New York : 10 subway stations a must see

Underground in Manhattan, most often above ground elsewhere, the New York subway transports 5.6 million passengers a day. With 425 stations it ranks as number one worldwide. Take the time to stop at these stations…

Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station

On Crocodile Dundee, It’s at the Columbus Circle subway station that the final scene unfolds, in which Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) declares her love to Crocodile Dundee (Paul Hogan) in the middle of the crowd. But in reality, the scene was shot at the Hoyt-Schmerhorn station.

On Vinyl, to get to America Century Records offices, Jamie Vine (Juno temple) goes via this subway station.  She exchanges her bag with an identical one belonging to a dealer.

A veritable short film (18’) that Martin Scorsese directed for Michael Jackson’s BAD.  The King of Pop plays Daryl, a brilliant student coming back home to Harlem where he soon gets chastised by his friends – starring Wesley Snipes – curious to see if he’s still a bad boy.  The setting for their reunion is on 122nd St, between Frederick Douglass Blvd and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Ave.  To prove that indeed he is still a bad boy, “MJ” goes into the practically deserted Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway station, in Brooklyn, but changes his mind before beating up on somebody.  One of the scenes from The Wiz, the film of his debut in cinema in 1978, was filmed at the same spot.

At the time of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, a member of the New York City Council suggested renaming the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in honor of the King of Pop, who had filmed the clip for BAD here. The suggestion was turned down by the MTA, the governing body, and so the station has kept the name of the two streets it serves.

62 Street Station

On The French Connection, starting out at the Bay 50 St Station, the memorable train-and-car chase scene ends at the top of the aerial train station steps.  The scene required five weeks of shooting and ends with the death of the villainous Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bossuffi), killed by detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman).

New York and the above ground subway, an image fixed in the collective imagination. To experience it, you have to move away from Manhattan. Why not to Brooklyn, going towards Coney Island? Take a break here and you’ll discover a very photogenic place.

Old City Hall Station

On Fantastic Beasts And where to find them, the historical City Hall station, open in 1904, was recreated in a studio for the final combat scene and the discovery of who is Grindelwald. Closed since 1945 when trains were getting longer and needed bigger platforms, it is, however, still possible to see it today.  To do that, take Line 6 to the terminus “Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall”. Don’t get off the subway. After a short pause, the train will do a u-turn in this exquisite abandoned station that you can marvel at.

Feel like a trip back in time? There’s a little trick to discover this magnificent Art Deco Station closed since 1945. At the terminus of line 6, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, stay in the car if they let you. The conductors usually don’t mind but nothing obliges them to do so. The train will then turn around in this secret and magnificent place.

Lexington Ave Subway Grate

On The Seven Year Itch, While Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) is taking a walk with the gorgeous blond played by Marilyn Monroe, her skirt is blown up by a draft through the grate as a subway passes underneath. As we mention in our Guide New York of 1000 cult movie, series, music, comics, novel locations, this mythical scene in worldwide cinema contributed to the end of her marriage with Joe DiMaggio, furious to see his wife on display like this. Even though the scene started here, it finally finished in another location.  Having found out that filming was taking place at this precise spot, a lot of noisy fans hurried here to gaze at the star. After several failed takes, the director, Billy Wilder, finally decided to film this sequence in a studio. Ladies, look out for the drafts!

Astor Place Station

On New York State Of Mind, Billy Joel wrote this song upon his return from Los Angeles where he had lived for three years.  As for the inspiration, it came from a Greyhound bus along the Hudson River - the Hudson River line, however, is a poetic invention.  The song is from Turnstiles, an album illustrated by a photo taken by the subway turnstiles in Astor Place Station.  According to Billy Joel, each of the characters on the cover was supposed to represent a particular song.

Listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places, Astor Place is one of the 28 original subway stations. There are lots of oddities, starting with the former ladies washroom converted into a newspaper kiosk. Take a look too at the ceramic tiles showing beavers: John J. Astor, after whom the station is named, made a fortune in the beaver fur trade.

Atlantic Av Station

On My My Metrocard, Winning ticket for the feminist punk-rock group Le Tigre. In this catchy piece, the subway comes to a stop at Atlantic Ave and Christopher St.  The frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and the guitarist Johanna Fateman lived in Manhattan, the keyboarder JD Samson in Williamsburg.

This station is one of the better preserved of those targeted for renovation by the Dual Contracts, a vast subway construction and rehabilitation plan adopted in 1913. The woodwork and ironwork are original.

Delancey St Station

In The Fine Art of Self Destruction, on the cover of his first studio release, Jesse Malin is leaning against a wall of the Delancey St subway station.  The rocker with the scragged hairdo does have fusion in his ideas as the album contains the song Riding on the Subway. The clip stages the native from Flushing, wearing a Billy Joel tee-shirt, singing in a train car and on the subway platforms, in particular at the Queensboro Plaza station.

The Delancey St subway station houses very beautiful mosaics, work of the Chinese artist Ming Fay. One of them, called “Delancey Orchard”, shows cherry trees: the Delancey family had a farm with an orchard in the region. Another, “Shad Crossing”, is dedicated to American Shad, a fish that is found in the Hudson River.

169th St Station

In Rebel Without a Cause, proponents of a hardcore rap that was musically and politically revolutionary, the three companions of Public Enemy pose on the station platform at 169th St on the cover of the single. The title begins with a sampling from Jesse Jackson:  “Brothers and Sisters, I don’t know what this world is coming to!”  When hearing the recording for the first time, Chuck D. is supposed to have declared that he could die now.

The black letters stand out on the white tiles: “Do not jump”. A very useful warning given how narrow the stairs are in the 169th street station.

5 Av / 53rd St Station

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. put Simon & Garfunkel on the road to success.  On the cover of their first album, the duo are standing on the subway station platform at 5th Ave/53rd St.  Art Garfunkel confided years later that several hundred shots taken on this occasion turned out to be useless due to an inscription on the background wall.  An inscription which inspired Paul Simon to write A Poem on the Underground Wall.

“Subway Riders”: this oil painting by Ralph Fasanella, dating from the 50s, has been hanging since 1996 in the station at 5thAve and 53rdSt. It’s rare anywhere in the world to see artwork permanently on display in a public transport system. Fasanella, a self-taught painter born in the Bronx, is known for his works showing urban life.

149th St-Grand Concourse Station

In The Get Down, the bench seen in the 149th-Grand Concourse station is part of Bronx heritage and called the “Writer’s Bench”.  It’s here that the graffiti artists of the 70s used to get together, set out to do “fieldwork” or just watch the trains go by covered with graffiti and admire the work of others.  Today the metros are not covered in graffiti but a plaque does recount the history of this bench.

The 70s and 80s were the golden age of graffiti and subway art in New York. The aerosol kings got together on writers’ benches to compare their piece books, but also and foremost to watch the freshly painted trains go by and comment on the work of their fellow artists (an activity known as benching). The bench at the 149thSt Grand Concourse station was the most famous and the gathering point for graffiti artists from the four corners of the city; a commemorative plaque recounts this bit of history.

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