NEW YORK CITY-The four-year, $527-million renovation of the South Ferry Station in Lower Manhattan ended Monday as the revamped station was opened to the public. It’s intended to serve as an intermodal transit center linking ferry, subway and bus services.

Gov. David Paterson officiated at the grand opening, which was also attended by senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, members of New York’s Congressional delegation and officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In a statement, Paterson says the station represents “not only our joint city, state and federal commitment to rebuilding Lower Manhattan, but also our commitment to mass transit in New York State. This station is vital to the residents, commuters and tourists who pass through it each day, by allowing for increased subway service, better connections and spurring economic growth in Lower Manhattan.”

Since the existing structure, across the street from the Staten Island Ferry, was built in 1905, it has had only one exit and could only accommodate the first five cars of each subway train, forcing riders in the rear to walk forward in order to exit. Multiple exits, seven escalators and two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevators are all part of what the renovated facility, built primarily with $420 million in federal money, offers. The escalators have an on-demand feature, a first for the city’s subway system and one of several green features in the station overhaul. Additionally, the renovations expanded the platform to accommodate 10-car trains.

In a statement, Elliot Sander, MTA’s executive director and CEO, points out, “This is the first new subway station to open in New York City in nearly 20 years, and it is a major milestone in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, as it is the first major public transportation project to open Downtown since 9/11.” The MTA last opened a brand new subway station in 1989 with the 63rd & Lexington/Roosevelt Island/21st St.-Queensbridge Stations on the F line.

Still remaining is an overhaul of Peter Minuit Plaza above the station; the MTA is expected to award a contract on that project soon. Another Downtown subway stop, on Cortlandt Street, was closed after 9/11, reopened in 2002 and closed again in 2005 to allow installation of the underground Dey Street passageway that will be part of the Fulton Street transit hub. It is expected to reopen sometime this year.