Adventures in the Clark St. Stairwell

Freaky Clark Street Stairwell from Heather Quinlan on Vimeo.

I recently learned in the open thread that there is indeed a Clark St. stairwell to get to the 2/3 platform. Which makes sense if you think about fire safety rules. But there are so many “MTA Employee Only” doors in the various stations that I never paid the ones at Clark St. much mind. I’d asked the clerk where the stairwell was and he pointed behind the booth, and said, “Be careful, you might come across some residents.” The door was locked that day, but open this afternoon, so I decided to take a trip—and soon realized I was probably better off staying at home. Me grabbing at the locked door is genuine. Video above, popcorn optional.

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  • AEB

    Thanks, Heather, for providing ample illustration of why the elevators, though in themselves challenging, are preferable to the stair route.

    Nothing like a locked door at the end of one’s Dantesque journey to provide that extra little jolt of blind fear.

  • T.K. Small

    As I was watching this video, one of my personal care assistants walked into the room and commented “Are you searching for personal theme music?”.

  • Heightsman

    I have done those stairs when all the elevators were broken. Long and dirty trip to the surface.

  • lori

    Yes, there’s a staircase there, but why would anyone want to take it except when absolutely necessary. My teenaged daughter had to help a young mother carry up a kid in a stroller when all the elevators were not working and there was a large group that had to go that way. On another occasion a visitor was afraid to take the elevators and took the staircase instead. That overcame his fear of elevators!

  • Karl Junkersfeld


    You are a brave individual. Between this film and the rat video, you deserve a medal of courage. Also, got a kick out of the pumpkin video on other thread. Did you work for the Science Channel? lol

  • Bryan


  • Heather Quinlan

    I kinda thought someone might be locked in there with me. Fun! As an aside, I also got locked out of my apartment on Saturday, and the cost of getting a locksmith was almost as terrifying.

  • nabeguy

    You’re really on a streak of bad luck there, aren’t you Heather? Floods, lockouts…what’s next?

  • adam

    yeah, I stepped across 2 people who had semi-permanent homes setup in the stairwell. They were very polite and let me bye but that was the last time I’m taking the stairs.

  • digby

    amusement aside, i believe the video demonstrates a major fire code violation on the part of the MTA. in the event of a real emergency where the elevators are not an option for entry to or exit from the platform, the presence of discarded waste or other items within the stairwell and (apparently from Heather’s video) a locked door at platform level that prevents entry/exit should be a great cause for concern for all of us. I recognize that the MTA suffers from great budgetary challenges, but the lack of attention paid by their staff to basic sanitation and egress issues is startling to me. This morning at Clark there were puddles of water (I think) in front of two out of three elevator landings. This was just behind the MTA booth mind you, which was staffed, as usual, with two attendants.

  • Andrew Porter

    In four decades of living in BH, I’ve never taken the stairs. Most intriguing was the sign for the “Elevator and Escalator Dept.”

    What escalator???

  • Ben

    The only time I took the stairs is when the elevator was broken and yes a long line of people did interupt some poor less fortunate people who were living in the stairwell. I arrived home, ordered my dinner and I counted my blessings may God help those people living in the stairwell can you imagine such a life?

  • AEB

    nabe: pestilence.

  • nabeguy

    AEB, I think this stairwell experience pretty much covers that topic.

  • Heather Quinlan

    I’m waiting for a plague of locusts, probably by Wednesday.

  • D Gioseffi

    I’ve lived in The Heights for over 43 years and I never took those stairs. I’ve always heard that many homeless people sleep in them, and even if they are not muggers, who wants to catch the viruses or T.B. so common among the unfortunate homeless. Yes, the locked door is a serious fire violation on the part of the M.T.A. but how else to keep the homeless OUT. Oiiiii. Brave video maker, indeed! A metal is deserved! The music was appropriate for that Dantesque decent to the hell of a locked door. Aiiii!

  • Heather Quinlan

    In the meantime, there will be a follow-up video this week on what can be done to improve the stairwell. Stay tuned …

  • Cat

    Heather, you sure went up those stairs a lot faster than you went down. Maybe I’m projecting, but I could hear a hint of panic in those footsteps slapping the stairs on the way up. I would have felt the same way. I’ve been up those stairs when the elevator wasn’t working, but there were other people with me. Perfect music, btw.

  • Heather Quinlan

    You are correct, Cat. What I neglected to mention was that after I started down the stairs, someone peeked their head in and then shut the door–so after I realized the downstairs door was locked I took off upstairs to make sure whoever that was didn’t lock me in. You can also hear me panting by the time I get to the top because although I can run for miles on flat land, stairs mess me up.

  • Fritz

    The stairs to the R seem much more salubrious. I almost always walk down, and sometimes up for fitness.

  • David G

    FRITZ! You got there before I could. The stairs to the R are heinous. I usually run down there everyday and it is ten times creepier/dangerous then the 2/3 stairs. Friday, I saw some homeless guy rolling dice agains his pre-made felt pad. I have also seen at least two different homeless men itching their balls.

  • nabeguy

    David G, in the Clark Street stairwell, you can actually see their balls. Not pretty.

  • WillowtownCop

    Those stairs are nothing compared to Wyckoff Gardens.

  • ashton

    I try to avoid the subway whenever possible and absolutely never ride them in a month without an “R”. Well, sometimes I ride them in May. But June, July, August, never. They are inhumane, the stations are stage sets for Dante’s Inferno.

  • Cassie

    I’ve always wondered if there is a stairwell! Thanks for answering it for me!

  • ClarkStChica

    Yikes. Having originally raised the query of whether the stairs were worth braving, I think I’ll take my chances with the rattling elevator. Thanks for taking on this adventure, Heather! I hope your next report is less terrifying and better smelling.

  • nabeguy

    I remember going down there as a kid and reaching what must have been the old pool level, since all you could smell was chlorine. Based on this video, the staircase is definitely in need of a 2.0 update of the old days.

  • Arch Stanton

    I have taken those stairs 100s of times (faster than the elevator). The door is never locked perhaps it was stuck a bit? I doubt the door can even be locked, most fire stair doors have no provision for locking.

  • Andrew Porter

    Arch, you’re braver—and fitter—than I am.