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The Underground New Year's Party a Century in the Making

The Second Avenue Subway represented another inversion of your typical subway experience: a shining example of government doing something big and cool and modern.

by ALEX PASTERNACK
Jan 5 2017, 3:22pm

The New York City subway is the lifeblood of the city, outgoing MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said the other night—that is, the sort of circulatory system that people tend to move through, drift through like blood cells (5,650,610 each weekday, to be precise), not a place they move  to. On New Year's Eve, it was the opposite: six stories down was the figurative height of urban accomplishment, a gleaming destination unto itself. The crazy idea of launching the Second Avenue Subway at a New Year's Eve party inside a subway station—of launching the subway at all, on deadline—was Governor Cuomo's, said the governor, who was standing on a dais above a crowd of well-dressed revelers and not far from a black sign hanging on the wall that said, miraculously, in white Helvetica letters, "72 STREET. 24 HOUR BOOTH."

"I said to my family, I said, 'You know how about this for an idea? We have a New Year's Eve party in the new subway station.' And they gave me that look, like you know, 'There's crazy Dad again!' But, I said, 'This is unlike any subway station you've ever seen. You look at this mezzanine level, which subway stations normally don't have. It's open, it's airy. You look at the public art that is in all these stations, it is amazing." Here, the walls were decorated with amusing, live-size mosaic portraits of everyday New Yorkers by artist Vic Muniz, including one of a couple of bulky, bearded Brooklynites holding hands. Cuomo did not mention that, nor did he acknowledge another obvious amazement: the station was litter-free, with not a rat in sight.

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