Thursday, April 26, 2007

Brooklyn Subway #1: Ode to Smith-Ninth St.


Those who ride the F or (God Bless You) the G train in South Brooklyn know the glories of the Smith-9th Street Station, which at about ten stories, is the highest station in the New York City system. And, if you don't know what it is, and have glimpsed it, you've probably asked, "What the hell is that?" It's simply that (a) awful or (b) impressive, depending on how you view it. In any case, we found the following verbiage on a blog called Faith in Fiction. We think it's pretty cool, so we're doing some copying and pasteage of an excerpt:
White ceramic pieces are set against square aquamarine tiles. These tiles make the station logo. It reads SMITH 9TH ST. More tiles, these ones rectangular and mint green, border the sign. Parts of the mosaic are chipped, as if bullets hit them, and the glaze on some of the lower tiles is peeling off like the kind of nail polish I used to get at the toy store, in those safe-for-kids cosmetic kits.

The cast iron platform is rusting, and the whole thing might look better if the weather would just finish stripping the white paint off of it. The electrical piping is rusting; the white chain link around the otherwise open, glassless windows is rusting. Even I’m rusting, just standing here, waiting for the train.

You’d think with the Ikea store that just opened in Red Hook (sic), this old train station would get a little bit of love. But I guess that’s not how things work. Maybe if Brooks Brothers and Saks and Cartier decided Red Hook was the place to be and moved their stores to this old shipping section of Brooklyn, maybe then this station would get a scrub-down.

But if that happened, the locals would gripe. We don’t mind the hike to the station, or the two flights of stairs and two escalators from the mezzanine to the platform. We don’t care that these long, almost-abandoned platforms feel as if they’ll tumble like Jericho if the right wind comes off New York Harbor. We all belong to this station, and this station belongs to us.

This stretch of the IND, all the way down to Coney Island, is aboveground, but it’s considered the subway. This station is 91 feet above street-level, and is the highest point on the IND. It was built in the 30s. The reason it’s so high up is because the Gowanus Canal passes under it, and the Gowanus Canal is a tall-mast shipping route. The Gowanus Canal stinks to the highest of heavens because the sewer treatment plant overflows on a regular basis, and the combined sewer outlets, when overworked, pour into the canal. One of my friends grew up down here, and in the summers, when the heat made the stink stink so bad that his breakfast threatened to make an encore appearance all over his secondhand Air Jordans, he would run as fast as he could to get from one side of the canal to the other without inhaling.

I’ve learned to breathe out of my mouth when I’m up here, and I don’t really remember what the canal smells like. Just that it’s awful.

You feel the train before you hear it, and you hear it before you see it. And the big, lit F with a circle around it screeches its brakes and you wonder if the train ever wishes it had wings so it could flap backwards the way big birds do when they’re landing too fast...
It's a fun piece, definitely to be read in its entirety.



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