VAN NEST — Before he was ever a borough president, Fernando Ferrer was a Bronx boy who rode the subway and hurried through the East 180th Street 2 and 5 train station.
Ferrer’s main memory of the four-story, 100-year-old station by the Bronx Zoo was of its dark mezzanine passageway.
“I don’t remember anything that was inviting or well lit,” Ferrer, now the acting MTA chairman, said Friday. “It was dark, forbidding and, certainly in the 70s and 80s, not very safe.”
But he had returned to the station to announce the completion of a two-year, $66.5 million renovation of the station’s walls, windows, doors, platforms, amenities for the disabled and, of course, its passageways.
“It’s a gift to the people of The Bronx and the entire city,” Ferrer said inside the station, through which 2 million riders pass each year.
The landmarked stucco building, erected in 1912, resembles an Italian villa with its corner towers, outer courtyard, arched entryways and balconies.
That exterior has been restored, with the addition of a large illuminated clock donated by the construction contractor, Citnalta, to match the original 20th-century timepiece.
Above it rests the rehabilitated stone head of Mercury, the Roman god of transportation.
“A lot has happened since 1912,” said the current Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr. “And yet, this station is here — bigger, more beautiful and stronger than ever.”
The passageways once dreaded by a young Ferrer have been lined with mosaic panels and tile work and topped by sleek steel beams.
The station was brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act with the installation of a new wheelchair pathway and two elevators.
Daniel Torres, a Vietnam War veteran, travels through the station several times a week on his way to a nearby post office.
He is disabled and, before the addition of the elevators, labored to climb the stairs to the train platforms.
On Friday, he praised the new lifts and marveled at the station’s colorful makeover.
“Before, it was a mess — it looked abandoned,” said Torres, 58. “But it’s a beautiful, gorgeous place now.”