A Sign With a Picture of a Doorway

March 29, 2009

Sometimes I must leave the city, and this was one of those days. I headed to Pennsylvania Station to take a train but, due to a delay on the subway, I arrived a few minutes after it departed. With nearly an hour to wait until the next train, I passed the time exploring the enormous maze of floors and passageways.

While walking through one of the lower levels, I noticed a doorway crisscrossed with yards of yellow tape ominously marked “Police Line Do Not Cross.” I stepped closer and saw two paper notices fastened on and near the tape.

The both bore the same message: a notice to Amtrak employees telling them that the entryway was closed (apparently, the yards of tape weren’t enough of an indication) and that they should use another entrance. And, in case any Amtrak employees weren’t sure what an entrance was, both notices were helpfully illustrated with photographs of doorways. A pair of uniformed Amtrak workers strolled by while I was reading the signs, and we joked about management’s assessment of their intelligence (“I guess they figured if they didn’t put up a sign, we’d just walk through the tape.”).

I unpacked my camera and began to photograph the doorway. Suddenly, my lens was dark. I looked up and saw a large, red-faced man in a dark jacket who’d placed himself between the doorway and the camera. He demanded to know why I was taking a picture.

New York, as you probably know, has no shortage of crazies. I deal with them all the time, usually simply by putting as much distance between us as quickly as possible. This fellow, however, was already close enough to touch me. I felt I’d better say something, so I asked whether he had a problem with me taking pictures. He did, he said. I told him to get over it and, wanting to avoid a confrontation even more than I wanted the photo, I quickly walked away.

A few minutes later, I heard an announcement that my train was ready for boarding. I ran down the stairway, jumped on board, settled into a seat and began to read a magazine. Suddenly, I was aware that someone was standing over me.

I looked up and saw two police officers. They told me that they’d received a report and that I fit the description of the person involved. “Were you taking pictures in the station?,” asked one of the men. Yes, I was. “Can you tell me what compelled you take pictures?,” he asked.

Compelled? I didn’t feel compelled, I explained, I just thought it would make a good picture. I thought it was funny. They asked me to describe what happened and I did. They exchanged looks, then asked why I’d left the scene rather than talk to the man who’d approached me.

A horrible thought occurred to me. “Was he a cop?,” I asked. “He didn’t identify himself as a cop.” “No, he was no cop,” said the officer. “He works for Amtrak.” I explained that I’d left because thought he was a nut. Why would I stick around to talk to an angry nut?

The policemen asked more questions: why do I take photographs? What do I do with them? Just then, one of the officers glanced down at the magazine in my hands. It was a thick, glossy issue of Art in America. “Are you an artist?,” asked the policeman. I thought a moment, and decided that even though it is not the occupation I list on my tax returns, my photos are a kind of art. “Yes,” I replied.

“An artist,” he said. He turned to his partner and repeated the words. “An artist.” They both nodded. “Oh, well, you were taking the pictures for your art,” said the policeman. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

They told me that the man who’d blocked my view should have identified himself, but since he had called the authorities and reported me, they were obligated to follow up and investigate.

We began to discuss art, photography and Brooklyn when we heard a signal — the train was about to depart. The officers hurriedly gave me their names, shook my hand, and, repeating the words, “You didn’t do anything wrong,” stepped onto the platform just before the doors slid shut.

Thanks, NYPD. Thanks, Art in America.

The doorway

The sign on the tape

The sign beside the doorway

Art in America magazine

Art in America
The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station
New York Architecture: Penn Station
Amtrak: Penn Station

Help keep the fares fair!

March 26, 2009

Yesterday, the board of directors of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) voted to cut transit service and increase fares.

While the politicians and the heads of the agency make their way around in chauffeured limousines, the changes, which are scheduled to go into effect on May 31, will deal a crushing blow to already-struggling New Yorkers. The changes are more than substantial; they are painful.

  • The MTA will charge $6 more for a 7-day unlimited MetroCard, $12 more for a 14-day MetroCard, and a 30-day MetroCard will jump from $81 to $103.
  • The fare on Long Island Bus, which serves Nassau County, will go from $2 to $3.50.
  • Riders on commuter trains will find their fares up by as much as 30%.
  • Those who drive won’t be spared, either: tolls will cost $1.50 more each way at the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, Queens-Midtown tunnel and the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge (formerly the Triborough).
  • The service cuts are horrendous: five subway lines, including the entire W and Z trains, will be shortened or eliminated; 35 bus routes will be totally cut and dozens more will have less service. Bus and train waiting times and crowding will increase while hundreds of station attendants will vanish.

According to the New York Times, after the board voted, H. Dale Hemmerdinger, the chairman, said, “It’s now a fact, it’s done.”

The only remaining hope for those of us who use the system is that state legislators and the governor can be persuaded to agree on a new transit aid package in the next few weeks. Please call or e-mail elected officials and tell them that they need to come to the aid of riders while there is still time; you can find your representatives via the links below.

Message posted inside the High Street Subway Station in Brooklyn

Find New York State Elected Officials
Contact the Governor of New York State
New York Times: M.T.A. Votes to Raise Fares and Cut Service
New York Post: The Great Train Robbery
Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Have fun in the park … but watch your step

March 22, 2009

Spring has finally arrived and New Yorkers are running outside to take advantage of the first weekend of the season. These warm, sunny days are inspiring many to shed their heavy coats and venture onto the 29,000 acres of land controlled by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

If you plan to join them, enjoy yourself … but remember that there are rules in the parks. Serious rules. Lots of them. Here are some of the warning signs posted in and around the city’s parks and playgrounds. Have fun and watch your step.

South Cove Park

Central Park

James Bogardus Triangle Park

The Esplanade Park

Tramway Plaza Park

The Esplanade Park

Red Hook Park

Battery Park

Central Park

The Esplanade Park

Red Hook Park

City Hall Park

Erie Basin Park

Red Hook Pool

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

What do you read into this?

March 9, 2009

A street vendor in Brooklyn clipped these cardboard signs to his table-top display of hats, gloves, sweaters and scarves. What do you read into them?

What do you read into this?

Beat the recession.


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