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Archive for the ‘Subway’ Category

Creepy Tunnel Awaits Public Art

Creepy Tunnel at 191st St New vs Old - DNAInfo

Photo credit: DNAinfo/Lindsay Armstrong

I disliked using the 1-Train Uptown because of the tunnel. Until a few months ago, it symbolized the Portal to Hell, how lost souls would gain entrance to the netherworld. But not now.

How it used to be: After exiting the 191st Street Station, the dark, dank, dirty and seemingly-endless long tunnel from the station to Broadway captivated my imagination. I envisioned the helpful city planners and happy artists painting beautiful murals several years ago. But we all suffered the reality of ugly black graffiti, stuck-on posters that someone burned while on the wall, and dirty ineffective lighting fixtures. I even complained about the illumination to the local precinct police. Tunnels don’t bother me; I’m from Pittsburgh, a city replete with tunnels. The specter of violence and/or unsavory occurrences spooked me although regular, law-abiding people traversed it daily. My mind simply worked overtime. I wasn’t scared, just leery (and lazy, weary of walking uphill once I exited on Broadway).

Now: The Department of Transportation replaced the lighting with brilliant and energy efficient LED lights last autumn. That transformed the tunnel. It’s still dank and long, but doesn’t awake my automatic dread response. I wish I had a bike or skates to float along its inviting length. Along with the platform renovations, LEDs make the 191st Street Station a safer and more desirable destination.

Public art waits to happen here. See DNAInfo: City Seeking Artists to Paint Murals for ‘Creepy’ 191st Street Tunnel. I moved to the neighborhood after the “new” mural was already blighted, so I never got to see it in its glory. Curse the taggers and graffiti “artists” who’ve already marred and mauled the tabula rasa of newly painted walls! I, for one, happily await new, creative artwork (not spray paint) that will uplift community spirit and beautify our corner of Washington Heights.

Blizzard ’15: Update

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

Service changes rule the System as the MTA normalizes service.

 

QUIET…

The City was silent last night. But for the sound of salt trucks and snow plows, an unnatural, yet welcome silence blanketed the City. Yes, a blanket. Puffy, white piles of snow mounded on the sidewalks, cars, trees, fences.

But now we’re getting back to “normal,” that is, what is abnormal: the busyness of the City. I hear distant sirens; is it some poor ill soul or a vehicular accident?

Restarting trains and buses, the MTA’s progress seems to be a health report of the City. The transit system is its pulse, its heart, and its medical condition is revealed in the transit schedule.  Right now, there are no buses on Broadway—at least none I can hear—and I usually can hear them.

The baby next door cries and quiets. A few children outside sparkle the air with their amusement. My husband, home from work, makes cooking and washing up noises from the kitchen. It is peaceful. An automobile drives by, its tires sounding slushy. Someone’s shovel scrapes the sidewalk.

This lassitude, this ease, this torpor, this languor, this lethargy, this tranquility, this calm—THIS is what it’s like to live “out of town,” i.e., NOT in New York City. Peacefulness. As much as I like the activity in the City, I miss the quiet of “town,” my type of normal, snowy day.

A snow day is rare. Rarer still is subway shutdown. Is the patient moribund? Or just having a heart transplant? I hope it’s the latter. NYC can do with a change of attitude.  A storm can take her to her knees but won’t take her down all the way. She’ll rise again, a remade entity, and wait for the next challenge thrown her way.

We’re safe, we’re warm, we’re well-fed. We’re grateful and taken care of.

Blizzard ’15: Winter Storm Juno

Is this the view I'll see from my window tomorrow night?

Is this the view I’ll see from my window tomorrow night?

NYC is girding its loins for a blizzard! All the media agree: we are going to be hit with a massive winter storm some time early Tuesday morning.  It’s a little after midnight on Tuesday as I write and the streets are still.  All day snow plows have scraped the streets.  The snow started coming down in the early afternoon but mostly as fits and less as starts.  It is under control out there. We are battened down, waiting.

The MTA has put out a severe service advisory.

Snow View 2-09-13 017

Shopkeepers clear the sidewalks.

New York City Transit
The MTA is committed to the safety of its customers and its employees, and due to the forecast, will be suspending service on all bus, commuter rail and subway service at 11:00 p.m. this evening. All nine MTA Bridge & Tunnel facilities will also close to non-emergency vehicular traffic at that time. If you don’t have to travel between now and later this evening, we urge you to stay home….

Prior to full service suspension, express service on several NYC Transit subway lines will be curtailed to allow subway trains to be stored underground in anticipation of the storm. Bus service will gradually be curtailed. Railroad cars will also be moved to locations to protect them from the storm….

Before suspending all subway service, NYC Transit will store trains underground on express tracks to protect the fleet from the elements and ensure that trains are ready for the next rush period.  As trains are stored underground, only local service will be available and all overnight construction work is canceled.

Wow! This is an admission that we are whipped, that we are brought to our knees in the face of the storm.  I like the image of all the train cars being pushed inside the tunnels, deep in the bedrock of the city. The trains are sleeping inside tonight.  They are being tucked in by kindly old Aunt Juno.

Anticipation of what the next few days hold.

Anticipation of what the next few days hold.

All traffic has been banned from city streets after 11pm. Emergency crews only. Schools are cancelled. Who will be able to report to work tomorrow morning, IF there is work tomorrow morning? I am waiting to hear the jangle of the plows on the streets again as they shave the asphalt. They screech and moan, banshees of the canyons.

I am humbled. A city of 8.5 million trapped, immobilized. Where else but here?

This is a life challenge of a different sort than I usually write about.  It’s a good things I have stores of toilet paper and eggs.  We’re in for a bit of a comeuppance.

Coolest Subway Stations?

Photo credit: Kristine Paulus  - , used under CC BY-NC 2.0

The entrance to Narnia a Hobbit hole? – Photo credit: Kristine Paulus , used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Did you know that the A train’s 181st Street Subway Station (IND) is on the National Register of Historic Places? I wouldn’t have known that had I not seen am New York’s article on the Coolest Subway Stations in NYC. So is the 190th Street Subway Station. Of the eight locales featured, the station entrances on Ft. Washington (181st) and Bennett Avenues (190th) ironically earned their attention in the company of the gleaming new Fulton Center station, where virtually every line converges, and the gleaming Smith-9th Streets station (F & G trains).

“The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation,” states the NRHP website. Four local subway stations became listed in 2005. Including those mentioned above there are the 168th and 181st Street Subway Stations (IRT, 1 train). Renovation is ongoing in these stations (as well as the 191st Street station), restoring the old tile, upgrading the facility, and counterbalancing the lack of modern functionality of the early 19th century designs.

The amNY article only highlighted the station entrances and didn’t distinguish the relative pleasantness or ease of use of the underground facilities, both of which I find lacking at these stations. Still, it’s kind of “cool” to have my local stations called out for their art deco styling (181st) and Narnia-like mystique (190th).

I’ll want to explore this further.  I want to see the petition for adding the 181st Street Station on Ft. Washington (and not its art-deco counterpart at 184th St. and Overlook Terrace) to the NRHP, which is not on the website. What, actually, is registered? The façade? The peeling doors? The vestibule? The concrete entrance fronting the elevators?

We shall see, because there is a mystery to get to the bottom of, and I’m the person to do it.

The 1 Train Tunnel

IRT at 191 and Broadway

The 1 Train Station at 191st Street and Broadway

I’m enthralled with the subway—at least the parts I’ve traveled. Choosing between the A- and the 1- trains was simple until recently; the A train always won. The entrance at W. 184th St. is a short walk up Overlook Terrace, and you can grab a book from the Nomat Book Club’s bookcase situated at the curb if you lack reading material. The walk homeward is flat, too.

NoMat at A train

NoMat Book Club at W. 184th St. and Overlook Terrace. Last summer it was on the wall. Now it is at the curb (“New Location”).

The IRT 191st Street Subway tunnel from Broadway always spooked me. Its dark and gloomy aura promised nightmares with the light fixtures dim and dust-filled. Mysterious mile markers (190.52, etc.) appeared high on the walls, but not regularly. Recently I took the 1 train when a track emergency caused the A train to halt at 168th St. I reluctantly exited the 1, dreading the tunnel. However, I was delighted to see new LED lighting and bright yellow walls (albeit vandalized by graffiti). This development, along with the renovation of the platform, will make the 1 train more desirable a transportation choice… even though the walk homeward is uphill.

I Feel Your Pain

 

A friend told me the following subsequent to reading my post from last week, The ‘Subway Hilton’ will be Full Tonight.

One day recently, after the Xmas shopping rush, his daughter had the occasion to go shopping in town. She set out armed with all of the “Mom paraphernalia,” a full diaper bag and snacks, plus her own handbag. She strapped her bundled up baby in his stroller and set off for the City. She muscled the stroller up to the train platform in Brooklyn. It is not an unusual sight to see young mothers with strollers struggling up these stairs as there are rarely elevators at those stations. I suspect the trip was uneventful.

When they arrived in the City she rolled the stroller off the train amidst the departing travelers. She faced two long flights up. She started wrestling the stroller up the steps. No passerby stopped to help. She reached the first landing panting. Suddenly she saw motion above, someone jumping over the turnstile. “Here, let me help,” he said extending his hand. He took the foot bar and made light work of carrying the stroller up to the main floor. They passed through the exit gate and she thanked him profoundly. “I appreciate your help. I couldn’t have done it as easily without you,” she said.

“Glad to help,” he replied. “You get to feel someone else’s pain when you’ve been there yourself.” She watched his disheveled form walk away and settle in the corner near the gate amidst some jumbled bags and crates. The man, she realized, was one of the denizens of the subway, an underground resident, willing to lend a hand when most would not.

One can experience kindness anywhere and everywhere.

The ‘Subway Hilton’ will be full tonight

He lives here. People walk by with only a glance at most.

People walk by with only a glance, at most. -Rockefeller Center

We’ve all seen homeless people in the New York City subway system. They stake out some turf and occupy it with all of their possessions. Or, they’ll occupy a subway car, riding it as far as they can before getting hassled or chivvied onward. Their fug clouds the air. Who are these people? Mentally ill? Down on their luck? Alcoholics? Drug users? Poor? Or just plain unlucky? Some are sick and not getting healthcare; their bare ankles have open sores and teeth rot in their mouths. How can they be eating right or taking care of personal hygiene?

Mr. Purple Hat rests his head on his arm. I can’t tell if he’s feigning sleep or truly in a daze. He owns this location, sits in this same position at various times of the day, on various days. He parks himself and his belongings close to the collector’s booth and not far from busy turnstiles. Much foot traffic passes him. People sometimes glance over at him but I’ve never seen anyone talking to him. I’ve never seen him stir although sometimes just his black plastic crates are there as if he’s left to do some shopping and will return “home” shortly.

People live in the subway system. Does that make the subway their home? So they’re not really homeless then?

The subway tunnels are covered at least, out of the wind, protected from rain. With the onset of icy winter weather and single-digit temperatures, the Subway Hilton will be full tonight. Men stretch out on the wooden benches scattered on the platforms. They appear to sleep even as the train clatters down the rails, shaking the ceiling at greater than 90 decibels. That’s the sleep of innocents, of babes, and others who are oblivious to their surroundings.

Never have I seen Mr. Purple Hat look at a passerby or show any curiosity. I think he’s biding time, hanging on to the little he can control by his fingernails. We walk by. A young man veers toward him then swerves. Two women turn their heads around to look at him while piloting forward. Most just stride by on their way to work, appointments, lunch, or to catch a train. Mr. Purple Hat is background, a breathing NYC wallpaper fixture. We presume they are hopped up on dope or drunk. We wonder (with righteous sniffs) why they aren’t being rousted by the police. We pause to think of the agencies or organizations that could possibly help them… assuming they let themselves be helped.

I doubt any mother ever suckled her baby thinking he would end up at the Subway Hilton. I doubt we ever thought ourselves capable of ignoring another human’s plight. But there are so many of them, these poor disaffected souls! We look at them and see the surface. Surely G-d sees their souls and rejoices in them.

I chip at the armor covering my eyes and heart and yearn to see their G-dly sparks, too.

 

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