Today is the 100th birthday of New York City’s subway system. While I am snapped out of my occasional, OK regular, frustrations with the subway only by a recognition that it has held up well for its age, I do have a sense of comfort every time I stand on a platform late at night. For me, it’s one of the city’s true social spaces where some image of unity without conformity is played out daily.
“Paul Schneider, 24, a headhunter from TriBeCa, was getting off the 6 at Canal Street, along the route of the original subway line that ran from the old City Hall station through Midtown and up to 145th Street. Though his daily routine has blurred his appreciation of the great institution through which he travels, he grew almost patriotic when thinking about the landmark the subway would reach the next day.
‘It epitomizes New York City,’ he said, and then added, taking in the station, ‘Look at all the trash people throw around. They wouldn’t do that in an old church.’
As midnight approached last night at the Jamaica yard, a tower operator, Marianne Kreuter, was ending her shift. She was pulling the big levers in the room overlooking the yard, preparing to send trains out into a new century. ‘It’s like choreographing a ballet,’ Ms. Kreuter said as she flipped the switches on the control panel. ‘And you can call me Georgette Balanchine.'”