The New York City subway system is the largest rapid transit system in the world by number of stations, with 468 stations in operation. The New York City Subway is also one of the world’s oldest public transit systems. Overall, the system contains 232 miles (373 km) of routes, translating into 656 miles (1,056 km) of revenue track, and a total of 842 miles (1,355 km) including non-revenue trackage. In 2013, the subway delivered over 1.71 billion rides,averaging approximately 5.5 million rides on weekdays, about 3.2 million rides on Saturdays, and about 2.6 million rides on Sundays. Sounds impressive, but New York City subway will impress you not only with it’s size but with a very large and diverse “collection” of art. Whether you’re a native New Yorker, a tourist or somewhere in between, you’ve likely noticed the assortment of artwork adorning the inside of many of the city’s train stations.
Let us tell you about some of them, within few blocks from The Cosmopolitan TriBeCa.The closest to the hotel subway station is Chambers St., it is located on the same block, right in front of The Cosmopolitan Hotel. Chambers St. subway station was opened on July 1, 1918, almost 97 years ago, and it has a group of art works “Oculus”. Oculus or Eye (1998) is the title of the artwork installed all over the Chambers Street/World Trade Center subway station complex. The centerpiece of the work is an elliptical glass and stone mosaic floor, with a magnificent micro mosaic eye at the center of an ultramarine vortex with the image of the City of New York woven into the picture. Created by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel, Oculus consists of 300 different mosaic eyes, all based upon actual human eyes taken from photographs. The project presents the eyes of three hundred individual New Yorkers translated from a photographic study conducted by Jones and Ginzel into stone mosaic by the classically trained Rinaldo Piras.
Another Art work on Chambers St. Station is a mystery mosaic .The mosaics are so dark and grimy, you can barely see them from the platform. But both the downtown and uptown tracks at the West Side Chambers Street station are lined with these images of the first building of Kings College (later Columbia University), founded in 1754 the school held classes around the corner from Chambers Street on Park Place.
Another noticeable art can be found on the walls of Fulton St. station, which was opened on July 1, 1948 and it’s the twelfth busiest station in the system, as of 2013, with 18,721,694 passengers. New York City has perhaps the greatest collection of marine art and maritime artifacts of any city in the world, with the possible exception of London. Eclectic collections available to the public can be viewed in museums throughout the city such as the Noble Collection in Staten Island, the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the City of New York, U.S.S. Intrepid, South Street Seaport and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Less well known, however, are some of the maritime memorials and art in public places that are ironically passed by thousands of people per day, but with little notice. Some examples are the Titanic Memorial at Fulton and Pearl Streets, the Merchant Marine Memorial in Battery Park, and General Slocum Memorial in Tompkins Square Park. Another important set of artifacts, origin unknown to most who view them, are six incomparable tile murals located in the subway station at Broadway and Fulton Street, commemorating the history of New York Harbor. These six works of art, known as the Marine Grill Murals, 1913, were created in 1912 by an American Artist named Frederick Dana Marsh (1872-1961) for the installation in the new McAlpin Hotel opening in 1913 at Broadway and 34th Street. When built, the McAlpin was one of the largest hotels in New York and instantly became a fashionable meeting place for visitors and shoppers around Herald Square. The hotel featured an elaborate basement restaurant that, when new, was named the Rathskeller but soon became more commonly known as the Marine Grill because of the twenty spectacular maritime murals, designed by Fred Marsh that graced its walls. In addition to the murals, the Marine Grill space was itself a profusion of arched tiled ceiling grottos separated within a forest of curved pillars all covered with tiles in various shades of terra cotta, brown, gold, red and green. It was indeed an architectural masterpiece with the murals as focal points. The McAlpin Hotel went through four name changes over the years until finally, in 1989, when way past its glory days, it was converted to co-op apartments and the Marine Grill was demolished. Six of the tile murals were thankfully preserved. In a joint effort by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmark Preservation Commission, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and an obscure group called the Friends of Terra Cotta, the shards of the Marsh murals were rescued from demolition and painstakingly reassembled much like giant jig saw puzzles by a group of art students. As part of the MTA’s Arts-For-Transit program, the restored murals were reinstalled in the mezzanine level of the Fulton/Broadway subway station during 2000. In 2010 they were relocated to the William Street entrance to the station where they remain on display passed by thousands of people a day who know little of their origin.
Of course we had to mention one of the most mysterious subway stations in the whole NYC transit system. Brooklyn Bridge City Hall is well known for its abandoned platform. Opened in 1904, the old City Hall station with its beautiful architecture and curved platform was intended to be a showpiece of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company’s (IRT) new subway line. It was also the chosen place for hanging the commemorative plaques dedicated to those who designed, built and financed the underground train system. The station was closed just a few decades later in 1945 because its curved platform wasn’t able to accommodate the IRT’s newer, longer cars. Today, the subway stop still remains closed but you can get a quick glimpse of the platform by taking the 6 train past its last stop at Brooklyn Bridge. For those who want a full-blown tour, you can become a member of the MTA Transit Museum to access the City Hall station.
Unfortunately a new version of City Hall station is not as glorious as the original one but you can still find few art woks there, “Buildings, Boats and a Bridge” is a group of wall tiles art, was installed under the sponsorship of MTA Arts for Transit and the Studio in a School Association. It was created by the students of Manhattan Academy of Technology and The Clinton Hill School in Manhattan under the directions of artists/teachers Beth Hausman and Lyn Riccardo.
Another art piece is Cable Crossing, which was created in 1996 by Mark Gibian.This cabling exists along the roof of the main station entrance beneath a grate with some little glass cubes letting natural light down into the station, and form the fences between the areas within and outside of fare control where there no turnstiles. It is a tribute to the innovative cabling used on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Let’s move to another station with an interesting art. Franklin Street Subway Station was opened on July 1, 1918. Many years later, in the mid-1990s. it’s platforms were renovated,with a particularly speckled marble that gives interesting shadows.The mosaic bands and panels were kept during the renovation, which saw the original wall tile replaced. There are “Franklin Street” large mosaics, small “F” mosaics and directional mosaics “To Franklin St.” and “To North Moore St.” But the center art piece of this station is “Alleyways, TriBeCa” which was created in 2005 by Susan Leopold, This artwork is inside the windows of where the newsstand is on the opposite platform it looks homemade, not a durable mosaic like most installations on the MTA, and a little homemade sign directs people to the artist’s website consisting of two single photographs with mirrors and lights that create in the large central skylight of the new head house.
It is very unusual art work, different from common tile plaques, paintings or metal installations , but that’s the beauty of NYC , you can find something you have never seen and will never see anywhere else in the world.
So, Now you just have to see it all with your own eyes. Enjoy!