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:
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.