In Brooklyn, an abandoned level below the Bergen Street station is a favorite spot for urban explorers, one of many New York City subway stations that have abandoned platforms. Renovations to the station, which serves the F and G trains, in the early 1990s damaged the lower platform, which had been used from time to time over the course of the station’s existence since 1933. Silver doors on the upper level conceal open staircases that go down to the lower level.
Well here you have it: a GIF subway map of New York City that shows the subway lines in order of construction, created by Appealing Industries via Paste Magazine. You’ll notice that the first lines to appear are in Brooklyn, rather than the IRT line on Manhattan. The lines in Brooklyn were part of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (later the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation or BMT), created in 1896. They operated along existing surface railways and streetcar lines.
It can be easy to assume that the sole purpose for New York City subway cars is to transport passengers across the boroughs (yes, even Staten Island). However, the same subway cars that we associate with daily congestion and occasional delays have served a totally unexpected purpose: habitats for marine wildlife, as we showed previously in our Cities 101 column. Recently, Gizmodo published a spectacular set of photos depicting an onslaught of subway cars being discarded into the ocean. The photo series by Stephen Mallon, compiled over a three year period, will be on display at NYU’s Kimmel Galleries beginning February 6th.
In this above video, meet Charlie Pellett, a news anchor and reporter for Bloomberg Radio for over 20 years. He’s also the voice of the New York City subway system, most famous for “Stand clear of the closing doors please.” Pellett’s voice was used as a recording on the newest line of subway cars, the R142A series which came into service in 1999.
Further proof that New York City just needs New Yorkers to keep life interesting in the face of The Man, someone turned one end of a subway car into a cardboard apartment this morning, as surfaced on the NYC subreddit.. It’s complete with abstract art, armchair, and lots of graffiti. The Gothamist asserts that they’ve “seen children’s forts built out of Fresh Direct boxes more aesthetically pleasing than this.” The New York Observer thinks it’s an attempt to raise awareness for the city’s homeless, with words like “Empathy” and “You could be me.”
As riders of the New York City City, we’re all familiar with the rats and supposed mole-people, the trash and mold, and have come to ignore–or accept–the many unpleasantries of the NYC subway. What we often forget is that the MTA had originally planned for a ride on the subway to be a luxurious experience, as evidenced by the glorious (and decommissioned) City Hall subway station. By combining art and technology, New Yorkers back in 1904 had high hopes for their new underground.
The original Interborough Rapid Transit Company pulled in artists to create civic works specifically to enhance the subway experience. At the time of the international Arts and Crafts Movement, architects and artists designed ceramic ornament for subway signage. The signs not only announced the name of the stop, but planners also hoped that color, design elements, and eventually illustrations would be recognizable by non-English speakers so that they could orient themselves. Most of the tile designs were done by Heins & LaFarge (1901–1907) and Squire Vickers (1906–1942).
There are constantly additions being made by artists, local schools, and others, but we’re sharing with you some of our favorite original Arts and Crafts/Beaux Arts-style ceramics from around when the subway first opened in 1904: