(72 St-Broadway Subway Station, Manhattan)
I’ve been following the saga of the Farley Building redevelopment ever since I was an urban planning grad student in the late 90s and it’s a real thrill to finally see it in person. Frankly, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen in my lifetime.
Replacing Penn Station with Farley was a dream that had a perfectly poetic arc: Penn Station died so that Grand Central Terminal could be saved, then was reincarnated decades later in Farley, the adjacent McKim, Mead, and White palace that was spared Penn’s fate. All credit to Senator Moynihan, the project’s longtime sponsor and advocate.
No, the Moynihan Train Hall isn’t quite the full-on transformation of Penn Station that many urbanists had hoped for, But it’s a very good first step towards the goal of truly modernizing the infrastructure and operations at Penn.
The location west of Eighth Avenue feels a bit lopsided today, but it points to the future of the Midtown CBD: westward expansion to Hudson Yards. In a decade or two, it’ll feel more central as the inevitable development happens around it.
I visited the site in 2017 before construction started but haven’t been back since. I only had 30 minutes today to check it out and was very pleasantly surprised at what I saw.
I’m looking to coming back and exploring more soon.
1960s innovation for Brooklyn trains: LETTERS.
I geeked out on an extremely rare R110B rail car and made a new friend. It was a good day.
(Coney Island Yard, Brooklyn)
(Coney Island Yard, Brooklyn)
Does your place of work welcome visitors this way? So excited to be shooting at one of our coolest facilities.
(Coney Island Yard, Brooklyn)
Even subway trains need a place to rest when they’re not working. For many NYC subway trains, that place is Coney Island Yard.
What does Coney Island look like in action? Stay tuned…
I’m looking for students with superior storytelling skills to help me make videos this summer about New York’s amazing transportation network.
As a video intern with the MTA Press Office, you’ll help tell the story of the transit system and the hardworking men and women who keep it running. You’ll shoot onboard MTA trains and buses, inside stations and tunnels, and maybe even climb a bridge or two.
You’ll also sharpen your skills at all aspects of video production — from story development to distribution — and learn a lot about turning around quality packages cost-efficiently and on tight deadlines.
Internships will start in early June and can continue beyond the summer. For more info and to apply, go here. Please don’t apply to me directly.
(Want to help me at my night job? Check back here later this summer.)
Today I had an early afternoon shoot in one of the subway tunnels under the East River. It was a beautiful day out so I figured I’d bike to the meeting point in Brooklyn from my apartment in Harlem.
There was only one issue: did I really have to bring two helmets? I hate biking with more weight than I absolutely need to carry. But I also don’t bike anywhere without a helmet and I’m not allowed on the tracks without PPE.
And if I were to just bring one head protector, which would it be? The options weren’t good: 1) biking around Manhattan and Brooklyn with my bright yellow MTA hard hat, or 2) spending a few hours underground with a track gang wearing my tomato red Bern Brentwood bike helmet and enduring the inevitable teasing. And that’s assuming my headgear would even pass the safety rep’s muster.
Ultimately, I realized neither my ego nor professional reputation could stand either scenario. So I brought ’em both. A little more physical weight to carry, but a lot of potential other weight off my shoulders.
I’m really excited about Citi Bike and I think it has the potential to greatly change the way New Yorkers get around. The stations are going up now and the bikes come next month. Check it out, New York!
I don’t have any kids of my own (birthing movies every now and then while holding down a full-time job is about as much as I can handle at the moment) but I appreciate them more and more as the years roll on. Children are the best reminder that a cynical — and ultimately selfish — worldview has real consequences for those who follow us.
Put more positively: our good choices today can really pay off for those who come after us. Is there any better reason to do the right thing?
That was the simple idea behind these PSAs I shot for MTA in celebration of Earth Day. Last weekend, twenty-seven volunteers — all children of MTA employees — spent an afternoon in a makeshift studio that myself and my hard-working colleagues set up in our midtown headquarters.
Some of the kids had a little experience with cameras and acting, but the majority of them were entirely new to the process. They were incredibly eager to participate and their energy helped all of us get through an exhausting five hours of shooting.
Like many filmmakers, I find it difficult to watch my own work once it’s done. Oftentimes, all you can see on screen are the things you wish you’d done differently. It’s extremely humbling and sometimes very painful.
These cheap and cheerful PSAs are by no means perfect. I still see plenty of things I wish I’d done better. But they were made in less than two days, with a production budget of zero, and they communicate an important message for the public.
Most importantly, these kids melt my heart every time I watch them. They remind me that the world will go on long after I’m gone, and that my choices today have consequences for that world. And also that traffic on the B.Q.E. is always going to be an epic fail.
In 2009, the old station was decommissioned and replaced by the new South Ferry station directly adjacent. Unfortunately, in 2012, Superstorm Sandy “decommissioned” that new station.
Tomorrow, the old station comes back to life to fill the gap in service until the new one can be fixed. It was strange visiting the station today to shoot this video. It’s a real throwback, and I suggest those who have never seen it go visit. (Bring earplugs if you plan to hang out. The screeching is extremely loud.)
Despite its flaws, the station complex itself sure looks much better than when I shot there in October. Progress, definitely.
I feel really lucky that I get to walk through GCT on my way to work each day. The beauty and bustle of the place lifts me up on even the toughest of days. The endless supply of good things to eat there doesn’t hurt either.
My recommendation, in all seriousness, is to put a dog on it. Just like how putting a bird on something can make it art in Portland, putting a Hachikō at a transit entrance can elevate an otherwise utilitarian space into something much more inviting. Maybe even inspirational.
A cat would be okay, too.
Spent the midnight shift with a Signals crew as they worked on an ancient but critical piece of subway infrastructure inside the Montague St Tunnel. In a 24/7 subway system, the overnights are prime time for repairs and maintenance.
Every twenty minutes, we’d have to climb out of the trackbed and flatten ourselves against the tunnel wall to let a train pass. For safety, the train operator would slow to 10 m.p.h. as he travelled through our work area. But even at a relative crawl, the feeling of a 600 foot subway train passing inches from you is intimidating no matter what the speed.
The Signals crew worked as fast as they could between the trains, but sometimes a train would have to stop and wait a few minutes for them to finish up and clear themselves to safety. I’ve been on many a train in the wee hours that seemed to stop and/or lurch for no apparent reason. It’s a frustrating feeling that makes a long ride home feel that much longer, especially when you’re tried.
But now that I’ve literally been on the other side of that train, I think I’ll have a lot more patience next time I’m on a slow subway. And instead of being frustrated, I’ll think about those guys working just inches away and hope that they’ve all cleared up to safety.
“After Years of Delay, a Lower East Side Gap Is Ready to Be Filled” from today’s New York Times:
For decades, advocates of affordable housing sparred with residents of the powerful Grand Street co-ops, who preferred more market-rate housing and commercial uses for the site. The new agreement splits the difference, calling for 1,000 new units of housing, half of which will be permanently affordable. The 500 affordable units will be a mix of housing for seniors, and low- to moderate-income housing for families earning from 60 to 165 percent of the area’s median income.
This is exciting news. Curious to see what will happen below this site, which I covered for MTA with my late colleague Peter Hine in 2011:
(MTA New York City Transit Linden Yard, Junius St, Brooklyn)
(B train, Brooklyn)
On a southbound Caltrain “baby bullet” from San Francisco, our train hit someone south of Palo Alto. The air brakes tripped and the train stopped between stations. We were told our train wouldn’t be moving and that another train would be coming to pick us up.
We couldn’t see any sign of the accident from the windows. One of the regular riders next to me (“I work in mental health,” she noted) said that there’s a suicide on the tracks about once a month. The passengers seemed generally nonchalant about it. The bike car, where I was, was rather chatty.
After about ninety minutes, a train pulled up alongside ours on the adjacent track. The passengers stepped out of our train to the trackbed and stepped onto the other. Us cyclists boarded the new train last with our bikes. The Caltrain staff were very courteous.
I got this shot of our stuck train as we pulled away in the rescue train. I didn’t look for any sign of the accident on the locomotive and you won’t see it in this photo either. We made all stops on the way back to San Jose.
RIP the person who died on the tracks today.
(Somewhere near Mountain View, CA)
Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters is magnificent, but hard to read on the train. I picked it up for the first time in years this morning and wept on the 3 train. Missed my stop too.
Lest you think this display of emotion happens rarely, just yesterday I cried laughing on the 2 train. I was watching THE FOOT FIST WAY on my iPad. I think spit may have flown out my mouth and onto someone sitting nearby. Hopefully on clothing, not mouth. Sorry, ma’am.
My utter lack of “street face” is a bit embarrassing, but this kind of escapism sure beats getting annoyed by fellow passengers on a crowded train. Transcendence on the daily commute is not easy to come by.
(42 St-Bryant Park Station, Manhattan)
(Glen Ridge, NJ)
Haters, please wait for the train directly behind this one.
So after two days of feeling blue because congestion pricing died and trying to console myself, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
The verdict? Passable, but not nearly as good as Seoul Garden’s extra spicy combo. I’ll keep trying, and hopefully so will those in favor of congestion pricing.
(Bklyn Blggng HQ)
I’m bummed that congestion pricing died in the State Assembly today, I’m trying to cheer myself up be focusing on things that give me pleasure, like the combo tofu stew with the side order of short ribs at Seoul Garden.
Ah, I feel a little better already. A little, anyway.
(Seoul Garden, 32 St, Manhattan)
NYC needs congestion pricing. I hope the New York State Legislature does the right thing this week and passes it.
(53 St & 6 Av, Manhattan)
All my life I searched for my soulmate. Just after I got used to the idea that one probably didn’t exist, I found her. Now all I have to do these days is to sit back and enjoy life. And snap the occasional photo.
(72 St-Broadway Subway Station, Manhattan)
(West 4 St-Washington Sq Station, Manhattan)
(Broadway Junction Subway Station, Brooklyn)
Now that NYC has been the safest large city in the U.S. for several years running, it’s getting harder and harder to find truly scary places within the five boroughs.
The East New York Station on the LIRR Atlantic Branch is one of those places. The station itself lies underneath the Atlantic Avenue viaduct and even in broad daylight looks like mole person territory.
But the forlorn platforms are nothing compared to the crypt-like pedestrian underpass that connects them. On a recent ride around Brooklyn, I used the underpass to get across Atlantic Avenue. It was deserted and and full of blind corners, and frankly, I was scared shitless and wondering what I was doing in that maze with a Bike Friday, an iPhone, and no weapons of any kind (except my razor wit, of course).
As it turns out, the Chinese geek with the funny bike was the scariest — and only — thing in that tunnel while I was down there. Other than my imagination. I memorialized the moment with my iPhone and got the heck out of there.
(LIRR East New York Station, Brooklyn)
(161 St-Yankee Stadium Station, The Bronx)
He looked a little small for a seeing eye dog, but size isn’t everything, you know.
(6 train, Manhattan)
(Q train, Manhattan)
The “accordion” bus is more correctly referred to as an articulated bus, but whatever you call it, straddling the pivot point and yelling WOOT!!! everytime the bus turns is frowned upon. Or at least it is whenever I do it.
(M15 bus, Manhattan)
(World Trade Center PATH Station, Manhattan)
My first day back outside. After spending 40 of the last 48 hours flat on my back (or spewing Monday’s lunch), it’s good to be on my own two feet, even if I’m not exactly 100%. DeKalb Avenue never looked so good.
(DeKalb Av Station, Brooklyn)
This just cannot be a fun place to sit for an entire shift.
(Grand Central Subway Station, Manhattan)
(Grand St Station, Manhattan)
Meals on the run sometimes mean eating in unlikely and unsavory places. But when it’s 11:30pm and you haven’t eaten dinner, those concerns can fall away like crumbs from a knish.
(34 St-Herald Sq Station, Manhattan)
For a multitude of reasons, the USA would be a much better place if we reoriented our cities and towns towards transit based development. Getting Americans out of cars and onto trains, buses, bikes, and our feet would drastically cut our oil consumption and go a long way towards combating our obesity epidemic. Freed from car dependency, our towns and cities could return to the human-scaled and pedestrian-friendly communities many of them originally were. As we spent more time walking in our own neighborhoods and sharing rides on trains and buses with our fellow citizens, we might see a resurgence of American community life and public participation. With 2008 upon us, it’s not too much to say that the future of our country literally depends on kicking our addiction to oil.
The key to changing the car culture is to first recognize that this isn’t a religous argument. Even as a die-hard transit advocate I don’t believe that cars are evil or that they should be banned. In fact, automobiles are wonderful inventions and they’ve given us unprecedented personal mobility and freedom. They’re not going away any time soon not because of some conspiracy by oil and automobile companies (though these may certainly exist), but because cars are darn useful and people enjoy driving them.
The real problem is automobile dependency. A community (or a country) dependent on cars as the primary means of personal transport is going to be inherently more dispersed, more costly, and most likely less equitable than one built around transit lines.
There are many solutions out there, from carbon taxes to outright bans on automobiles in cities. In my opinion, the best and fairest solutions are those that make drivers pay the true cost of driving. (A lesson in negative externalities awaits those interested.)Or maybe we could just make cars really expensive. As promising as low-emission vehicles are, a billion people driving Priuses is way worse for the environment than ten million driving gas guzzling 911 GT3s (MSRP US$107,500). And taxing the heck out of those ten million Porsche owners might buy us a lot of nice new trains and buses.
Full disclosure: the 911 was my childhood dream car — and still is.
(Inskip Porsche, Warwick, RI)
Sadly, trains where passengers can look out the front are becoming a thing of the past, so it’s important to savor the experience when the opportunity arises.
(J train, Broad St, Manhattan)
(Spring St Station, Manhattan)
(World Trade Center PATH Station)
…is going to be saffron (known in the other boroughs as just plain orange). This is a sign of things to come.
(49 Street Station)
I was waiting for the B train back to Brooklyn when the A pulled up. Not my train, but something caught my eye. “Far Rockaway via JFK Airport” the sign said. I blinked.
The chime rang and the doors began to close. A quick step and I was inside. The people looked different than the ones on my train. Poorer, darker. After Jay Street, I was the only guy in a suit. After Nostrand, I was the only white one.
Somewhere in Queens, the train left the tunnel and I could see rows and rows of small old houses from thirty feet up. You could see right into the backyards and even in some of the windows. Everything was unashamed and out in the open: rusty above-ground pools, moldy Big Wheels, soggy cardboard boxes. When the train stopped at these elevated stations, the cold wind would fill the car, blowing in husky guys wearing uniforms that said JetBlue, DHL, SkyChefs.
A few stops later and we were at the edge of the airport. I followed the crowd up an escalator and onto a smaller, newer train that reminded me of the monorail at Disney World. I hadn’t thought about that trip in a long time. It was our last family vacation before Dad split. He never told us he was leaving for good, just that he had to take a trip. I used to wonder how a person could just leave his family like that, but eventually I stopped.
The little train made its way around the terminals. I got out at Terminal 9, the last one. It was old and decrepit and there were construction barriers everywhere. You couldn’t tell if they were tearing it down or fixing it up.
The next flight was in ten minutes. Shit, I thought. I’m not going to make it. I walked faster. Got through security quickly. “Final boarding,” the announcer began. I started to run. The gate was at the very end of the concourse — a straight shot but still several hundred yards away. I ran faster. I felt my chest burn. My ankles hurt. I thought I might lose a shoe.
I got there just as the door was about to close. I was winded and I wanted to vomit, but Goddamn I made it. I found my seat and sat down, sweaty but satisfied. In a few hours, I’d be in Orlando. I closed my eyes.
The A pulled out of the station and a few moments later a B arrived. I got on and was back in Brooklyn in about 30 minutes. I picked up the kids from day care and we ate pasta for dinner. My wife and I watched TV until we both fell asleep.
(Jay St Station)
Although it’s a fairly common belief here in Brooklyn that early humans spent their days battling dinosaurs for food and real estate, it simply isn’t true. The fossil record unambiguously shows that dinosaurs and humans never co-existed, which precludes scenes like the one hanging in my living room of a scantly clad she-warrior riding a triceratops. During the Age of the Great Lizards, in fact, mammals were a lowly bunch of pre-human scavengers and deadbeats, bolting in fear at the mere mention of a brontosaurus. (Broadway’s Les Miserables is an excellent chronicle of the mammalian struggle to get out from under the thumb of T-Rex and his scaly ilk, if you’re into musicals.) It wasn’t until the Great Comet/Ice Age/Alien Invasion that these ferocious and ornery beasts were vanquished, making way for the ascent of mammals, who were next on the waiting list. Through evolution, these creatures would eventually become the species we call “people.”
I’ve often taken pleasure in smugly deriding the “humans vs. dinosaurs” myth as silly “Land of the Lost”-based history, but now I wonder how long I’ll be able to say it with confidence. Recently, researchers from the American Museum of Natural History reported their discovery of a small prehistoric mammal fossil in China — with an even smaller dinosaur partially digested inside its stomach. Mammals munching on baby dinosaurs? That’s bad-ass, yo. Now that we know early mammals were much more gangsta than we’d been led to believe, what other revelations await us?
Perhaps we have already seen the Land of the Lost — and it looks a lot like Brooklyn.
They seemed awfully young, they were wearing dress uniforms, and they didn’t have guns. They looked alert, scanning the throngs of busy commuters quietly and methodically. I thought they might be a symbolic sort of protection, not unlike the unarmed National Guardsmen that are stationed at Grand Central and Penn Station. Or maybe it was part of their training, the way NYPD rookies are now sent into the worst precincts right out of the Academy. Was Atlantic Av Station on high alert now? Whatever the reason, they became part of my daily commute.
One day, one of them made eye contact with me. I felt I was being checked out. Did I look suspicious? I wasn’t offended, just curious as to why I had merited any attention. For some reason, the moment stayed in my mind.
On Saturday, I saw them again — differently. They had pamphlets, brochures. They were speaking to young men. They were recruiting.
(Atlantic Av Station, Brooklyn)
Maybe in other cities’ new-fangled subways they have those screens and announcements that tell you when the next train is coming, but here in NYC, we do it the old fashioned way.
B train, heading home
An old man heads for the seat
Older man steals it
Prospect Park Station
Catch the B, the Q, the S< My own Grand Central!
I need some cash!