Home Straphangers Campaign Showcasing decay, one photo at a time

Showcasing decay, one photo at a time

by Benjamin Kabak

I snapped the above photo three years ago yesterday while waiting for a train at 7th Ave. along the Culver Line. Since 2008, the physical situation at that station has not improved. Although crews have been working hard on the Culver Viaduct, just down the line, the popular Park Slope station that serves F and G train riders has been in a state of constant decay, and it is not alone amongst the system’s stations.

Earlier this week, Transportation Alternatives and the Straphangers Campaign announced a contest. The winner will receive a free 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard. All you have to do is snap photos of the subway and bus system. As the group said, the rules are simple. Anyone can submit up to three photos in each of their two categories: Good Transit Scene or Bad Transit Scene.

The categories are, in fact, self explanatory. Good Transit Scenes depict “the life and energy of the subway or bus system. Bad Transit Scenes are akin to the ones above. Those photos are supposed to show “conditions on the subways or buses that need fixing, such as drips or broken lighting.” I can only imagine which category will receive more entries.

The entry form is available on the Straphangers’ website, and the contest runs until 4 p.m. on Friday, June 10. “Public transit is a defining element of New York City life–over 54 percent of New York City households do not own a car and over 70 percent take public transit to commute to work,” Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said. “This contest will shine a spotlight on an essential aspect of New Yorkers’ everyday lives and highlight the real-world consequences of funding cuts.”

On its own, this contest is a clever idea to get us to think about our surroundings. We’ll see plenty of photographs of great views, trains passing overhead and Arts for Transit installations. But we’ll also see conditions that make us cringe. We’ll see mold-infested stations with crumbling ceilings, staircases with holes in them and rusted metal. We’ll see water-stained walls without tiles and stations covered in trash. We’ll see a system sagging under its own weight.

At the same time though, this contest serves as a reminder that photography in the subway is permitted. The Straphangers had to remind folks of that truth by linking to Section 1050.9(3) of New York City Transit’s Rules of Conduct. Yet, countless people are stopped by cops and MTA employees who believe photography in the subway is not allowed.

Finally, the Straphangers do plan to present these photos to the MTA once they are all compiled. The authority is, of course, well aware of the state of its infrastructure, but the Bad Transit Scenes will serve as a stark reminder of the widespread nature of the decay. Maybe if the right person in Albany sees the photos, they’ll be motivated enough to ask the right questions and produce results. I can dream, at least.

You may also like


Alex C May 18, 2011 - 12:15 am

It’s sad to me that the funding wasn’t allocated (or planned) to renovate the four underground stations south of the viaduct and maybe clean-up Bergen. The viaduct service changes provided the perfect time to renovate the stations.

Peter May 18, 2011 - 11:37 am

Yes! With all service routed onto the express tracks, this would have been an ideal time to do much-needed tile/wall repairs at Seventh Ave and 15th Street (the Fort Hamilton Pkwy station, as far as I know, is in pretty good condition). When this work inevitably does occur, it’s going to require further station closures/reroutings and inconveniencing of customers.

I can appreciate the fact that it is logistically challenging to coordinate work like this, and that the MTA repair budget is stretched thin, but this seems like a glaring example of how the authority so often fails to work efficiently and intelligently.

John-2 May 18, 2011 - 12:03 pm

Considering how long it’s taken the MTA to re-tile other express platforms (59th-Columbus Circle comes to mind), they probably couldn’t have done much more than strip the old tile from the wall at Seventh Avenue during the time the local tracks were closed for the Culver viaduct repairs (you might think at least that’s a Step 1 in the rehab process, but when you look at how long it took the MTA to re-tile 4th Avenue and 86th Street on the R after they removed the tile from the side walls there, maybe no work at all is better than a partial job).

Peter May 18, 2011 - 1:16 pm

But the retiling of 59th-Columbus would have been confined to nights and weekends, while the local tracks remained in service during peak hours. The local tracks at 7th Ave and 15th St have been out of revenue service for months, meaning the tile work could have occurred continuously and, presumably, wrapped up much more quickly.

Peter May 18, 2011 - 8:07 am

The subway photography ban does, I believe, long predate Homeland Security Hysteria. Photography was originally banned in the subway because before fast film and digital photography, only flash photos were practical. Bright flashes could impair the vision of train operators, so photography was forbidden.

Bolwerk May 18, 2011 - 9:31 am

What ban? Photography is allowed in NYCTA facilities, AFAIK. It’s banned in PATH and I believe Amtrak bans it (ironically, after sponsoring photo contests on occasion).

Marsha May 18, 2011 - 8:40 am

A sure winner in Bad Transit Series is the front of the downtown #2/5 station at 149 Street. Every time I go home from a Yankee game I cringe while waiting for a train. That is the station where a few members of my family famously saw a family of rats strolling on the platform.

Matt May 18, 2011 - 1:57 pm

I can attest to this station. While transferring from the 4 to the 2/5 going uptown, walking down the stairs an old lady and I both caught a glimpse of a football-sized rat. I had been in the city for less than a month, and it changed me forever!

Victoria May 18, 2011 - 2:17 pm

I was ABOUT to say- they weren’t just any rats, they were chipmunk-sized rats. Football-sized works too.

Also, why would anyone think photography isn’t allowed? Why wouldn’t it be…?

James May 18, 2011 - 10:34 am

A couple of things… That 7th avenue station… HUGE! I’m not sure there’s another station in the system that spans an entire avenue (7th avenue to 8th avenue) with only one track line (well 2) running through it. So i can see how decay would happen. The size of the station seems unnecessary. There are also outdated Subway maps in the station’s long walkway that pre-date the G extension past Smith/9th from 7/5/09.

I live right off the 4th avenue/9th street stop and have enjoyed watching their progress. They’ve been pretty efficient and have made steady progress from what I’ve seen and seem to be on time with their 6/1 re-opening target date.

Peter May 18, 2011 - 11:41 am

The MTA has announced that local service will be restored to 15th St and Ft Hamilton Parkway on May 23 (http://www.mta.info/mta/news/r.....516-NYCT56). I would assume that has to coincide with the reopening of the 4th Ave Manhattan-bound platform, although based on the current state of that station I find it difficult to believe it will be ready in less than a week. They haven’t even begun installing the glass in the restored window.

Matt May 18, 2011 - 2:05 pm

They are separate. The N/B local service outage from Church to 7th is on the Church Ave Signal Modernization project (I work for the GC), while the 4th Ave outage is for the Culver Line Viaduct Rehabilitation.

Also starting on the 23rd the S/B express track will be out, so F trains will stop at 15th, Ft Hamilton (no biggie). This will be til October I believe.

And this weekend is gonna suck for travel if you’re dependent on the F/G this far South, fyi find another way.

Andrew May 22, 2011 - 8:21 am

They’re two separate contracts, but they share a single outage. There are no switches between 7th and 4th.

Larry Littlefield May 20, 2011 - 3:40 pm

A little history. That station was spruced up not once but more than once in the 1980s.

In fact, at a time when the system as a whole was in much worse shape than today, the money put into that station was a source of controversy. Critics accused the New York City Transit Authority (its name at the time) because its then President David Gunn lived nearby and always rode the subway.

Apparently the second fix worked about as well as the first. This station and Prospect Park 15th Street have big problems with water, despite being near the top of a hill. If you can’t solve the water problem, this will keep happening.

MTA upgrading parts at over 200 stations :: Second Ave. Sagas May 27, 2011 - 11:31 am

[…] funding, the state of its stations has come under the microscope. The Straphangers Campaign is hosting a photo contest featuring pictures that show decay (and beauty) while stations themselves are infested with mold. […]


Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy