Home Self Promotion Event Thursday: On the allure of the subway

Event Thursday: On the allure of the subway

by Benjamin Kabak

Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore will be hosting us at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Over the years I’ve run this site, one question often posted to me concerns its origins. How did I become so interested in transit policy and the New York City subways? I often talk about my formative years spent journeying to the Transit Museum with my parents, my interest in urban growth and development, and, of course, my love of good design and mapmaking. Put it all together, and out came Second Ave. Sagas.

Despite the frustrations New Yorkers often express toward the transit system, I’m not the only person who find the subways strangely alluring. From abandoned, half-built station shells to shuttered stations at 91st St. or the Romanesque Revival architecture on display at City Hall, the mysteries of the subway system are more romantic and appealing than the day-to-day drudgery of riding the rails. Heading down that rabbit hole at LTVSquad is always dangerous.

This Thursday, I’ll be part of a panel talking openly about the appeal of the unknown underground. Hosted by urban explorer and author Moses Gates, the panel will take place at Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore at 7:30 p.m. Here is the official description:

New York City’s subways are an object of fascination for tourists, kids, commuters, city dwellers and urban explorers alike. What is it that makes those 722 miles of track and train cars so interesting? Tonight’s discussion of the appeal of the subway will be hosted by Moses Gates, author of the new book Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises. He’ll talk with Eric Ruggiero, an explorer and photographer from New York City; Benjamin Kabak, the proprietor of the popular subway blog “Second Avenue Sagas”; and Stefanie Gray, transit campaign coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, and the latest person to attempt to break the record for quickest trip through the entire subway system. Join us to share the obsession and learn some subway secrets from some serious urban adventurers with discussion, images and video.

Join us for an intriguing discussion on the hidden world all around us. I can’t tell you how to get into the South 4th St. shell, but I can certainly tell you why everyone wants to see it.

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Bolwerk March 26, 2013 - 2:30 pm

I’d love to see a panel on indifferent/contempt for the subway: why so many people feel threatened by it, why it can’t grow, and why it isn’t taken seriously by officials.

Benjamin Kabak March 26, 2013 - 3:44 pm

That’s a great idea and a completely different panel. Let me see if I can figure out a way to get that into reality. Who would you envision speaking on such a panel?

Bolwerk March 26, 2013 - 5:14 pm

Personally, I’d like to hear perspectives from social psychology, sociology, and maybe economics. These are the areas with the expertise to comprehend inertia. FWIW, this does seem like a rather virgin ground for research, so maybe just getting some academics and journalists with interests in transport together to throw ideas out wouldn’t be the worst way to begin.

Who specifically is hard and speaks to the problem: why the hell aren’t academics at Columbia, NYU,* and CUNY interested in something so pressing in their own back yard? What does Russianoff’s operation say about this subject? Anything at all? A cursory EBSCO search seems to confirm my suspicion that most of the people interested in these issues are in Europe and Asia.

Well, I’ll be happy to see if I can dig up some local talent in journals if you want. I actually got the rest of the week off.

* Komanoff?

SEAN March 26, 2013 - 3:17 pm


You might have some interest in city building simulation games. Currently there are two such products…

1. Sim City http://www.cimcity.com. Released on March 5, this game has recieved a huge amount of press coverage when the online servers crashed. $60

Cities XL http://www.citiesxl.com This game from Focus Home Entertainment is somewhat similar to Sim City, but doesn’t require a constant internet connection to function. $30

JMB March 26, 2013 - 7:11 pm

The simcity games are definitely the biggest influence I had growing up in respect to city development…with my favorite aspect being the transit/transportation planning. The games really drive home the fact that in order to have a very large and successful city, one must plan it based heavily on your transit system (funny how a game gets this yet the politic at large does not).

In any event, if Ben hasn’t played either of the games you mentioned (I found XL to be a poor imitation tbh), I would recommend he try out SimCity4 rather the new one (server issues aside, I find the new version doesn’t capture fully what made the older ones so great).


John Telesca March 26, 2013 - 10:40 pm

I read some blurbs of Moses Gates’s book and it looks fascinating (such as the Nevins Street lower level photos), but I hope he knows by now that the “presidential” car at GCT is just an old baggage car, and that’s about it to the story.

SA March 27, 2013 - 12:33 am

This sounds interesting. I also find it very alluring. I’m going to try to stop by to see it. It would be good to see if other people could also contribute to the conversation.

Matthias March 27, 2013 - 9:33 am

Wish I had known about this sooner! Definitely wish I could make it.

MaximusNYC March 30, 2013 - 7:19 pm

Went to the event — it was great! Thanks for being part of it, and letting us know about it.


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