Remembering Union Square Station Architect, Lee Harris Pomeroy

 Lee Harris Pomeroy. Image source: Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects.

Lee Harris Pomeroy. Image source: Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects.

Lee Harris Pomeroy, known for innovating the New York City subway system in the 1990s, passed away on February 18. He was 85. Though Pomeroy worked on many urban spaces and plazas worldwide, he is famous for redesigning several subway stations across the city – including the Union Square-14th Street subway station – which today serves over 35 million riders annually.  

Union Square is a bustling transit hub at the intersection between major subway lines for the N/Q/R/W, the 4/5/6, and the L train lines. Pomeroy led the two-year renovation that ended in 1999, creating the concourse that connects the three subway lines and cementing Union Square as a major transit hub and destination.

Pomeroy’s vision and oversight ensured that the redesign preserved the station’s historic architectural features while bringing modernized elements and improved passageways throughout the station. “It was chaos before,” Mr. Pomeroy said in 2000, referring to the difficult pedestrian flow before the renovation. “This is all open now, a continuous flow.”  

The renovation also included new elevators, making two of three subway lines – the N/R/W/Q and L lines – accessible to disabled passengers for the first time. The $40 million rehabilitation in the late 1990s is the last time the Union Square-14th Street Station underwent major changes to improve circulation and rider experience.

Through the MTA's Arts for Transit program, Pomeroy and his team also worked with artist Mary Miss to preserve the station’s original columns, mosaics, and eagle emblems. Miss hoped that the features would encourage “the public to look below the surface, to see a 'slice' of the station, its structure, its history.” The installation, marked by lacquered red frames, is still visible throughout the station today.

Pomeroy, through the architectural firm that bears his name, went on to have a prolific career and left his mark across New York City. Read the full New York Times obituary here.

 Mary Miss,  Framing Union Square  (1998). Image Source: MTA

Mary Miss, Framing Union Square (1998). Image Source: MTA

 Architectural model of three converging subway lines at Union Square-14th Street. Image source: Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects

Architectural model of three converging subway lines at Union Square-14th Street. Image source: Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects

Rosemary Han