It is out with the new and in with the old at the South Ferry station.
Built in 1905, the old platform station was built higher above ground and suffered less damage from Hurricane Sandy than the new station.
The century-old station has been closed since the new South Ferry Station opened in 2009, but was pressed into service last week to accommodate the more than 10,000 daily riders in Lower Manhattan whose commutes were disrupted after the new South Ferry station suffered massive flooding from Sandy.
“You had to wait or you had to switch at another station,” said Laurie Ferrari of Tottenville, Staten Island. “Here you can just grab the 1 (train) and go.”
Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers quickly began work on restoring lighting and repainting station walls after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that service on the 1 line would be restored in Lower Manhattan.
“As MTA New York City Transit assessed the extent of damage to the new South Ferry station, it became clear that the time necessary to repair it would be too long a period to deny our customers a direct link to lower Manhattan,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas F. Prendergast in a press release.
Riders who normally took the 1 to or from South Ferry station had to walk four blocks to the nearest 1 line stop on Rector Street, or two blocks west to the 4/5 Bowling Green station. The rush of commuters to the 4/5 lines packed subway cars, with people often fending off others to cram onto the trains during rush hour.
“Having to walk to the 5 train was very inconvenient, especially during the cold weather,” said Gary Dennis of West Brighton, Staten Island.
The recently refurbished South Ferry station that underwent a $545 million renovation and expansion was inundated by Sandy’s storm surges that filled 15 million gallons of salt water into the station, coating walls with a blue-green residue and corroding switch boards, relay switches and circuit breakers. Two window panels on the mezzanine level were also blown out onto the tracks.
Trains began pulling into the station as of 5 a.m. Thursday morning, and include a new connection point between the new station mezzanine and the old South Ferry station, allowing transfers between the 1 train and the R train’s Whitehall Street station.
MTA officials estimate it will take at least two years and cost $600 million to fully restore the South Ferry station. Sandy caused nearly $5 billion in damages to New York subways, according to the MTA. (http://).
Until recently, no one had really heard of Victoria Hunter McKenzie. But she—and her now infamous MetroCard oil paintings—just got a huge media boost.
“Initially, I had left the magnetic strip visible and the little strip of color that says ‘Please insert this way,’” said McKenzie of the East Village. “Nothing else was visible. But I had included a photograph of what it looked like before I painted it. “
As misappropriated use of MetroCards and other transit materials has become increasingly common, MTA officials have had more run-ins with artists like McKenzie.
Peter Drake, Dean of the New York Academy of the Arts, or the NYAA, said the first artist he knew to paint on MetroCards was NYAA student Imogen Slater.
Slater, 33, came to New York from England in 2009 to earn her graduate degree in painting from the NYAA.
“I was given an assignment to paint a series of small paintings and I wanted to do something different. In my family we have a tradition of not using things for the purpose for which they were designed,” Slater said. “I collected some [cards] from subway floors and staircases on my way home. With that surface, I made a series of self-portraits that I presented at NYAA, which then became the inspiration for the MetroCard art show.”
Lower East Side gallery Sloan Fine Art hosted Single Fare 2 in March, the second annual exhibit of artworks done on MetroCards featuring more than 2,000 submissions.
“It’s come up and blown over in a sense,” said Drake of concerns about MTA. “The MTA was getting a lot of attention; people were writing about them. People saw the MetroCard as kind of a metaphor for the self…there are thousands of them, billions of people. It was a nice way to build a community.”
Drake said MTA never bothered him about the exhibit since he marketed the show as “selling art that is on or on top of or built out of MetroCards.”
The same could not be said for McKenzie. Three weeks ago, she received a letter from MTA that indicated her work infringed on its copyrighted intellectual property. The letter—signed by an intern at the corporation’s marketing department—stated MTA believed her work made inappropriate use of the MetroCard brand and logo.
The letter read: “The MTA has a well-established product licensing program which markets authorized versions of such products. While we have no record of your firm requesting or being granted such authorization, we are prepared to initiate discussions with you about acquiring a license from us.”
Panicked by the accusations, McKenzie removed all MetroCard-related items from her website. She later reposted the MetroCard paintings yet removed a “before picture” showing an unpainted card. McKenzie also avoided all occurrences of the word “MetroCard,” opting instead for phrasing such as “New York transit card,” and included a legal disclaimer indicating that her work is in no way endorsed by MTA.
The coverage ironically sparked her first business sale.
“I only had 18 made,” McKenzie said of her subway card paintings, adding that she put them up for sale on Etsy.com. “People had ‘Liked’ them, but I hadn’t sold any until I blogged about it.”
McKenzie is a computer graphics artist for ABC News and considers art a side project. She thought the use of MetroCards would be an interesting new medium.
“I had been painting some New York iconography, New York water towers, and thought, well, I’ll do a series of these on the MetroCard, you know, icon on icon,” she said. “Someone buys a painting of New York and they get a little piece of New York.”
Sabina Sosa discovered McKenzie’s work when she read about her conflict with MTA.
“It was on Facebook via the New York Post newsfeed. I watched her video interview and was outraged,” Sosa said. She purchased two of VH McKenzie’s transit card paintings for $48 plus $2 shipping. “What I liked was it was different and familiar at the same time. When you’re done with a MetroCard, it’s garbage but Victoria made it into a miniature masterpiece.”
John Breznicky, a New York City artist who also use Etsy.com to sell poster-sized abstractions of a subway map, received a warning notification from MTA similar to that of McKenzie’s.
“I was initially contacted by an intern at the MTA requesting that I remove my listing immediately because I might be infringing on MTA copyrights,” Breznicky said. “I did not comply because I knew we had not used any MTA branding, logos, designs, etc. and I knew that our design had been changed significantly from the actual NYC subway map.”
Breznicky revised his Etsy listing to exclude the words “MTA” or “New York City subway” and has not been contacted again by MTA.
McKenzie said Mark Heavey, MTA Chief of Marketing and Advertising, told her the issue was not that she painted the cards, but that she used the MTA logo in her marketing.
She has not heard from MTA since the revision of her site, The Night Shift. McKenzie sold all of her transit card art and has been commissioned to paint more.
Delays and schedule changes can make the underground commute frustrating for New York straphangers.
Thankfully, a new iPhone app may mean those daily pains are a thing of the past.
Alex Bell, a graduate student at Columbia University, developed SubwayArrival, a free app that uses crowd-sourced data to track the trains live. Users can predict when the train will arrive at the nearest station, saving them a long wait on the platform.
Unlike other apps that rely on published schedules, Bell said SubwayArrival can still provide accurate data when delays occur—something that might save the MTA millions in infrastructure costs.