Underground Fun

I am more than a little disappointed by some of my fellow NYC residents’ whinings on the radio over the glass and mosaic installation soon to be unveiled at the South Ferry Subway stop this spring. I know it’s expensive, and the MTA is going bankrupt, but we have *really* lost our souls when we stop giving a shit about public art.

My parents were in town this weekend (yay parents! yay culinary adventures!), and I was kind of surprised that they wanted to travel on buses instead of zipping around underneath the busy streets. “But we want to see the city,” they insisted, so I sat on the M1, the M5, the M15, and the B38 like a dutiful daughter. All this bus riding, along with the GP Junior kids’ investigation of the NYC underground got me thinking about my favorite subterranean spots:

  1. The underground mural in the 7/BDFV passageway from 5th to 6th Avenue– the Joyce quotes mixed with nursery rhymes layered over the gilded mosaic makes even the most jaded commuters glance up and take notice. The first summer I lived in New York, that stretch of tunnel made me proud to be a part of the city.
  2. The advertising space in the Times Square station between 7th and 8th Avenues– It’s a pretty neat template for creative marketing. It’s nothing really special, but this winter it ranked in my favorite places in the city for a few months. HBO, those darn geniuses (genii?) turned it into an interactive space by creating the. coolest. ad. ever. What seemed like innocuous street photos of the city had little microphone jacks with people telling their “secrets” as they went about their ordinary lives. Brilliant. People really did stop, stick in their headphones, and pay attention. Couples shared a set of earphones, people laughed, pointed, talked amongst themselves. I don’t care if it made anyone watch the show–it was a fantastic concept. I was pissed that I was late for a meeting, otherwise I would have stayed to linger.
  3. The Fashion Institute at the Met–You feel so special just having found the damn thing in the midst of sarcophogi, and then it’s filled with fashion!
  4. Oyster Bar–Old School classic NYC: alternately rude and chatty waiters, oysters from around the globe, made to order stews, dirty martinis. All it’s missing is Don Draper in a trench.

Sure, the MTA needs to fix up the outer borough trains, get its finances in order and build the mythical 2nd Avenue Subway, but let’s give them a break with the art. We need it.

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