A tale of two loops: City Hall and South Ferry, A ‘City I love project’

In this post about this great metropolis, I’m heading deep underground to two of New York City’s interesting subway stations; City Hall and South Ferry. The reason why they are interesting is because they are not exactly in a straight line.

In fact, they are loops.

The first is one of the most beautiful underground spaces in New York. The second station, while a bit simpler, has managed to last the test of time and even get a second life.

But first a throwback.

City Hall before opening day. image from viewing.nyc

It’s 1900 and the first shovel spade is dug into the earth in front of City Hall on March 24th of that year. The planned 9 mile subway line would stretch from City Hall up to the booming neighborhood of Harlem.

The City Hall stop was to be used for local trains running to Harlem and later on The Bronx. While express trains would continue to Brooklyn. If you are wondering why that was the case, consider the fact that Broadway is a very narrow street and it would have been expensive to dig a four-track subway under Broadway. They would have to widened the street which would have lead to the loss of valuable real estate and cost more money.

To convince people to go underground, the newly formed Interborough Rapid Transit company, hired the architectural firm Heins and LaFarge to design the tilework for City Hall and the other stations on the inaugural line. The firm, in turn, hired Rafael Guastavino and his tile company for the sole purpose of tiling City Hall.

DSC_0253

View of the ceiling

Guastavino is often referred to as a genius in his designs. Using tiles that were layered like a cake, Guastavino’s tiles were considered structurally superior to traditional Roman Barrel style Arches that required the use of large stones to support the arch.

DSC_0285

Guastavino’s tiles at work

It was a cheaper and by all accounts more attractive method of construction. While Guastavino tiles usually come in white or eggshell, the station has a beautiful green and orange poly-chrome tiles that are pleasing to the eye.

The station also has a Guastavino hallmark. Since the tiles are layered the ones that are not used for display would have have had groove like striations on the tile to place the grout. When Guastavino was in his workshop one day, a client for another job remarked that the pattern was perfect and it has been placed on almost every tile ever since.

The station is also a massive feat of engineering. The station alone sits on a 147 degree angle. This was done to accommodate the City Hall building itself and the former Post Office that sat on the southern edge of the park. The tracks also had to go under the express trains that were heading to Brooklyn.

DSC_0311

Inside the City Hall station

City Hall and the other stations on the line opened to the public on October 27, 1904. A ceremony was held at the station and as the legend goes Mayor George B. McClellan Jr., so intoxicated by controlling the train, he refused to give up the controls until the train reached 103rd Street, 7 miles away.

Passenger and guests of the ceremony were treated to not only the tiles but chandelier fixtures and skylights.

DSC_0277

Favorite piece of the station the Skylight

However despite the station putting on a good show for the 15,000 ticketed guests, the next day the station was nearly empty.

It would be the station’s fate for the next four decades until it closed to traffic on December 31, 1945, at 9 p.m. with little fanfare save for an obituary like report in the New York Times.

The average daily ridership was around 600 and the station closed early when local service was sent to our next location. The South Ferry Station.

They were other factors that lead to the closure of City Hall as well. The limited amount of space between City Hall and the Post Office building, the inability to expand the station and the aforementioned close proximity of the Brooklyn Bridge station lead to the stations rather small ridership.

The South Ferry stop is located near the Battery, a local city park. The Battery is where you pick up ferries either leading to the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island and now Governors Island. The area has long been a transit hub in one way or another when back in the day all of Manhattan’s elevated trains, the 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th Avenue elevated trains all terminated here.

Elevated Station at South Ferry

The South Ferry stop first opened on July 10, 1905. Over the years a variety of services, from the original subway line to a mix of both the present day Lexington and 7th Avenue IRT lines. In 1918, after the 7th Avenue line was completed a second inner loop platform was constructed for extra Lexington Avenue trains at rush hour. After 1977, the station became exclusively a 7th Avenue station when a rush hour shuttle service and late night 6 train service ended due to lack of ridership and budget cuts.

DSC_0741

Tiles demarcating South Ferry in the Serif font

The inner loop station was known for only using the central door for passenger access due to the extremely sharp curve. To lessen the noise, the station was walled with only door slots.

The outer loop was also designed by the firm of Heins and LaFarge. Stations like City Hall and South Ferry used different color patterns or styles and different symbols to help riders on their journey’s. This was to help immigrants, who had limited command of the English language. A boat was to symbolize that one could get off and take the ferry.

DSC_0737

While, City Hall station remained closed and forgotten, South Ferry dutifully did it’s role in the commuting patterns of New Yorkers for generations. Unlike City Hall, which was too close to the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge station, which was connected to the elevated trains to Brooklyn, South Ferry had the Staten Island Ferry, which remains the most direct way to reach the borough of Staten Island without a car.

Over the years the IRT and subsequent transit agency’s that inherited the station didn’t really pursue any major changes to the station. Other than perhaps the occasional renovation or two, trains continued to screech around the curve.

DSC_0742 (2)

1 train returning uptown. Notice the gap fillers and the fences around the platform to prevent passengers from falling. 

Compared to City Hall, the South Ferry Loop stop had an altogether different fate. The American’s with Disabilities Act came in the 1990’s. Dictating that public facilities had to accommodate people’s with disabilities, it became clear that the station had to be upgraded due to it’s proximity to the ferry. Unfortunately, for the old loop an extension was not in the cards. Instead, a new station was built underneath the old one. This allowed for the connection of the ‘R’ line. A connection that was previously never attempted.

Image result for Old south ferry pictures

Diagram of the South Ferry area with new station.

The new station, which opened in 2009, was equipped with the much needed elevators, a better ventilation system and a platform for the entire train. Compared to the original station however, the replacement left little to the imagination and looked very dull. One bright spot was a piece of the original fort wall was excavated and preserved for passengers to look at.

The old station was closed down and was used for storage of trains during non peak periods and for a time, tours from the Transit Museum. That all changed when an unexpected event gave the old loop station a second life.

Due to the already existing infrastructure at South Ferry, the MTA decided to dig deeper for the new station, however this leaves the new station vulnerable to major storms. Case in point Hurricane Sandy. It flooded the new station up to the ceiling and destroyed equipment needed to send trains into and out of the station.

The older station, while flooded, was surprisingly undamaged. The April of the following year the old loop reopened as a replacement until the new station is rebuilt from scratch, with the necessary hurricane proofing to prevent future service disruptions.

In a strange bit of irony, if the new station wasn’t built, the old loop stop would have borne the brunt of the damage.

So while Staten Island commuters have to contend with the screech for another year, I like the idea of looking at the old tiles all for the price of a subway fare.

DSC_0740

Platform View 

As for City Hall there are only two ways to get there either via a tour by the museum which requires full membership. Photography is allowed but it’s advised to be mindful about using flash photography and no tripods.

You can go to the Transit Museums website for more information.

The second option is to take the 6 train itself. Over the years the MTA has relaxed its ban on people staying on the train beyond Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. They only request that you stay inside the train as a safety precaution due to the sharp curve. Its fast but if your in town on a day that is not the tour it will do the trick. Try to go in the afternoon to get the skylight effect.

DSC_0321

6 train passing through. Here’s my failed attempt at long exposure shot.

As someone who has done both, the tour is worth the $50.00 due to simply because you’re in the station for at least 45 minutes and despite the noise you can appreciate the station’s full beauty.

While City Hall’s future is secured South Ferry’s third act is yet to be determined. It’s possible they might return to giving tours of the station but they will be one thing missing.

The screech.

 

Advertisements

Thoughts on Film: Bad Moms

 

Sometimes it’s good to be bad.

That’s what our overworked heroine Amy Mitchell discovers in the new female driven comedy “Bad Moms.”

Now with the end of the Summer movie season approaching, I’m finding my options to be a bit limited. Sure there is Suicide Squad and Jason Bourne, but where I live, movie going is very expensive and that’s not including the popcorn.

Nonetheless, with a very rainy Saturday and with after work activities, I made my way to my favorite movie theater on the Upper West Side, hoping I made a good choice.

The film focuses on a trio of moms in the suburbs of Chicago. Amy, played by Mila Kunis, is a part-time worker at a coffee company, run by some stereotypical lazy millennials and still is a full-time mom. Her two kids Jane (Oona Lauernce) and Dylan (Emjay Anthony) are polar opposites, Jane’s the overachiever and Dylan, at a very young age, has all the markings of a slacker in progress. Her husband Mike (David Walton) is as inattentive to his kids as a 1950’s father so there’s no hope there. In fact he’s finally busted for having a cyber-sex affair.

After having the day from hell, Amy is late to the school’s PTA meeting lead by uber-mom Gwendolyn, an icy Christina Applegate. Gwendolyn, declares Amy should head the ‘bake-sale police,’ as punishment for being late. Amy, fed up with what has happened, declares no and heads to the first bar she finds.

There she meets Carla, a hilarious Kathryn Hahn, a single mother and is soon joined by Kiki, Kristen Bell a stay-at-home mom. The three share their mom fantasies and complain about trying to be the perfect mom.  The next morning, Amy begins to rebel against mommy-hood and takes a personal day. Going to the movies, having brunch, telling her boss to f*** off from a meeting and even getting Jane to relax at a spa.

She even catches the eye of one of the dads, widower Jesse, Jay Hernandez, who’s had a crush on her and is the epitome of the hands on dad. Everything seems to be going well until Gwendolyn, sensing a threat, tries to squash the rebellion of bad moms. Will Amy, Carla and Kiki save the day or would they be forever enslaved to mommy-hood?

To start the film has a good premise and the three leads work very well together. While watching Hahn’s character Carla, I began to imagine Melissa McCarthy’s character Megan from “Bridesmaids.” Loud, unpredictable and yet fiercely loyal to her friends. Carla, as crazy as she is, is someone I want in my corner.

For a comedy, the film keeps an even pace, but it’s all too convenient plot left me wondering if the writers, who are men, really managed to scratched the surface. And even though they wrote the film as a paen/apology to their wives, I wonder if they actually read the script aloud to their wives who could have at least given them some pointers.

The film’s overall message is that you can get loose but not too loose. You can drop the deadbeat husband but must pick up the next available man. You can rebel against the system but you must take control of it until the next rebel comes on the scene.

That’s not to say the women in ‘Bad Moms’ lose the battle of mommy-hood. In fact they have some wins and there is a balance back to the force. But in a weird, roundabout way they argue, a bad mom is the best mom.

Best Moments and Lines*:

“A mom party is the best because it always ends at 11 p.m.”: Amy

“I think you just got be pregnant”: Jesse after he comments Amy on her sexual performance

“You took weeks off to morn the loss of John Snow”: Amy on her colleagues at work.

“I have six of these before 10” : Martha Stewart, commenting on her Jello Shots at the impromptu party that Amy throws to counter Gwendolyn.

Bad Moms is rated  R- Restricted. Contains several cuss words, sex jokes and drinking. Yet only one hangover and Martha Stewart’s Jello Shots.   

New York’s New Green Space: Liberty Park

In the last 15 years, New York has seen a vigorous expansion of new or reinvented public spaces. From the High Line to Brooklyn Bridge Park, these re-purposed spaces from their industrial past have proven to be assets to the city’s hunger for space.

Liberty Park is a reinvented space but for a different reason; the events of September 11th.

DSC_0466

Liberty Park looking to the west.

When the original World Trade Center was created, the former Austin J. Tobin Plaza was a wide albeit barren space that had more concrete than green. Looking at older photos prior to writing this I realized the missed opportunities of that space but for it’s time it was perhaps the gold standard in modernist design. Simple, rational and spartan.

As a result, Liberty Park has two jobs; one is to provide suitable open space to the people who work, live and visit the Lower Manhattan area and two restore a form of public space that was lost due to 9/11 and the creation of the memorial.

Liberty Park combines the site of two former structures from pre-9/11 Lower Manhattan. The first, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, was the only structure to be destroyed in the 9/11 attacks that was not part of the World Trade Center complex. It also held a separate distinction as the only religious structure to also be destroyed for St. Paul’s Chapel is opposite the site to the est.

The second, the Deutsche Bank Building, had to demolished due to structural damage. I watched over the decade as they slowly demolished the 40-story structure. The three blocks that the two structures existed upon were merged to create a underground parking lot for the new World Trade Center complex.

On top of the parking lot’s entrance is Liberty Park. The park, which opened on June the 30th, was built by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and designed by landscape architect Joseph E. Brown. The park, which is approximately one acre, is a much needed portion of green space in an area where there is very little.

DSC_0475

Man Looking at the 9/11 Memorial from Liberty Park.

The park overlooks the 9/11 Memorial and the rest of the World Trade Center campus to the north, the former World Financial Center, now called Brookfield Place, to the west and one of my personal favorite skyscraper’s in Lower Manhattan, 1 Wall Street in the east.

The most unique aspect is the living wall. It’s a wall of plants that is 20 feet high and is mix of periwinkle, Japanese spurge, sedge, Baltic ivy, and Winter creeper. The benches are made of what appears to be wood are nice, wide and comfortable to sit on.

On the southwest corner of the park sits the America’s Response Monument, dedicated to the troops who were part of the Special Forces team that were the first to be deployed in Afghanistan. The image of a man on the horse stems from the unique aspect of Afghanistan’s geography. With no suitable way to get across terrain, 12 members were given horses by local tribesman friendly to the U.S.

DSC_0494

America’s Response Monument

Despite that only two members knew how to ride a horse, the team accepted the idea and with the assistance of the tribes, they drove the Taliban from the area. The fact that a group of 21st century soldiers, using what was thought to be an outdated form of warfare to defeat an enemy showed the strength and agility of the U.S. military.

The memorial, it should be noted is the first memorial dedicated to members of our special forces that will be open to the public, was dedicated in 2011. It initially was placed at Brookfield Place and then shunted next to the One World Trade Center but behind a construction fence. So I’m thankful that it’s in a better spot.

The view will give visitors a new perspective of the memorial but also give residents a place to get away from the hubbub of the memorial below.

A worthy alternative indeed.