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Eyes on the Street: The New 215th Step-Street Officially Opens Today

The 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron
The new 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron
The 215th Step-Street, looking west from Broadway. Photos: Brad Aaron

Over a decade after the project's first expected delivery date, the reconstruction of Inwood's 215th Step-Street is complete.

West 215th Street crosses the width of Manhattan island's northernmost neighborhood, from Inwood Hill Park to the Harlem River. Between Park Terrace East and Broadway, W. 215 is a step-street -- one of many car-free street segments in Upper Manhattan and other parts of the city -- connecting Broadway shops, buses, and the 1 train with residential blocks to the west.

Inwood history blogger Cole Thompson traced the origin of the double-wide staircase to 1915, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and "the automobile was still a relatively new contraption."

By the late 20th century, the long, steep staircase was in sad shape. Resident requests to renovate the stairs date at least as far back as the 1990s, and the city once pledged to get the work done by 2005. For years afterward, however, the step-street continued to deteriorate, requiring periodic repairs as locals contended with ice patches and busted street lamps. In 2007 a woman was injured when she tripped on a hole in the stairs.

The stairway in 2008.
The stairway in 2008.
The stairway in 2008.

After a series of promised deadlines came and went, the Department of Design and Construction finally fenced off the southern half of the staircase in January 2014 (one set of stairs remained open throughout the two-year construction period) and demolition of the old staircase began.

In addition to bike ramps, the new parallel stairways have seating, LED lighting, new plantings, and decorative step-count markings. It's nice!

DDC and DOT bigs are scheduled to join State Senator Adriano Espaillat at 2 p.m. today, on Broadway at the foot of the stairs, for a press conference and official opening.

The view from Park Terrace East, looking toward Broadway.
The view from Park Terrace East, looking toward Broadway.
The view from Park Terrace East, looking toward Broadway.
Each individual staircase, north and south, has a bike ramp.
Each individual stairway, north and south, has a bike ramp.
Each individual staircase, north and south, has a bike ramp.
New tree wells between the stairways are surrounded by stonework.
New tree wells between the stairways are surrounded by stonework.
New tree wells between the stairways are surrounded by stonework.
Wayfinding inlays were installed at the top and bottom.
Wayfinding inlays were installed at the top and bottom.
Wayfinding inlays were installed at the top and bottom.
This Nelson Mandela quote really puts the climb in perspective.
This Nelson Mandela quote really puts the climb in perspective.
This Nelson Mandela quote really puts the climb in perspective.
The summit, at last.
The summit, at last.
The summit, at last.

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