Little House on the Brooklyn Prairie

April 9, 2014

Take a look around and guess where we are.

There’s a white-washed building topped by a stout brick chimney. Rough hewn wooden posts holding up a shingled roof. Wood framed double-hung windows with slightly sagging screens. A wide porch holding an assortment of ladder-back rocking chairs, some with seats of woven rush, others with canvas webbing.

Are we in a small, sleepy Southern town? Or are we someplace in the American Heartland, perhaps an old farmstead out on the wide prairie?

Sorry, but no and no.

Actually, this rustic-looking structure is the Avenue H subway station on the Q line, deep in the heart of Brooklyn. Built in 1906, over the years the station has been updated and renovated but, thankfully, never replaced.

Now, don’t just stand there. Grab a glass of lemonade and let’s do a little rocking before we catch the next train to Brighton Beach.

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The Epoch Times: Renovated Brooklyn Station House, Relic With Modern Feel
NYC Subway: Avenue H Station
Subway Nut: Avenue H 

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Heydays in Bay Ridge

September 27, 2013

Some of the most charming works of art in New York City are hidden deep underground in subway stations.

The 86th Street Station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is the site of a mosaic entitled Heydays. The wall-sized work by Amy Bennett pays homage to the neighborhood’s bucolic past, depicting three family homes and a church with a tall steeple, all surrounded by grass, trees and a winding brick pathway.

A close look at the pieces of glass reveals numerous finely-crafted details including a man peering through binoculars, empty lounge chairs upon a balcony, an old woman leaning out of a window, an umbrella-topped picnic table, and a dog sitting on a wooden porch.

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MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design
Amy Bennett
New York Magazine: Neighborhood Profile, Bay Ridge


Sofia? Sophia? Sofia?

August 13, 2012

This handwritten sign was posted on the side of a bus shelter in Coney Island.

I can’t help wondering whether the author taped it next to the model’s face because he thought she resembled the woman he wanted to find.

I haven’t yet decided whether Joe’s note is sweet and romantic or stalker-ish and creepy. Or both.

Sofia? Sophia? Sofia — Sophia — Sofia

This is Joe. Good looking Italian U met on July !!4th!! on the “D” train in Coney Island  — U are Spanish very beautiful  — 30, 125 lbs  —  long brown hair  — U gave me your ph. number and I lost my phone the next day!! I looked 4 U that weekend by the subway entrance but there were to many people  — anyone know a beautiful Spanish Sofia I described  —  help bring us together. Joe 374-816-3984 Thanx

 

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A Long Day’s Journey

March 13, 2010

Resist though we might, sometimes New Yorkers are forced to leave the city. This was one of those days.

I tried to make the trip out of town as short as possible and, when the weatherman predicted a fierce rainstorm, I made sure to get an early train back. It was before 3:00 pm when I boarded the New York bound train and settled in for a journey that should have lasted about an hour and a half.

It was raining as we pulled out of the station, but the first couple of stops went as scheduled. Then, suddenly, the train stopped. A few minutes later, we started again at a slower pace. A couple more station stops and we limped along, gradually getting closer to the city. And then, just short of the Metro Park station, we stopped and – for quite a while – didn’t start.

We waited and waited while the conductors announced (repeatedly) that we were being held. An hour passed, then two. I regretted my decision not to tuck a book into my bag. The passengers grew impatient, waiting for the answers that didn’t come, then turned to anger. I sat in the first car and listened as reports filtered forward, rumors that people at the back were smoking, that fights were breaking out.

I stayed in my seat, pulled up my hood and feigned sleep. Gradually, we began to move again. Finally, we neared Newark, New Jersey. The train’s staff told us that our best bet was to get off and complete the trip to New York via the PATH train, a separate, rapid-transit railway system that transports commuters through century-old tunnels beneath the Hudson River.

We left our train, paid an additional fare to enter the PATH system, and then stood on the cold, wet platform, waiting for a train. Any train. Nothing came. No one seemed to be in charge. There was no official to provide directions or information to the hundreds of people who crowded the platform. After about 15 minutes, we heard an announcement. The platform where we stood was “closed.” We were instructed to walk upstairs, to Track H, and wait there for a train.

Finding the stairway meant leaving the platform, trailing behind furious people lugging heavy suitcases up steep, slippery stairways, and then … we were lost. We saw no signs indicating where Track H might be. Again, no one was directing us and there were no workers to ask. Weary, disoriented travelers walked up and down, through dripping passageways, while trying to avoid the aggressive beggars, clad in rags, who appeared at every turn, their hands outstretched.

One of us finally spotted a sign to Track H. Up more stairs, pay an additional fare to enter, and we found ourselves on another cold, wet platform filled with people. Again, no officials were present to provide any instructions or information. The signs didn’t give any indication of when (or if) the train would arrive, or where it would take us. It didn’t matter. We just wanted to go.

The minutes ticked by. 10. 15. 25. People continued to crowd onto the platform. Finally, a handful of policemen arrived and called out warnings, telling us not to stand too close to the edge of the platform. We ran to them, hoping for answers. When will the train come? When will we arrive in New York?

To those who surrounded the Newark police officers, asking for help and advice, there was only one reply: “I don’t know. You have to ask somebody who works for the PATH.” And where would we find such a person? “I don’t know.”

We were only about 10 miles from New York, but it might as well have been the other side of the moon. Someone asked whether we could we hire a taxi back to New York. “Well,” said one of the officers, “It would be hard to find one. And since so many people want a car, he’d probably charge you six or seven hundred dollars.” What about a bus? “Yeah,” he said, “there’s a bus. I think.” Where would we find it? “I don’t know.”

We headed back downstairs, hoping that someone could direct us to a bus. We walked through the station, around the station, back and forth, asking everyone we saw until an astute girl pointed us to a bus stop beside the building. By the time we reached it, the waiting crowd spilled across the sidewalk and into the street. Again, no one was in charge. There were no announcements, no one controlling or directing the wet, tired, frustrated travelers, no signs indicating when the next bus would arrive or where it would go.

After an interminable wait, a bus appeared and very, very slowly came towards us. When it stopped, the doors opened to reveal a police officer on board. The crowd surged forward, anxious to climb aboard, while the policeman shouted for them to refrain from pushing. Few appeared to hear him, even fewer seemed to care.

The crowd continued to scramble for position and the police officer again shouted for them to “Stop pushing!” adding a warning: “If you don’t stop pushing, I’m going to start shooting!”

A voice responded from the crowd: “Go ahead, that’s what you always do in the ‘hood!”

With dozens of people pushing from behind, it was impossible not to push forward. Try to stand still and lose your balance. Finally, the steps to the bus were almost under my feet when an unknown hand grabbed my backpack and yanked, hard. I stumbled and grabbed for the door. An old woman’s voice, commanded the person who’d grabbed my bag to “Let go, so I can get on this damn bus!” She pulled, I pulled, and the bag, still strapped to my shoulders, broke free of the grip pulling me backwards. I stepped onto the bus.

There was one empty seat remaining. I sank into it and closed my eyes, hoping that this bus was heading to New York City. When the engine rumbled and the packed vehicle moved forward, I realized why the seat I’d claimed had been unoccupied; it was located directly below a vent and dripped cold water onto my head and shoulders. No matter. I wasn’t moving.

Our route, as it turned out, was to the Port Authority Bus Station in New York via Union City, New Jersey. With the windows fogged up, the journey itself was a blur. The lights inside the bus were dim, and through the windows I saw only watery glimpses of flashing lights, cars stranded on flooded roadways, the tiled walls of a passageway I guessed to be the Lincoln Tunnel.

Perhaps the bus ride took about an hour; perhaps more. When I stepped into the warm, dry, cavernous space of the Port Authority, I felt like kissing the ground and vowing to never leave New York again. I hastened to the subway in Times Square, got the first train back to Brooklyn, and, just as the clock struck 10, I emerged in beautiful Brooklyn.

According to the New Jersey Transit Web sites, in order to contact Customer Service about a refund, I must go back to Penn Station in person while their office is open. That will be a task for another day.

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View from the New Jersey Transit train

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Through the train window

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Inside the bus

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Through the bus window

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Inside the bus

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The sign says we’re bound for the Port Authority

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The Newark bus parked in New York City

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The Times Square station looked like paradise

New Jersey Transit
PATH Trains
Port Authority Bus Terminal


Walk This Way

January 21, 2010

Two large arrows, each made of four overlapping yellowish triangles, are mounted on a corrugated metal wall at the Cypress Hills subway station in Brooklyn. The arrows seem to point towards a nearby stairway; however, there are no arrows directing riders to a similar exit at the opposite end of the platform.

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The arrows have been a target for vandals

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Riders follow the arrows to a staircase leading to the street


Mysteries of Manhattan: The Painted Car

November 28, 2009

It was parked at the corner of Second Avenue and 27th Street. A big old Ford LTD Crown Victoria with taped up windows, dented fenders, smashed tail lights and rusted chrome. But really, on this vehicle, who would notice a few flaws?

Thickly covered with images, objects and phrases garnered from sports, politics, pop culture and fantasy, this is a car with a message. Or, perhaps, several messages. But what is it trying to tell us? Who created it? And why did he or she decide to paint a car rather than a wall or a canvas?

I have no idea. Guess I’ll just have to categorize it as another of Manhattan’s many mysteries.

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Left front corner

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Hood

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Right side

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Gas tank cover

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Tire

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Religious symbols and phrases

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Rear door

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Driver’s side window

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Broken tail light

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Rear window

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Trunk

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Rooftop collage


Flying Home: Harlem Heros and Heroines

November 9, 2009

Faith Ringgold is an award-winning artist, writer and teacher who was born and raised in New York City. In 1992, as part of the city’s Arts for Transit program, the Metropolitan Transit Authority commissioned her to create two thirty foot mosaic murals for the 125th street subway station platform — one of the busiest locations in Harlem.

The murals were inspired by a song by Lionel Hampton, Flying Home Harlem that Ringgold heard when she was a child. They depict iconic men, women and places that were influential in Harlem’s history.

“I love every one of these people,” Ringgold told the MTA. “I wanted to share those memories, to give the community – and others just passing through – a glimpse of all the wonderful people who were part of Harlem. I wanted them to realize what Harlem has produced and inspired.”

The mosaics were fabricated in a small town near Venice, Italy and installed at the stop for the 2 and 3 express in December 1996. On her Web site, Ringgold says, “When you are in New York, go to see them. And then have dinner at Sylvia’s, the famous soul food restaurant just a block away.”

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Mural in the 125th Street subway station

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The Harlem Opera House

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Madame C.J. Walker and her College of Hair Culture

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Abyssinian Baptist Church

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Billie Holiday

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The Ink Spots and the Apollo Theater

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Marian Anderson

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The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of Negro Women

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Jesse Owens and his Olympic gold medals

Faith Ringgold
Faith Ringgold’s blog
MTA Arts for Transit: 125th Street
Sylvia’s


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