Day 21 | New York, subways and the Met

Meeting at the Bowling Green Park we trekked from the World Trade Centre to meet with our guide, Gary for a tour of the underground. This walking route took us past the NYSE and Wall St. There is a new pedestrian area designated outside the exchange and that has a fenced area with Police about. There is also the 'charging bull' statue that represents the growing market and a bit of a tourist draw. There was a professional photographer and client trying to get access and looking very frustrated. 

We waited for Gary and noted the many warnings that transport may be difficult today as there is voting going on and lots of extra people on the move and some making additional trips to vote during work. The city is busy but it seems to be busy all the time. We passed a polling booth on the way and it seemed to be full of people but so do a lot of things. We were meeting outside the old Government House- built as the Presidential office in 1790 but it was never used for this. It’s pretty snazzy. 

Gary found us and started explaining the history of the many starts and the competition for the various system that only recently has been unified by a single organisation, now a part of the State. This final situation was in part due to changing regulation and externally enforced price freezes resulting in bankruptcy. This was just the latest in a long history of reluctant investment, real estate speculation, union standover and corrupt government officials. We then took to the rails to see some of the relics that are still in use in the system. 

Many of the existing stations were expanded to take longer trains and some smaller stations were abandoned. One that can still be passed through has stained glass skylights and details just out in the near dark. Some have parts or shops that were privately owned or subject to some legal action so stuck in limbo. The older stations have these big pictorial ceramics and some were remodelled and reflect those times. Some of the major technical safety mechanisms have proven themselves and most rapid transit systems include the features trialled here. The tour showed us a few places we hadn’t been to (not hard) and explained a few things we didn’t know (again, not hard). We ended up at Grand Central Terminal in midtown which is a remarkable station. Gary explained it is the best that it has been in his lifetime (he’s in his 50’s) due to that lack of maintenance by the private owners fighting the protection order on it. 

We then decided to take in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET), one short confident subway trip away. Of course one wrong turn in Grand Central results in a lot of walking and we did a couple of those before making it to 86th Street station and started to the Met. It is a massive collection in an awesome building. There is some confusing sham about entry donation (suggested $25) which is not ridiculous given the volume and quality of the collections but the confusing terminology that stems from a leasing agreement with the City that forbids entry fee collection. 

Hoping to outrun rush hour and the election stampede (you have to be queued by 8 pm to be counted) we elected for a taxi drive to World Trade which was pleasant. We went east and all the way around the coast on FDR Drive. The cabs, of course, drive like they are being chased and it is usually entertaining as they squeeze and bully their way around. We had a treat as the sun set on the big bridges across the East River (Queensboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn) as we jostled 10 km down Manhattan to the World Trade Centre. 


Rosie – Gary, the most entertaining train-nut you’ll encounter

Angus – grungy subway history