Showing posts with label 1 train. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1 train. Show all posts


Vintage Columbus Circle 59th Street Subway Sign

Meet me next to the glazed red wheelbarrow at Columbus Circle, she said, mimicking William Carlos Williams ...
Notice the symbol for the now defunct 9 line


Travels on the IRT: 207th Street Station Postcard

207 Street Station Postcard, New York City, 2010
The IRT 207th Street Station of the New York City Subway is on what is today the 1 line, located near the University Heights Bridge. Not to be confused with the IND 207th Street Station on the A line, parallel to where I stand now. At surface level, 207th Street on the east side runs directly below the Manhattan train yard to the north. The street is unassuming. Dull, really. I wish I could be on the A line now, so I can wander through the elevations of Fort Tryon Park.

Planning to Write about the New York City Subway
     Here on the 1 line, I am convinced the neighborhood has nothing distinctive to offer that the other northern Manhattan and Bronx elevated stations of the IRT division have already offered me. I already feel like a worn-out straphanger who has grown accustomed to the repetitive re-iteration of station after station. Does technology point to an anthropology? Are we just cookie-cutter human-shaped-molds without unique attributes? One damn cut-out after another? Observing the majority of commuters on this train, it is easy to judge that not much makes us different from the other.
     I grow easily tired. I think of my friend Ecce, a freshly minted Ph.D. student, who had laughed when I had told her I was drawing inspiration from subway stations for a possible book. "What are you going to call it?" she had asked me at a bar in Greenpoint. "I don't know," I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. She smiled. "You're definitely new here," she said. "You better write that book while you at least have some modicum of enchantment left in you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Eventually you'll get bitter and just want the damn train to arrive in the station so you can get to wherever you're going."
     I think about what she said to me as I walk to the end of the platform to get a better view of the train yards. I still find pleasure in the MTA system. I wonder if I will ever lose a fascination with iron and electricity. I hope to see a surplus train veer off from the track spur into the yard below, but I am antsy and decide not to wait. The backpack I wear is heavy. I am not in shape. The joints in my knees send a sharp pain to the pain receptors in my brain. I am sadly a normally sedentary beast. I tend to find solace in the undisturbed moments of casual book reading in a library. I write at a pinewood desk.


207th Street Train Yard

View of 207th Street Yard from University Heights Bridge, Manhattan


The 215th Street IRT Elevated Subway Station in New York City

An Excerpt from my book of essays Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas): 
Exploring the stations along the IRT Broadway line in the Northern tip of Manhattan and the Bronx, Greig Roselli's mind wanders.
The station entrance to the 215th street IRT elevated subway station in New York City.
Entrance to the 215th Street Elevated IRT Station in New York
     The Harlem River swallows five Manhattan city blocks. The streets are numbered up to 220th on the mainland of Manhattan, but in Marble Hill, across the Broadway Bridge, the numbers begin at 225th street, as if the river itself is a five block wide gape. I like to think of it that way, anyway; on a map, the river looks like a bluish slab of concrete anyway; or maybe there was a 222nd street in Manhattan - if there was, I wonder what it was like? Did they have bodegas and subway stations? As for 221st, 223rd, and 224th, they are gone too - kinda repositioned into some region of the Bronx or even Queens, but here in Inwood, peering over the expanse, the blocks have vanished. Maybe the civic designers marked the streets this way to note the transient nature of the island's geography. Streets that are marked now may not exist in the future, the shift of the river, or global warming climate changes, change the nature of the landscape. New York City will not be the same geographically in 2100, as it is today. Lower Manhattan, according to an exhibit, Rising Currents, currently on display at MoMA this summer, will be akin to Venice, sans the gondolas.
    My mind is on permanence and transience, as I wander the northern part of Inwood.
    The local 1 train veers off of Broadway and follows 10th avenue in Inwood.
    The els are menacingly loud. New Yorkers travel these rumbling god-trains; their appearance is a swift apparition of noise and wind. A South Ferry Bound train rumbles above of me as I walk along the tenth avenue to get a clandestine peek at the Transit Authority train yards that lie to the East of Inwood. Condominium towers lie in the Distant Bronx. From here, you can see how thin the northern tip of Manhattan island really is.
Subway Train Yard in Manhattan
  A buxom blonde woman guards the train yard gate. She catches me snapping pictures. I am surprised how politely she asks me to stop. "Sir, you can't take pictures of the trains. It's illegal." I am - for a moment - afraid a more buxom employee will appear from behind the grill and confiscate my camera, so I tuck it neatly into my pants pocket and walk on, disappointed that I cannot continue to peer into the sinuous rills of the train yard. Sometimes when I am among the tracks of mass transit, I become giddy. I am not the only one. Just last night, I was riding the Pelham Bay local towards my Queens-bound transfer on the R train. A man and his son were sitting near me and I was amused by the son, who was obviously visiting New York, because in the midst of their conversation he cries, "I love the subway." He got up from his seat and started to almost skip down the train aisle, but his father grabbed him and told him to sit down. He was greatly amused by the mechanics of the journey, repeating the words of the conductor to his father, and lovingly looking out the window into the subterranean blackness of the underground.
    The train system is infinitely fascinating (which is why I write about it). I am interested in the intersection of people and movement. The way the system moves people around; how we move around in the system; how we interact and how we are engaged. Some of us are docile travelers, hardly noticing the whir that surrounds us, but others are like the boy on the Pelham Bay local, gesticulating with the gesture of energy along with the movement of the train. He understood the mystery of the system, how it is like a cipher, something mysterious, yet so full in the midst of millions of people. The subway city as a cipher is akin to the ancient image of the labyrinth, with its routes and tunnels overlapping and turning, but never getting anywhere, only presenting choice decisions along the way.

Would you like to read more? Fetch Greig Roselli's book of essays, Things I Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) for more good writing, dammit.  

Image Source: © 2010 Greig Roselli

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Marble Hill - 225 Street Station

The Marble Hill Station is in Manhattan even though it is not geographically attached to Manhattan island, even though at one time it was. The path of the river changed. The Harlem river used to be further north, and like a slinking undertow, it descended further south where it rests now; I can see the river below me and feel its strength (although technically it is not really a river at all, but that's another story).

The streets here swirl around an invisible center like a Medieval town circles the church in the main square. The streets here, except Broadway (of course), avoid breaking through to the Bronx. The streets are circular, going back and forth into each other like a snake eating its tail. Buildings are placed in concentric circles. The Harlem River serves as a reminder that one is standing at the furthest northern terminus of Manhattan - and by virtue of this gerrymandered divide, the denizens here are Manhattanites.

From Van Cortlandt Park to here, chalet after chalet, the el seems to repeat itself, never getting anywhere, itself its own circle. Here in Marble Hill, the geography seems to beckon to Manhattan. Things are more compacted. The bodegas scrunch up against the bridge entrance as if to yearn for any stragglers who may have forgotten a sub or cola somewhere along the way. The Harlem swirl is close enough to smell. The heat is intense today. I'm craving a cherry limeade from Sonic. I settle for a cool beverage at Guzman Food Center, served in a brown paper bag with a straw. Several kids race across Broadway to the cool interior of the Target across the street. The air smells tepid. A transit employee stands near the 225th street northeast entrance; perhaps he is a station manager. He looks calm and collected. The rhythm of the train a quotidian sense of order.

I am excited to walk across the Broadway Bridge into Inwood. Bridges loom ominous for me. It is said a bridge is a symbol of transition. I'm fearful if a bridge should collapse, I have somehow missed out on a unique opportunity. A bridge that is collapsing as I'm walking away? What does that mean? I am in the process of decoding a dream as if I have been here before; this bridge reminds me eerily of the bridge over the Industrial Canal in New Orleans on Claiborne Avenue, which is also a vertical lift bridge.

I decide to walk across the bridge to get the sense of vertigo I feel from standing close to the railing edge. The ships traverse the canal below pregnant with their wares. An elderly white couple walk ahead of me, in deep conversation. Bicyclists, as is the norm here in NYC, careen past. They always seem to be in much more of a hurry than I ever am. I prefer to walk. Peering down from the navy blue ironworks, I see Marble Hill Metro North Station. The Metro North system takes off in long sinuous strides to where the subways cannot go: to Riverdale, and the far reaches of the Connecticut burbs. The Harlem River seems contagious, brewing with rocks and tumult. I wonder aloud, talking as if I am attached to a Bluetooth headset, but am not, to how Marble Hill became a satellite neighborhood to Manhattan.

The monotony of the elevated trains is intense. I try to conjure up in my mind how Manhattan may have been like with the old els that traversed the avenues in the last half of the twentieth century. This city erases its memory effortlessly. But, here, in the rocky regions of Manhattan, the past somehow lingers more. Maybe it is the els. Or maybe it is the hint of geography. The Second Avenue El is long gone and hardly a vestige of it still exists, but the els here will probably remain for a long time; a super-city rather than a supra-city like the rest of the MTA system. It feels like Purgatory a bit. The circling madness of Marble Hills itself makes me a little nuts; I chuckle as if I am Dante escorted by Virgil, escaping the hell of the underground to find respite in Manhattan's only vestibule of souls. The el terminates at Fort George, though, and we are back in the bath of hell again. I like to think it is more like what Michael W. Brooks said about the subway system, neither hell or heaven exclusively, but both "sordid and transcendent" (207).

Would you like to read more? Fetch Greig Roselli's book of essays, Things I Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) for more good writing, dammit.


New York City Subway Stories: 231 Street Station

A Stopover in Kingsbridge
The Broadway local stations in the northern Bronx between Westchester County and Manhattan are elevated, reminiscent of the old els that populated most of the city before the inception of the subways at the turn of the century. Here in Kingsbridge, I can sort of get the feel of how the city used to be — sort of — I can imagine none of these buildings around me exist and instead there are rolling fields and hills that punctuate the countryside when this line was originally built. For my subway car reading, I've been diving into New York City Subway history. In one book, The City Beneath Us: Building the New York Subway, I recently checked out from the Mid-Manhattan Branch library, depicts the 238 and 231 street stations. The pictures are eerie snapshots from the past. The difference in setting is striking. But the elevated train remains the same. I am on a time machine. The structure of the stations are unchanged. The same Swiss Chalet façade adorns the front (here it is inviting white!) and the steel infrastructure is unchanged in appearance. The difference is the emptiness that surrounds the Broadway local train. I can close my eyes and return to this spot a hundred years ago. Perhaps I am a Manhattan father with two children and a wife. We move north to escape the chaos of downtown and the typhoid and tuberulosis of lower Manhattan tenement living. Here, it must have felt like a spacious Western dream. "Don't fence me in!" The first train passengers more than a hundred years ago probably did not imagine the extent of urbanization New York would undergo. Or maybe they did. Because it did not take long for this area to rapidly acquire buildings and concrete. At one time, though, a cow could have taken a dump right here on the extent of concrete below me. A horse could have been crushed by a drunken driver in a Ford — right here. I take a swig from my Orangina and a tiny Dominican woman offers me a smile.

Northern Manhattan and north of the Harlem river still retain vestiges of the old that most of lower Manhattan has buried. The trains are still elevated, not below the ground; and the streets beckon an old-world feel. Even the name of this neighborhood, Kingsbridge, is antiquated, not Dutch obviously, but a New England name that fits comfortably alongside New York. Kingsbridge, New York. The name is lyrical. The space begs people to notice its own origins. Banners affixed to poles in the street cry out, visit Kingsbridge, "It's all under the bridge!" Instead of cows and horses, the sound of ladies softly alighting their feet on grass, I hear the rush of cars emanating from the Major Deegan Expressway, not far from where I stand, which snakes through the Bronx north-south. I am not really sure what Kingsbridge refers to, perhaps a bridge that once existed here but no longer stands. A quick Wikipedia search concludes that a bridge did stand here but it was covered up and replaced by the Duivet-Spuivel canal. For some reason I think of Neil Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, of an alternate universe in the London Underground and imagine if Gaiman had written the novel here, Kingsbridge would have to serve as some magical portal to New York’s own Neverwhere. Maybe Van Cortlandt Park to the north would be a faun's playground. I think for a second how fun it would be to write a novel about the subways of New York as a fantasy. Gaiman might sue though. I put my idea on a cupboard in my brain. I can figure out my own creative slant. I'm sure of it.

Interacting with Locals and an Encounter with the Police
After asking her a few questions, which at first startles her, a middle-aged black woman carrying a leather satchel and an umbrella tells me Kingsbridge is a nice place. She points in the direction of Broadway and says something to me about the canal that was dug that replaced the original Kingsbridge. I tell her thank you and walk along Broadway. The heat creeps through the streets. The pizza I ate at Mario's still feels heavy in my stomach. I climb the stairs of the elevated platform and find a quite place to jot down notes in my moleskine.

A policeman from the 50th district stops me and asks me not to loiter. Either get on a train or keep moving. He’s polite enough, but there is an unnecessary heightened sense of authority in his voice so I board the Manhattan-bound Broaway local as quickly as possible. Seated on the train again, I remember just yesterday a New York Public Library security guard had asked me in not so kind words to not sit in the stacks to read a book. “Tables are for reading. Get up.”
Read more stories just like this one in my book of essays "Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas)"


New York City Subway Stories: 238 Street Station

5:37 PM
In this post, I contribute to my series on the New York City Subway — "238 Street Station" edition.

A lost child's mottled gray marble rolls across the car floor like a cliché. A Dominican woman I've seen before on the train remarks to me with rapt concentration, her eyes on the stray marble, not on me. "Someone's lost their marbles," she says and laughs at her own joke, rapping her head with the brunt edge of her umbrella.

The heat in the train is suffocating. Two girls in summer dresses apply makeup and talk about a party on 168th street. It's the Monday after the Fourth of July and the town is still on holiday. The evening has done nothing to slake the heat. Shirt sticks to skin. The dry heat sits stale. The air conditioning is barely enough to keep us alive. A female conductor's voice reminds us all that it's hot and if we see anyone passed out, let a MTA employee know. Isn't there a subway car that serves beer? I thought I had read about such a train in the newspaper. The train offers a poem by Robert Frost printed on an advertisement called "Train of Thought".
“Dust of Snow”
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
The subway is a cacophony of bodies in motion. Every station is a change of mood. Most people look angry. But it is a quiet anger. A guy about my age, reading War in Peace, totes a cat carrier, but I don't see a cat. He looks up from his book and glares out the window. He seems to say, to no one in particular, "It's fucking hot in this car." It is. I agree. But heat is nothing exciting to write about. The marble rolls by again, hitting against a boy's skateboard. No one else seems to watch its trajectory quite like the familiar Dominican woman. Every time it rolls by she laughs and points to her head, then at me.

An announcement blares from the conductor, "We're being held in a state of supervision." The guy with the cat and Tolstoy rolls his eyes as he reads. I think I heard the conductor correctly. A state of supervision? I knew New York was a nanny state, but come on, this is ridiculous. I situate myself in the seat and prepare for what can only be a state of supervision. Nothing happens. The train sits in its own heat for thirty seconds and then lurches forward again, Bronx bound. Seasoned New Yorkers remain upright. The marble rolls again. If this were the Marble Hills Station, I'd add another joke to the already stale punch line.

I disembark at the 238th Street Station, the next stop on my writing tour. A Manhattan-bound train enters the station seconds after the Bronx train leaves. The train's shadow sparkles light on the exterior wall of a Rite Aid. The structure of the track allows light to flicker through the duvets to create a modest spectacle of sound, light and movement. A policeman guards the platform. I am reluctant to linger, for fear he may ask questions. I carry a black Moleskine to take notes on my subway rides. I am a bit paranoid that he may ask me what I'm writing, so I take the stairs to the street level. This station is similar to every elevated platform station on the 1 line in the Bronx. The façade of the station is the same train station-depot-look that parades the station at Van Cortlandt Park and Kingsbridge.

This station does not sport the same scenic look as Van Cortlandt Park did on the Fourth of July. In fact, I immediately get the sense this station may perhaps be the least populated station on the one line, if not, the entire MTA system. The buses are packed, though, and people seem to navigate mainly in cars.

I  am not an investigative journalist type. I do not intend to riddle people with questions about their neighborhood. My subway writing project is simple: I am not so much interested in description, as I am in impression.

My stomach growls. I am on a budget so a pizza looks good at Mario’s. Two Italian adolescents chat on a bench in front of the restaurant. The pizzeria is empty. The beeline bus to Riverdale careens by filled with passengers. When the boys see me they jump up and walk briskly inside to the check out counter. “Hi,” the younger guy says, obviously revealing to me that not only does he relax on the bench outside like a customer, he also works at the place. His accent is most probably Bronx. I can't tell the difference between the Bronx and Brooklyn, New Jersey or Queens. It all sounds similar to me. The guy talks really fast with a cheerful lilt. A quiet Chinese guy sits on a bench in the kitchen. A weathered woman with bleach blonde hair, perhaps pretty in 1981, sits at a booth with two girls. I order the Meat Lovers. I’m hungry. And a meringue soda. I love glass bottles. Bottled in Brookly, the label reads.

“I got to cook up the bacon and sausage for your Meat Lovers, OK?” the boy says. I nod in acquiescence and take a seat to jot down some notes. The boys and the Chinese man (who never emits a word) make my pizza pie. The place is empty, as I said; it is not the typical New York scene. Few pedestrians, if any, walk by. I eat the pizza with menace. Drown the meringue soda. Get up to pay, and the weathered woman gets up with me. I think she’s going to ask me for money. She doesn’t. She goes behind the counter. Her kids sit in the booth and play with each other’s hair. The boys are on the bench laughing and playing with their cell phones. “That’ll be $3.50.” After I pay the weathered woman, figuring what the hell, whom I assume also works here, the Bronx boys come back in the store, grin, and tell me, “Stay cool buddy, cuz it’s hot.”  I imagine this joint is their summer job. They’re happy to have a customer. Maybe they just graduated from high school? The woman stands proud at the cash register. A silver sedan pulls up to the curb with several of the boys' friends. I wonder if I am the only customer they’ll have tonight? Feels like I just ate a pizza pie in a Bronx house on 238th street instead of a restaurant. Despite the heat, I am in good spirits. The shadows of a moving train appear again on the Rite Aid façade. I dance a bit in the street, the Merengue flavor still hot in my mouth. Sitting down again in the subway card, the air conditioning has never felt this good.
Read more stories just like this one in my book of essays "Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas)"


New York City Subway Stories: 242 Street Station

In this post, I contribute to my series on the New York City Subway — "242 Street Station" edition.
4:57 PM
The elevated Van Cortlandt station at 242nd and Broadway in the Bronx is the origin of the red 1 local line that terminates at South Ferry in Lower Manhattan. The station sits high up and overlooks the vast green of Van Cortlandt Park to the east and Manhattan City College to the West. Standing on Broadway, I can look up to see the red wooden facade of the station made to mimic a train depot. The front is painted a faded maroon. A transit employee empties a garbage can. Near the bronze-green staircase, a young girl plays with an abandoned payphone while her mother, on a cell phone, beckons her to move it. "Are you grown? You sure acting like you is." The girl brushes past me to join her mother. A hefty man in a wife-beater and long pants opens a door with a do not enter sign affixed to it so he can take a short cut to the other track to board the Manhattan-bound train that is entering the station. The neighborhood is alive with a festive spirit.
Today is Fourth of July, and a swath of locals BBQ chicken and sausage along the station entrance and into the park. The stretch of green accommodates a healthy band of families. Children swim in the nearby city pool. A girl, dripping wet, chooses a gooey skewer of chicken kabobs. A trail meanders through the sea of people, mainly Latin and African Americans. I walk to a quiet edge of the park. A marshland is set up with a boardwalk trail of sagebrush. I walk through the marsh and find a bench near a lake. It is here that I write.

Read more stories just like this one in my book of essays "Things I Probably Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas)"