Central Park West stations. A great opportunity lost.

    7. Karen Bruno says:

      Where’s the picture of the mosaic???

    8. robert says:

      The problem here is simple. Money The same city and state elected yelling the loudest won’t give the MTA the $$$$ needed to do this. Each elevator cost millions and most of the stations need several. There also needs to be much more $$$ for mait on the already existing ones. When one of the existing ones at an UWS station breaks it takes the better part of a week to get it fixed. This are only a few years old and should not have such a high failure rate.

      Besides now that in their infinite wisdom our elected and self appointed community leaders rushed to landmark large parts of the UWS of the past year another problem arises. To put the huge elevators into existing builds and/or build new structure to house then now face years of hearings, NIMBY suits over their design and look.

    9. John says:

      Really?? How much money did the give Yoko for this ? That money should of been used to put in an elevator or escalator I’m all for art but money and time wasted inconveniencing all of us commuters should have made this station better and not just “prettier”

      • Woody says:

        Aside from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to install elevators at these stations, do you really think the cost of the mosaic would alternatively cover the cost of an elevator?

    10. UWSACB says:

      Appreciate all the comments above. I find it absolutely unbelievable that after fully closing these subway stations for over 5 months, and spending millions of dollars, the MTA is more concerned with “enhancements” and mosaics than in adding an elevator. What about trying to make the stations accessible to NYC residents in wheelchairs? Or to senior citizens? Or to those who are injured? Or to small children in strollers?

      Anywhere else, this would be completely unacceptable (as would be closing multiple subway stations for months on end).

      And when is the 86th Street subway station re-opening??? I have seen a total of 4 so-called “shuttle buses” during rush hour since early June!

    11. Woody says:

      I would like to be the first one to say that an elevator should have been installed instead of a mosaic. I’m sure others will repeat after me because it’s so obvious that it would be easy to accomplish.

    12. B.B. says:

      Again, for all those lamenting lack of elevators/escalators and so forth: http://web.mta.info/nyct/service/pdf/AC_LineReview.pdf

      Read and learn; answers to your queries are contained within above report.

      Contrary to popular belief the MTA/NYCT does not have unlimited funds. Worse what some of you seem to be advocating would mean going up against very powerful local interests. To wit the landmark, historical district and preservation lobby.

      If any of you seriously believe such powers that be will allow the Majestic Apartments, the Dakota, the Beresford and or any other of the grand (and landmarked) buildings along CPW to be carved up for a subway station?

      That is the *ONLY* way it can happen because the sidewalks are just too narrow otherwise.

      You can’t even put these proposed esclators or elevators on the east side of CPW (along Central Park), because there isn’t access to subway. In order to do so you’d have to tunnel under CPW and basically rebuild stations. Again far too costly and not very practical.

      As have said, you want elevators and escalators along CPW for subway, only place it could work is at MNH. Indeed considering the large number of visitors/traffic to West 81st station it would be a no brainer.