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Brooklyn Rapid Transit

Brooklyn Rapid Transit

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The Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) was a public transit holding company
Holding company
A holding company is a company or firm that owns other companies' outstanding stock. It usually refers to a company which does not produce goods or services itself; rather, its purpose is to own shares of other companies. Holding companies allow the reduction of risk for the owners and can allow...

 formed in 1896 to acquire and consolidate lines in Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

 and Queens
Queens
Queens is the easternmost of the five boroughs of New York City. The largest borough in area and the second-largest in population, it is coextensive with Queens County, an administrative division of New York state, in the United States....

, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. It was a prominent corporation and industry leader using the single-letter symbol B on the New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, USA. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at 13.39 trillion as of Dec 2010...

. It became insolvent in 1919 and was restructured and released from bankruptcy as the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation in 1923.

Consolidation


The BRT was incorporated January 18, 1896, and took over the bankrupt Long Island Traction Company
Long Island Traction Company
The Long Island Traction Company was a street railway holding company in Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, United States.In order to get around anti-stock watering statutes, the owners of the Brooklyn City Rail Road, capitalized at $6 million, incorporated the Long Island Traction Company in West...

 in early February acquiring the Brooklyn Heights Railroad
Brooklyn Heights Railroad
The Brooklyn Heights Railroad was a street railway company in the U.S. state of New York. It leased and operated the streetcar lines of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, but started out with the Montague Street Line, a short cable car line connecting the Wall Street Ferry with downtown Brooklyn...

 and the lessee of the Brooklyn City Rail Road. It then acquired the Brooklyn, Queens County and Suburban Railroad
Brooklyn, Queens County and Suburban Railroad
The Brooklyn, Queens County and Suburban Railroad was a street railway company in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, United States. It originated as a horsecar line and was electrified in 1894....

 leased on July 1, 1898.

The BRT took over the property of a number of surface railroads, the earliest of which, the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad or West End Line
BMT West End Line
The BMT West End Line is a line of the New York City Subway, serving the Brooklyn, communities of Borough Park, New Utrecht, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Coney Island. The D train operates on the line at all times, providing service to Manhattan and the Bronx via the IND Sixth Avenue Line...

, opened for passenger service on between Fifth Avenue at 36th Street at the then border of Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

 City and Bath Beach
Bath Beach, Brooklyn
Bath Beach is a neighborhood in the New York City Borough of Brooklyn in the United States. It is located at the southwestern edge of the borough on Gravesend Bay.-Geography:...

 in the Town of Gravesend, New York. A short piece of surface route of this railroad, near Coney Island Creek
Coney Island Creek
Coney Island Creek encompasses two sea inlets in Brooklyn, New York City, one separating Coney Island from the neighborhoods of Gravesend and Bath Beach, the other separating the neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach...

, is the oldest existing piece of rapid transit
Rapid transit
A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is an electric passenger railway in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic. Rapid transit systems are typically located either in underground tunnels or on...

 right-of-way in New York City, and in the U.S., having opened on .

Initially the surface and elevated railroad lines ran on steam power
Steam locomotive
A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning some combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler, which drives the steam engine...

. Between 1893 and 1900 the lines were converted electricity operation. An exception was the service on the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River...

. Trains were operated by cables
Cable railway
A cable railway is a steeply graded railway that uses a cable or rope to haul trains.-Introduction:...

 from 1883 to 1896, when they were converted to electric power

By 1900, it had acquired virtually all of the rapid transit
Rapid transit
A rapid transit, underground, subway, elevated railway, metro or metropolitan railway system is an electric passenger railway in an urban area with a high capacity and frequency, and grade separation from other traffic. Rapid transit systems are typically located either in underground tunnels or on...

 and streetcar operations in its target area:
  • Sea Beach Railway, acquired in November 1897 and leased to the BHRR
  • Sea View Railroad (Coney Island Elevated), acquired in November 1897 and leased to the BHRR
  • Nassau Electric Railroad
    Nassau Electric Railroad
    The Nassau Electric Railroad was an electric street railway company in the U.S. state of New York. The company operated throughout the borough of Brooklyn, as well as over the Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan....

     (lessee of the Atlantic Avenue Railroad
    Atlantic Avenue Railroad
    The Atlantic Avenue Railroad was a railroad company in the U.S. state of New York, with a main line connecting downtown Brooklyn with Jamaica along Atlantic Avenue. It was largely a streetcar company that operated its own trains, but the Long Island Rail Road operated both streetcars and steam...

    , Brooklyn, Bath and West End Railroad, Coney Island and Gravesend Railway, and South Brooklyn Railway
    South Brooklyn Railway
    The South Brooklyn Railway is a railroad in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It continues to operate today as a subsidiary of MTA New York City Transit...

    ), acquired in November 1898 and leased to the BHRR in April 1899
  • Brooklyn Elevated Railroad
    Brooklyn Elevated Railroad
    The Brooklyn Elevated Railroad was an elevated railroad company in Brooklyn, New York City, United States, operated from 1885 until 1899, when it was merged into the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company-controlled Brooklyn Union Elevated Railroad.-Lines:...

    , acquired in March 1899 and leased to the BHRR in April 1899
  • Brooklyn and Brighton Beach Railroad (Brighton Beach Line), acquired in March 1899
  • Kings County Elevated Railroad (Fulton Street Line), acquired in November 1899 and merged into the Brooklyn Union Elevated on May 24, 1900
  • Prospect Park and Coney Island Railroad (Culver Line), leased to the BHRR on June 18, 1899


Only the Coney Island and Brooklyn Railroad and the short Van Brunt Street and Erie Basin Railroad remained independent; the former was acquired in 1913 or 1914.

Expansion


BRT opened its first short subway segment, consisting only of an underground terminal at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge
Williamsburg Bridge
The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway...

 at Delancey and Essex Streets in Manhattan on . This line was extended three stations under Nassau Street
BMT Nassau Street Line
The BMT Nassau Street Line is a rapid transit line of the B Division of the New York City Subway system in Manhattan. It is served by the and trains which are colored brown on maps and signage...

 to Chambers Street beneath the Manhattan Municipal Building
Manhattan Municipal Building
The Manhattan Municipal Building, at 1 Centre Street in New York City, is a 40-story building built to accommodate increased governmental space demands after the 1898 consolidation of the city's five boroughs. Construction began in 1907 and ended in 1914, marking the end of the City Beautiful...

 at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River...

 on .

The BRT opened its first Brooklyn subway under Fourth Avenue
BMT Fourth Avenue Line
The Fourth Avenue Line is a rapid transit line of the BMT division of the New York City Subway, mainly running under Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn. Fourth Avenue never had a streetcar line or elevated railway due to the provisions of the assessment charged to neighboring property owners when the street...

 on , running over the Manhattan Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
The Manhattan Bridge is a suspension bridge that crosses the East River in New York City, connecting Lower Manhattan with Brooklyn . It was the last of the three suspension bridges built across the lower East River, following the Brooklyn and the Williamsburg bridges...

 to a junction with the aforementioned Nassau Street Line at Canal Street. The BRT opened the first segment of its Manhattan main line subway, the Broadway Line
BMT Broadway Line
The BMT Broadway Line is a rapid transit line of the B Division of the New York City Subway in Manhattan, New York City, United States. , it is served by three services, all colored yellow: the on the express tracks and the on the local tracks...

, as far as 14th Street – Union Square on . All of these subways but the first short segment were built by the City as part of the Dual Contracts
Dual Contracts (New York City Subway)
The Dual Contracts of 1913, also known as the Dual Subway System, were contracts for the construction and/or rehabilitation and operation of rapid transit lines in the City of New York. The majority of the lines of the present-day New York Subway were built or reconstructed under these contracts...

.

The elevated railroads were operated by a new corporation, the New York Consolidated Railroad. In 1913, the BRT, through another subsidiary, the New York Municipal Railway, signed the Dual Contracts with the City of New York, to construct and operate new subways and other rapid transit lines to be built or improved under these contracts.

War, debt, tragedy and bankruptcy


World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the attendant massive inflation
Inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 associated with the war put New York transit operators in a difficult position, since their contracts with the City required a five-cent fare be charged, while inflation made the real value of the fare less than three cents in constant currency value. On November 1, 1918, the BRT suffered the Malbone Street Accident
Malbone Street Wreck
The Malbone Street Wreck, also known as the Brighton Beach Line Accident of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company , was a rapid transit railroad accident that occurred November 1, 1918, beneath the intersection of Flatbush Avenue, Ocean Avenue, and Malbone Street, in the community of Flatbush, Brooklyn...

, the second worst rapid transit train wreck to occur in the United States, killing at least 93 people. This caused further destabilized the financially struggling company.

BRT became insolvent in 1919.

In 1923 the BRT was restructured and released from bankruptcy as the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation.

Legacy


Some of the former elevated system of the BRT, dating to 1885, remains in use today. The largest section is the part of today's J line running above Fulton Street from the Alabama Avenue station to a small section turning north after the Crescent Street station. Most of the other surviving structures were either built new or rehabilitated between 1915 and 1922 as part of the Dual Contracts
Dual Contracts (New York City Subway)
The Dual Contracts of 1913, also known as the Dual Subway System, were contracts for the construction and/or rehabilitation and operation of rapid transit lines in the City of New York. The majority of the lines of the present-day New York Subway were built or reconstructed under these contracts...

. One piece of structure, the elevated portion of the Franklin Avenue Shuttle, built in 1896 and 1905, was extensively rebuilt in 1999.

Legal ruling


In 1920 Ethel Gibletts successfully sued the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company for the loss of her eye after she was struck in the face by a hat which broke her glasses and a piece of glass penetrated her eye. The hat had been thrown by one of a group of young men returning from a picnic. The Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 awarded her $4,500. Lawyers for the railway company argued unsuccessfully that the verdict should be set aside and that it was the man who threw the hat who for the loss of her eye should have been sued.