The color photos in this piece provide a fantastic window into the history of Manhattan’s east side.
It’s been over twenty years since the New York subway system has increased its capacity by adding a new station or extending service. Two major expansion projects are currently under construction: the 7 line extension in Midtown West and the 2nd Avenue line — the T train and Q extension — that is to run from 125th Street to Hanover Square in a long-planned effort to reduce considerable congestion on the Lexington Avenue line (4, 5 and 6 trains). The financial and political challenges that constrain the MTA’s ability to respond to a constantly growing and changing city are well known. But what is less well known is the fact that we used to have a lot more public transit options than we do currently, especially on the east side of Manhattan. Both 2nd and 3rd Avenues had elevated rail lines that connected to Queens and the Bronx. These lines were run by private companies and, during the decades immediately following the consolidation of mass transit under public control, they were discontinued without viable plans to replace the capacity being reduced. And beyond their infrastructural utility in a growing city of commuters, the stations themselves were reflective of an era of civic architecture when materials and craftsmanship were sources of pride.
Today is Walker Evans’s birthday. If he was alive, he’s be an incredibly wise 108 year old.
See Evans’s “Subway Passengers” SFMOMA | Explore Modern Art | Our Collection | Walker Evans | [Subway Passengers, New York])