Hipsters turn filthy Manhattan subway into a mini Brooklum

One of Manhattan’s grimiest corners is now also one of its most unexpectedly hip. 

Deep in the bowels of midtown, a corridor caked in crud has quietly become a trendy nook in the city’s most notorious tourist-ridden trap. 

“When we got there it was still a barbershop — it was covered in mirrors, there was a hair-washing sink, the chairs,” said Sam Black of the 50th Street 1 subway station-level business that last occupied the cavity, where he has co-founded and opened a new digital art gallery. Black and fellow counterculture curator Alison Sirico signed a lease for the new gallery, located on a staircase leading to the downtown platform, this May — and have been inviting their sometimes begrudging outer-borough buds to make the trek into the city’s office tower-filled belly ever since. 

“I feel like we’re trying to make midtown cool but nobody really lives around here,” Sirico, who lives in Brooklyn, told The Post. Friends “do come out, though,” although the crowd tends to arrive at Public Works Administration on the early side before heading elsewhere. 

“A lot of the kids that come will then go hang out in Times Square, which they probably never do. Like ironically hang out there,” said Sirico. 

Sirico and Black, both longtime DIY world event producers, were inspired to put their energies behind a subterranean hollow at the mouth of an entrance to a train, one that doesn’t even go to Brooklyn, after seeing another business in the corridor do the same, and to great success. 

nothing really matters public works administration
This 50th Street downtown 1 train entrance is also the only way to get to Nothing Really Matters and Public Works Administration.

nothing really matters public works administration
Sam Black and Alison Sirico, the cofounders of Public Works Administration, in their space within the subway station.

nothing really matters public works administration
The bar often hosts DJ’d events in collaboration with the gallery.

“I was the first to come down here. I put them in touch with my landlord,” said Adrien Gallo, who opened the cocktail bar Nothing Really Matters, which resides slightly deeper in the station entrance, on Dec. 31, 2021. The nightlife industry veteran — who formerly owned the now-shuttered Lower Manhattan bars Double Happiness and Grand Banks — came upon the space pre-pandemic while searching for something unique. “I love the idea of being found,” he told The Post in January. 

He decided to go high-end, partially so as not to rival Siberia Bar, the “dank, celebrity-infested haunt” that previously occupied a portion of the hidey hole, and partially “to be a bit of a contradiction to what’s happening right outside my door.” 

“It’s crazy, like, the bustle of Time Square with the Elmos and the tourists and the Disneyland aspect of it makes it more interesting and funny,” Sirico said of the world above their venues.

nothing really matters public works administration
Nothing Really Matters is partially located in beloved dive Siberia Bar’s former location. Seen here, Siberia owner Tracy Westmoreland at the space in 1997.

nothing really matters public works administration
Nothing Really Matters on a busy night.

nothing really matters public works administration
Nothing Really Matters, seen through slats and the subway corridor.

nothing really matters public works administration
A drink at Nothing Really Matters.

Together, the business owners are able to market themselves as a package deal: Schlepping above 14th Street for a single storefront is a hard sell, but as a team they can now offer a full evening’s itinerary including an art show, an artisanal cocktail and, often, a DJ set.

“We are growing a nice little ecosystem in the 50th Street subway station — it’s gonna be just like a Friday night in Bushwick!” said Black. 

Starting next month, Gallo plans to add an upscale coffee shop to the below-street stretch. “I think it’ll be a really nice addition to this little area,” he said of the 300-square-foot shop he’s working on with Red Hook-based coffee roasting company Pulley Collective. 

And while getting the cooler crowd to haul uptown is proving less than easy, local straphangers and office workers have embraced the businesses, both for providing a watering hole until 2 a.m. in a sorely lacking late-night environment and for adding a surprising bit of flair to a particularly grim-looking transit thoroughfare. 

“People are really excited, they’re like, ‘Holy s–t, what is going on down here?’ ” said Gallo. “When Sam has his screens on for his space it throws a really nice glow down the corridor, and you can kind of hear the music faintly from outside my bar — people will walk by and then they walk back. If we see that person more than once, usually by the second or third time, they just come in for a cocktail.”

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