super hanc petram

Tuesday, October 5

See New York City by subway?!?!?  

This CNN story has got to be one of the most ludicrous missives I've read in a long, long time. See NYC by subway? If you like tunnels. Miles and miles of unadorned tunnels. I love the subways here. They are a truly fantastic way to get around the city. That is, you get in, travel to your destination and then you leave. Staying in them is not a way to 'enjoy' the city.
You can have an extraordinary tour of New York -- complete with panoramic views, music, art and even food -- without ever leaving the subway system.
First, panoramic views. There are elevated parts to the subway system but the views from them are fairly fleeting. Moreover, there are no elevated parts to the system left in Manhattan so the panoramic views are all in the outer boroughs and you need to know exactly when and where to crane your neck in order to see them; oh and you'll need to be sitting by a window and on the right side of the train also; the article does not provide the necessary details on these crucial points. "Music, art and even food." Music? There are the occasional worthwhile musicians from the Music Under New York program, but most of the time it's several people using poorly tuned instruments (or trash cans as drums) performing less than melodic by eardrum jarringly loud cacophonies. My favorite are the steel drum players that just sort of bang away tunelessly. Man can that sound carry in a low ceilinged concrete and steel enclosure. Art. Not graffiti, mind you. Art. The article talks about the mosaics. I too like the mosaics. I especially liked the mosaics that were on the wall of the Delancey St. station on the F line (transfer for the J, M, & Z lines) but those were inexplicably removed over the course of a year, replaced by something resembling a Times New Roman font printed on an Imagewriter II. Food. Um, look, if you're going to eat, eat above ground; this is New York City for Chirst's sake. Whatever you do, do not, DO NOT, partake of the fare proferred by the, "unsanctioned entrepreneur peddling something slightly more exotic," unless you have a hankering for an equally exotic intestinal reaction.
For the best views, however, you'll need to leave Manhattan, where the system is largely underground, to access the elevated lines. Start your trip on an early autumn morning, taking the D train across the Manhattan Bridge, where you'll be greeted by the sight of its better-known cousin, the Brooklyn Bridge. A 7 a.m. sunrise shimmers over the East River, and looking south through the train windows, you'll be saluted by the Statue of Liberty, four miles (six kilometers) away. To the north is the familiar Manhattan skyline, anchored by the distinctive shapes of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
A 7am ride on the D. Where do I sign up? This is not the most absurd suggestion in the article, and that should tell you something. I'm sure all the early morning commuters will love you dashing from one side of the car to the other to take in the North/South views on your 45 second trip across the Manhattan Bridge. When you get off the D at 7:15 in the middle of the massive 4th Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue acre of asphalt have fun finding place that's open where you can get some breakfast. I do not recommend the vacant lot across the street where the new Nets Stadium will allegedly be built.
But a ride over the East River isn't the only spectacular view a subway trip offers.
You mean there's MORE??? The article really goes off the rails here.
Far on the eastern portion of Queens, the A train begins its 31-mile (50-kilometer) run, but not before passing two of the city's most interesting landscapes.
New York is the safest large city in America, but people from Peoria are simply not going to be comfortable on the A. The A is easily the craziest line in the city. Evangelists, panhandlers, musicians (not the sanctioned ones), dancers (professional and otherwise) and the guys with batteries and small electronic toys for $1 all ride the A in alarming numbers. However, after you spend $35 to get out to JFK from your midtown hotel so you can take this little trip, here's what you have to do.
Transferring from the A to the Manhattan-bound L train at the Broadway Junction stop, riders get an aerial view of Brooklyn rooftops as the train winds and twists like a roller coaster on a 50-foot high elevated track ... transfer to the Queens-bound G train at Metropolitan Avenue [this is a local that runs about once every 45 minutes if you're lucky] ... change to the Queens-bound No. 7 ... passing through the ethnically diverse neighborhoods ... you'll find riders speaking everything from Spanish to Pakistani Urdu to Korean ... Glimpses of Manhattan are visible between cars ... emptying out at the last stop. By now, it's afternoon [You've been underground for 95% of this trip and intentionally done this during rush hour. Having fun yet?] ... stay on the No. 7 [this is misleading, you have to get off the one you're on and go up and over to get to a train going back to Manhattan, a 45 minute trip] and double back into Manhattan ... change to the No. 4 train at Grand Central.
Ahh the Lexington line. Dante did not include the Lexington line in one of his deeper circles of hell, but rest assured it is there ferreting the damned about their eternal torture. And they're packed in like sardines at all hours of the day on this, the most overcrowded line in the city. A recent advisory told commuters on the 4 express (i.e. skips a lot of stops on the way downtown) that they would be better off taking the local train to work in the morning because it will get them to Wall St. faster. There are no words to describe the sadistic nature of the bureaucracy that would try to pack yet even more people onto the downtown 6 in the morning.
Farther up, look for mosaic tile works at 96th, 103rd, 110th and 125th streets on the local line.
Construction permitting, the 4 will rip past these stations in about 3 seconds and you'll have no chance to enjoy anything on the station walls. Especially since you'll be standing in the middle of the car with three people between you and a window.
Yankee Stadium at 161st Street and River Avenue. Get off here and wind your way back to Manhattan via a series of transfers that will make you feel like a real New Yorker: Take the D to 145th Street, then head back uptown for just a couple stops, to 168th Street, where you can switch to the downtown Nos. 1 or 9.
This series of transfers will take you until doomsday. By the way, remember when we said it was afternoon back when we were at Shea? It's now about 8:30 at night.
After a dozen hours in the subway, any tourist would be exhausted, even though the day's trip was not even half the system. But some people think riding the train is as much fun as reaching any given destination.
Holy Hosannah. Listen. I use the subway for everything here. I really and truly love it. I take it to work every day, I take it to go out at night and I take it home during "late night" service hours. It is absolutely fantastic. But it is also nothing more than a series of tunnels blasted through the schist on which the city is built. They're not pretty and while they're not filthy, they're not clean either. It's a wonderful utilitarian system but it is also a system on the verge of collapse that needs many billions of taxpayer dollars to get it performing well enough to survive the next 50 years. If you're in town on vacation, splurge and take a cab where you're going. Odds are you want to stay in Manhattan anyway. I live in Brooklyn in a quiet little neighborhood off the F line; I love it, but there isn't too much for a tourist to do there. And that elevated section that goes over the Gowanus Canal, not that pretty.


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