"Wow," Mansfield Rivera said, as he gazed at the new Fulton Center's light-filled atrium, which opened this morning. "I didn't know it was going to be anything like this."

After 12 years of planning, design revisions, budget drama, bureaucratic red tape, community hand-wringing and a lot of good old-fashioned hard work, the Fulton Center welcomed its first commuters and more than a few curious onlookers. Drawn to the stunning oculus and "Sky Reflector Net", many lingered in the center of transit hub to gaze upward. Or they enjoyed the view while taking the escalator:

The Fulton Center was originally budgeted at $750 million and wound up costing $1.4 billion, with much of the money coming from the Federal Transit Administration. Rivera, a Bronx resident who went out of his way to visit the center this morning, told us, "Oh, yeah, it's worth it... I thought this would be like the Barclays Center Atlantic Avenue station... something new and nice... This is amazing."

The glass pavilion was designed by Arup and Grimshaw Architects, and "Sky Reflector Net" is an "artist, architect, engineer collaboration," between Arup, Grimshaw Architects and James Carpenter Design Associates, commissioned by the MTA. JCDA said they got the job through a competition to "articulate light throughout their design," and an MTA fact sheet explains, "Arup performed sunpath analyses which showed the geometrical relationship between the building site, the oculus and the path of the sun through the sky on the station's interior during the year." MTA Capital Construction Senior Vice President and Chief Engineer Uday Durg added that the panels at the top of the oculus are angled to maximize sunlight onto the 4000-pound net throughout the seasons.

The atrium and natural light make the center feel soaring and capacious. Plus there are all the transfers: The biggest one is the A/C to the 4/5; here are two videos (the first at 4x the speed and the second—a slightly different route—at real time):

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Click for larger image—Photograph by Jen Chung/Gothamist