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:
The Interborough Rapid Transit of New York City opened its first subway line in 1904. 468 stations and 24 subway lines make up the tapestry of what we now know as the New York City Subway. Here is a list of those stations that stand out as unique in both their history and appearance. The original 28 subway stations had beautiful fare control houses designed by George Heins and Christopher LaFarge, some can still be seen at Atlantic Avenue, Bowling Green, 72nd Street and other spots. But as the subway expanded, subway station style evolved to adapt to Manhattan’s geography and evolving architectural and design styles.
Image via Flickr by jag 9889
New York City boasts 468 subway stations, and many more entrances. In the past, we have covered how businesses have creatively occupied stations to provide unexpected services like hair cuts, or having your keys made.
This week, we’re calling out the Bushwick Ave-Aberdeen Street stop off the L train. Usually, small businesses house their services within a station, but at this stop, the subway entrance itself is housed between two used car dealerships. The station was built in 1928, but the two plots around it were approved for automotive sales and services in 1946.
So why haven’t these car dealerships been cleared for trendy apartments and lofts like the rest of Bushwick? Perhaps because the Bushwick-Aberdeen train station is located in a region zoned as a C8-1 Commercial District. According to the Department of City Planning, these regions are designated for “commercial and manufacturing uses that often require large amounts of land.” Uses can include “automobile showrooms and repair shops, warehouses, gas stations and car washes.”
Right east of this zone lies a M1 Manufacturing District Zone, where the borders of Bushwick, East New York, and Bed Stuy meet at Broadway-Junction, a major subway hub that connects the A, J, C, and L trains. The M1 zone is designated for “light industrial uses, such as woodworking shops, repair shops, and wholesale service and storage facilities.” From the L train platform, you can view an example of this in the massive East New York Yard where the J, M, Z and L trains are stored and repaired.
East New York Subway Yard, image via Flickr by OBI*ONES*KENOBI
Perhaps the surrounding area’s lack of residential opportunities explains why subway ridership at the Bushwick-Aberdeen Station ranked 403 out of 421 in 2013. Still, it can’t hurt to have a business near a train station that potential customers pass by every day. Perhaps these businesses have hopes that commuters can be lured into purchasing that 2007 Toyota Camry to forgo a crowded train ride to work. We’re not sure if even a car could compete with those high-speed aerial gondolas, though.
If you have any New York City subway finds, share them with Anna Brown via her Twitter handle @brooklynbonanza.
Image via Pentagram
Ever wonder about the NYC’s subway signage? Most New Yorkers who use the subway daily have probably never heard of the design firm Unimark. In 1970, designers Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda of Unimark created a language not only for how people would read subway signs, but also the way people would use the NYC subway for the next 44 years. The published document was a 13″ x 13″ Standards Manual held together in a 3-ring binder. And now, Pentagram is hoping to bring it back via a Kickstarter campaign that goes until October 8th. It’s been so popular that they have raised more than 5x the $108,000 goal so far.
Advertisements are like death, taxes and the idea of the Jets not making the Super Bowl this season. An inevitable aspect of life, especially life in NYC. Not all of them are terrible but the majority of ads millions of New Yorker’s normally see inside subway stations are often those for weak McDonald’s coffee, crappy TV shows, movies we hope no one actually pays to see, and products that we have no plan on using, like moon boots (STOP TRYING TO MAKE MOON BOOTS HAPPEN!).
What if we could see more art underground? One of the most memorable things Keith Haring is remembered for is painting on the subway stations, bringing art that would later be seen only in museums to the people underground. This week, we discovered a new app called NO AD. It was developed by a team of designers and street art enthusiasts including the Public Ad Campaign, Heavy Projects (Re + Public), and street blogger and photographer Jowy Romano. The basis of this app is to make the subway stations we ride everyday to work, to bars, to our romantic spouse who lives on the other side of the city into a digital art experience.
Continue reading for a video demonstrating the app and a listing of the artists involved in the project.
Every time we go through Columbus Circle subway station, we wonder about those big patches of black tar-like substance that just keep growing on the subway platforms. Last year, when there wasn’t quite as much, and we thought in passing it might be just a really popular place to throw gum. But this time, the more we poked around the more we saw that the stuff was just all over the place. And, some of it was fresh! Looking up, we could see it dripping from the beams.
Digging into it, lo and behold, Slate dug into this bizarre issue back in May. Turns out it is indeed tar or rather, mastic, as Branko Kleva, assistant chief of the Division of Stations explains. The MTA uses mastic to seal up and waterproof subway infrastructure but when it gets hot, the stuff starts dripping down. Incidentally, tar was also used to black out the beautiful skylights of the now-decommissioned City Hall Subway Station during WWII.