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New York Subway Aesthetics: '14th Street – Eighth Avenue'

Leonid Rayevsky

journalist, travel guide and guide


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Inspired by the legends of the imperial grandeur of the homeland, the spirit and luxury of the architecture, decoration and variety of finishing materials of the Moscow metro, our compatriots traditionally treated the New York Subway with a certain prejudice and disdain. Fitting in the slogan: "dirty, rusty and thundering." However, as time passed, the metro became much cleaner, the rust was removed or replaced, and the grinding at the corners of the outer lines began to be regarded as a reminder of the upcoming replacements of the main lines. With the hope that soon it will seem only a nostalgic memory of the difficulties of developing a great country and a legendary city. And then many decorative decorations of its stations may be lost. So, it's time to remind you of the most interesting of them. Today we will stop with you at the subway station located at the intersection of 14th Street and 8th Avenue.

Here and below, the photo of the author is used (unless otherwise indicated in the signature)

About 14th street

It is well known that even the first master plan for the development of Manhattan, adopted in 1811, provided for the construction of 155 streets, the number of which later increased to 228. But even among this abundance, 14 the street, for a long time, occupied a special place in the history of the city. The fact is that, according to the master plan, it was planned to start streamlining the development and selling new plots from it in a northerly direction, and it was to be the first street in the city with a width of 30 meters (100 feet). At the same time, it was along 14th Street that the dividing line between Lower Manhattan and Midtown passed. Nevertheless, like all the streets of Manhattan, it was divided into West and East in the 5th Avenue area.

The western section began at junction 11 at the Hudson Riverfront, northeast of Greenwich Village. It then continued east, intersecting with Washington Street, Ninth Avenue/Hudson Street, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, Sixth, and Fifth Avenues. West 14th Street then becomes East 14th Street and forms the southern boundary of Union Square between University Place and Fourth Avenue. East of Fourth Avenue, 14th Street, forming the southern end of Irving Place, intersects with Third Avenue and continues to the intersection with Second Avenue. At First Avenue, 14th Street widens to a six-lane divided by a boulevard with a westbound driveway. Then it intersects with the main transport arteries of Alphabet City: Avenue A, Avenue B and Avenue C, where it ends. By the first half of the 14th century, XNUMXth Street was considered one of the most famous and prestigious streets in the city.

After all, it was here that the famous Tammany Hall was located, which for a long time played a leading role in the political life of New York, and was widely known in connection with the events related to the corruption scandal of William M. "Boss" Tweed. The famous theater district of New York, its music academy, also shone here. and an opera house. An echo of this fame was the Palladium, an old cinema where famous rock concerts were held back in the 1960s.

231 E 14th St. Italian Center

It was in these places that the first settlements of “Little Italy” were born, the popularity of which is reminded by the preserved facade of the headquarters of the Italian Union of Sewing Women.

140 E 14th St. synagogue building

And on the site of the current Israel Town and Village Synagogue, the first German Baptist center once flaunted, and then the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, as the city grew, all the "significant" services and facilities moved north, to the upper part of the city, and 14th Street lost all its glamor and status, now turning into the city's traditional shopping thoroughfare. Densely populated by day and lively at night, ready to offer you a wide and varied selection of food, culinary, entertainment and transport services all year round. The main type of which is undoubtedly the subway.

14th Street Subway Stations

It should be noted that the situation with the 14th street stations in the city cannot be considered ordinary. And although all over the world, and even in New York itself, we observe similar situations (say, with stations 34 or 42 streets), nevertheless, every time we must try to find an explanation for the legitimacy of what happened. Here, the origins should be sought in the existence of that same master plan for the development of the city from 1811, thanks to which the city abandoned the ring building with radial streets running away from the main squares. That is why the Manhattan subway scheme received a “trunk” look, with various side “branches” branching off from them in different directions.

Roughly, we can assume that there are five underground "trunks" at the subway in the central part of Manhattan. First a large horizontal highway that crosses them on top is 14th street, the length of which equals two miles (3.25 km). In order to properly solve the problem of passenger traffic for metro customers, it would be most logical to arrange the appropriate entrances to it (and stations) at the intersection of the 14th street projection underground with each of its "stem" tunnels. That is exactly what was done. Considering that in the Union Square area it was possible to implement a common interchange station, we got four stations here with the same names "14 St". To make it clear how to find the required one among them, it was decided to add additional information to the name about the nearest Avenue that crosses 14th Street. This is how the names of the stations 14 St - 8 Av, 14 St - 7 Av, 14 St - 6 Av and 14 St - Union Square appeared.

The largest of them - station 14th Street - Union Square, includes BMT Broadway Line (R, W, N, Q), BMT Canarsie Line (L) and IRT Lexington Avenue Line (4, 5, 6). The station is located at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and 14th Street, under Union Square in Manhattan. The Lexington Avenue line platforms were built for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) as an express station on the city's first subway line, which opened on October 27, 1904—one of the first planned 28 New York City subway stations. The Broadway Line platforms opened in 1917 and the Canarsie Line platform in 1924. Over the years, their stations have undergone several modifications, and July 1, 1948 were merged. The complex was finally renovated in the 1990s and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Station 14th Street/Sixth Avenue is an underground complex of New York City subway stations in the Chelsea district of Manhattan on the IRT Broadway lines – Seventh Avenue Line (1, 2, 3), BMT Canarsie Line (L) and IND Sixth Avenue Line (B, D, F, M). It is located on 14th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. This complex provides access to the PATH station at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue. To the station 14th Street/Seventh Avenue from it there is a direct underground passage; and to get between this complex and the northbound PATH platform, you must first get to street level.

Station 14th Street-Eighth Avenue- it is an underground complex of New York City subway stations shared by the IND Eighth Avenue Line (A, C, E) and the BMT Canarsie Line (L). It is located at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, with accessible entrance to the station from 14th Street. The Eighth Avenue Station of the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) Canarsie Line opened on May 30, 1931, and was the last station to open on the Canarsie Line. And the general station at 14th Street opened on September 10, 1932, as part of the initial segment of the city's independent subway system (IND), the Eighth Avenue line between Chambers Street and 207th Street.

Let's try to get out of it. and walk around the area. The fact is that radical changes have taken place in this area over the past decades. On the site of a dirty, industrial area, an amazing complex of buildings and structures has grown, which has become not only the pride of the city, but also one of its tourist pearls. It all started with the fact that the famous confectionery company National Biscuit Company (or Na-bis-co), which had been located here for a long time, was forced to leave these places. And then, in its buildings, in 1997, Chelsea Market grew up - not a traditional city market, but an ultra-modern Food Hall. With a huge number of all kinds of restaurants, cafes, eateries, pizzerias, kebabs, shops and shops representing the cuisine of different continents and countries. And many popular shops of various directions.

However, Nabisco left behind not only the buildings, but also the old metal overpass of the railway passing through its territory. In 2009, it was decided to transform its paths into a park alley, similar to the Promenade Plante park in Paris. The construction of this unusual park - high line, extended to 2019. And now, walking along the neat paths of the overpass, among overgrown trees, shrubs and lawns, shady recreation areas and cozy wooden benches and arbors, it is hard to imagine that once there was a running branch here, with rusted fences and garbage dumps.

This park starts from the one who moved here in 2015 (to a new modern building) Whitney Museum of American Art (Whitney Museum of American Art). From its terraces and viewing platforms, a wonderful panorama of the Hudson opens, with a small artificial island erected on the site of its old piers - Little Island.

This structure, as if hovering above the water, was installed on the 132nd concrete bowls in the form of tulips growing out of the water, which were subsequently filled with a ground cover. This architectural masterpiece, and much more around the station 14 St. \ 8 Av undoubtedly deserves everyone's attention. And that is why many who come here to meet the beautiful, or who return from here – enthusiastic and joyful, no doubt we would like to keep these feelings in the premises of the metro station. So now it's time to get back to the program.

"Art and Design" - Arts & Design

As you already know, it all started with the fact that moving along with the passengers of the New York subway in the 1970s, Ms. Ronay Menschel often stopped at stations that were dilapidated, dirty, dimly lit and covered with disgusting graffiti with defiant inscriptions. “Conditions were deplorable,” she recalled, “and the environment was inhospitable and often threatening.” But she had the opportunity to change the situation. A former chief aide to Mayor Edward I. Koch, she represented the city on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board of governors from 1979 to 1990. And one of her main achievements in this field was the creation of a program for the introduction of works of public art. in public transport facilities. And so, in 1985, the MTA, the corporation responsible for public transportation in New York, launched the MTA Arts & Design program (formerly known as Arts for Transit and Urban Design), the main goal of which was to tidy up and improve subway stations, which over time time really began to bring more no less tangible results. At least since then, works of art of various levels have been installed at 260 of the city's 472 stations.

Naturally, one of the oldest stations in the city - 14th Street - Union Square, which occupies one of the leading positions in the city's transport system, was also not deprived of attention. Therefore, the ever-increasing growth in popularity of the area at the location of the station 14th Street - Eighth Avenue led to the fact that in 2000 (after the overhaul of the station) the already familiar competition was announced for the creation of a work that could ennoble this station. The traditional five-member panel, which included two representatives of the transport authorities and three specialists in the field of arts, considered more than 800 applications at that time. This type of work was typically allocated one percent of total architectural spending (up to $20 million in total construction) for public art, and half a percent for projects above that amount. Therefore, there were many applicants, but when their number was reduced to five or six applicants, the finalists submitted their full proposals, drawings and details. Then this competition was won by the famous New York sculptor Tom Otterness.

He offered for 14th Street project "Life Underground", which is a series of whimsical miniature bronze sculptures of "cartoon" characters depicting people and animals in various situations, and additional abstract sculptures scattered across the platforms and walkways of the station. Otterness has said that the subject of his work is "the inability to understand life in New York", and describes the location of the individual parts of the station as "scattered in little surprises". Indeed, they are installed in such secluded corners of the station that their unexpected discovery always causes a feeling of surprise and delight. It is difficult to determine their number: various sources indicate that there are from 130 to 154 of them, but with all variants there are more than 100 of them. But before talking about them, a few words about the author.

Tom Otterness was born in 1952 in Wichita, Kansas. In 1970 he moved to New York to study at the Art Students League of New York, and in 1973 joined the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. “When I finished school, we created a joint group called “Colab”, where 50 artists worked together. We wanted to get out of museums and galleries and onto the streets so we could reach out to the general public,” he later said. It was then that his career as a public art sculptor began. The fact is that he witnessed how plaster copies of sculptures of Jesus, Elvis, Santeria and others are sold out in botanica stores in the Bronx for 5, 10, 20 dollars. “At that time, I was making signs: international signs and symbols, bathroom signs, all in two-dimensional figures, and selling them on the street. And I thought that if everyone can do it, then I can not only do it, but also sell at this price. So, I learned how to make molds, cast my own plaster, and sell my first sculptures off the sidewalk and in a variety of stores for $4,99 each. That was the beginning, then 3D products followed.”

And in 1976, he and his friend went on a trip around the world that lasted a whole year. “We traveled through the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and then I ended up in Thailand. I remember being in Calcutta, where there was a huge shop with a metal grate inside which was... a life-size figure of a purple god, and paintings all over the wall. This figure and the sculptures in Thailand had a big impact on my career." And also the work of the famous cartoonist Thomas Nast, the founder of the genre of American political drawing. It was his drawings that became one of the most important factors in the fall of boss Tweed and his arrest. It was he who introduced the image of the elephant as a symbol of the Republican Party and the donkey as a symbol of the Democratic Party. Not to mention the legendary figure of Santa Claus. That's how it all came together in Tom's head: the clay figurines, the sculpture of the Middle East, and Thomas Nast. The result was the world-famous "cartoon figures" that turned Otterness into one of America's most prolific and renowned public artists.

Today, his works adorn parks, squares, metro stations, libraries, courthouses and museums around the world. In particular, in New York's Rockefeller Park (more on this in our "Parks of New York" series), and here, at the 14th Street - Eighth Avenue subway station in New York. He also managed to create a beloved balloon (a giant inverted Humpty Dumpty) for the Thanksgiving parade at Macy's. It would seem that everything in his fate was developing in the best way, but ... there was one act in his life that he would have to be ashamed of, and which would cause him a lot of trouble.

You may have heard about how in Paris, at the dawn of the birth of surrealism, director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dali shot the outrageous film “Andalusian Dog”, in which shocking scenes were shown: the hero makes an incision in the girl’s eye with a blade, a man shoots another person , and a woman rolls a severed arm across the pavement, etc. Nevertheless, the film was a resounding success there. And in 1978, Otterness, then fascinated by the principles of independent punk art, decided to repeat this success by shooting several short outrageous films for Colab's All Color News: including Boxing with Golden Gloves in Madison Square Garden and Shot at the Dog. . In the first of these, he, an amateur boxer, filmed his own fights; and in the second, he filmed how he (only his hand was visible in the frame) shot to death a dog chained to a post, which he “adopted” the day before at the shelter. Otterness described it this way: "... [it's] about fucking somebody... That's what fight movies are about. crush someone; defeat someone; be defeated. These two films are the same." The film was shown on Christmas Eve 1978 to a negative response (New York is not Paris, and the time was already different), even with calls to prosecute Otterness.

This failed film continued to haunt him for many years to come, giving rise to ongoing controversy. Although he, of course, apologized. However, in 2004, the charges were brought back to the public eye by journalist Gary Indian, who continued to criticize Otterness for the former murder. To which he officially replied: “Thirty years ago, when I was 25, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an unforgivable act that I deeply regret. Many of us have experienced deep emotional upheaval and despair. Few have made the mistake that I did. I hope that people will find the strength to forgive me.” He continued to work on numerous projects in America and abroad, as well as at the 14th metro station, considering the incident settled. Nevertheless ... we will return to this again at the end of the story, and now we will go through the corridors and halls of the station, considering

"Life Underground" by Otterness at 14th Street-Eighth Avenue

TolAs soon as we got out of the car onto the platform, the bronze man was already inviting us to sit next to him on a bench: "stop, look around." After all, Tom's heroes are everywhere: in passages and corridors between platforms, on and under stairs on walls and near them, on columns and near columns, on pipes and ceilings, and even on the ceiling. Thanks to the efforts and genius of Otterness, a former member of the social anarchist group of artists and a harsh critic of capitalism, this tribe of midgets settled here in the underworld of New York, at the 14th Street subway station. “I'm trying to show a small person in a collision with huge economic or social structures. I'm trying to talk about class, race, money, sex - things that don't usually get talked about in society." And his little men, wading through space and time, are caricaturing and exaggeratingly trying to get comfortable here, sticking out our miscalculations and problems, repeating our mistakes and disappointments. They are so cute and defenseless, sometimes they even try to scare us, but we are not afraid. And fun and funny. Of course, it is almost impossible to talk about a hundred (and there are many more) small bronze figures in one article, so we will stop only about the most curious of them.

Can a person who sets as his goal the debunking of capitalist ulcers pass by the figure of one of the brightest representatives of this world, the most important corrupt official and bribe taker of New York of old times - William M. "Boss" Tweed. And here he is in front of us performed by Otterness at 14 metro stations, and next to him, but on the caricature of the legendary Thomas Nast. Similar?

But there is another interesting work at station 14 related to Thomas Nast. And if in the above picture we see an almost literal borrowing in the image of Tweed: in the form of an arrogant fat man, with a money bag instead of a head, in a traditional vest (with difficulty fastening on it), then in the next one there is only a skillful use and transformation of Nast's storyline. We are talking about the famous sculpture of Otterness "Crocodile and Child".

Initially, this theme arose in Nast's painting "The American River Ganges" (1875). In it, Catholic priests, striving with all their might to put an end to freedom of religion in the United States, with the goal of finally introducing only Catholicism in the country, were depicted as crocodiles rushing at children. Because the children were the main link through which they wanted to spread their teaching in New York. But after all, it was just an allegorical work of art, when the priests, depicted as crocodiles, are trying to capture children. But then, quite unexpectedly, in the 1930s, the superintendent of the New York sewer Teddy May reported that indeed in the channels of the city sewer appeared small crocodiles, which were later destroyed with rat poison.

Based on this message, the legend was born that crocodiles still live in the New York sewers. Allegedly, many New Yorkers on vacation bought small crocodiles in the southern states, and then, when they grew up and caring for them became burdensome, just flushed them down the toilet. In the sewers they multiplied and sometimes, crawling out of the hatches, attacked people. Otterness, summarizing and interpreting these stories in an appropriate way, created a composition that immediately became one of the most interesting and memorable works at the station: a crocodile from a sewer hatch is trying to steal a girl, and another city dweller is watching nearby, doing nothing.

And here, like all emigrants, once in the country of giants, our Lilliputians immediately set about looking for work. Here they are as installers - high-altitude workers.

But in underground work.

Or in the subway, cleaning up used tokens (in the old days, the entrance to the subway was not by cards, but by using “tokens”).

Here they work diligently, observing and violating the safety rules of work.

Sometimes going on a spree, and drinking in the wrong places, forgetting about the police.

And she is always on duty. As it should be: there are two people in the patrol - a woman and a man.

And always on the lookout. Here again it is necessary to remove the homeless from the platform.

Or punish a stowaway. After all, Lilliputians do not jump over fences, but crawl under them.

But this respectable lady can't let that happen. Most likely, it was she who called the police. See how contemptuously the lady turned away from the rogue. After all, she has a legal token.

And there are such, reckless and headless, capable of anything.

А These are terrorists - anarchists. “We will destroy the whole world of violence. To the ground, and then. We are ours, we will build a new world. Who was nothing will become everything.

This is the one who destroyed and plunged. Now we need to read from Marx what to do next.

This is how they fought. With those who are ready to take the last penny from ordinary little people.

And with those that are burning in the busts. I have already grabbed so much that the stigma in the cannon and the bags are cracking, and I can no longer digest all this.

Lilliputians took a couple of animals with them to the subway. Here we have a copy of "Stupid Horse": "If the day is fine, the Horse walks in good galoshes"

And here, too, is well-known: “They gave shoes to an elephant. He took one shoe and said: "We need wider ones, and not two, but all four."

But this one is better chained. For safety.

And run to save mom and dad and the child from the attack of a huge crab.

After all, our Lilliputians once managed to defeat Gulliver, and that is why they dragged this relic here - his legs. As a monument, as proof of its strength.

And with this cannibal, it’s generally not clear what to do? Well, how not to remember here A. Radishchev, with his: “The monster is oblo, mischievous, huge, hawkish and barking.” But the commission allowed his presence here, so everything is OK! True, there were figurines that were not allowed to be shown at the station. One of them - a rat with a baton in the form of a policeman - did not pass a tough casting, and Tom gave it to his friend, the owner of the Max Fish bar in Lower Manhattan. She is still standing there on the bar. “For me, the most important thing is that the work is installed in a public place. I want an ordinary person to notice her, touch her, talk about her, so that he likes or dislikes her, ”say Tom.

But Tom Otterness doesn't always succeed. to be such a triumphant and a winner. “After all, in life, as in the sea, for every drop a little bit of salt.” In 2011, new “well-wishers” were found who, 33 years later, decided to again pull out the old story about the murdered dog. At the same time, for persuasiveness, to connect the protests of the Society for the Protection of Animals. And now, in New York, the authorities of Battery - Park refused to erect a sculpture of his lions in front of the new public library of the area. Even though they were approved Manhattan Community Council. Following their example, San Francisco abandoned his $59 project to install 750 figures for a subway and a sculpture for a hospital. And then various smaller municipalities joined. So, in October 000, the mayor of Lincoln (Nebraska) refused a contract with him for $2013, saying: “... the past behavior of the artist has created a level of division in society, which is simply unacceptable. We believe it is in the city's best interest to end the contract process." Why shouldn't this petty opportunist who talks about the division of urban society name the percentage of members of the society for the protection of animals in it.

There is a legend about how In the last century, at one of the music conferences, everyone scolded Wagner, talking about what a scoundrel, anti-Semite and bastard he was. And the well-known critic Marcel Reich-Ranitsky did not speak, which he was accused of by the Marxist composer Hans Eisler. And Marcel answered him: “Much of what you said is true, but this terrible Wagner still wrote Tristan. Eisler was speechless. “But this is a completely different matter. It's music," he said. Same question here. After all, all these figures, acting on the basis of personal ambitions and pseudo-pluralism, forgot about sculpture. And now San Francisco will not have a subway station with the works of the Genius, and in New York there will not be modern perky lions at the District Library, in contrast to the lions at the Central Library. They deprived the genius not only of money, but also of the desire to work in these cities, and possibly in the country. Is this an equivalent payment for politicking? I will ask you.

Moreover, a bad example is contagious. And when big elephants go into battle, there are always little dogs that want to “bark”. And street artist Andrew Tyder appears in Brooklyn, who, for self-affirmation, decided to kick the master, and in his manner depicted that very ill-fated scene of killing a dog. Before you is a period of her brief stay at the stairs at the metro station. And here is his explanation for this act: “Otterness despises the picture of capitalism that he created with the help of Life Underground, but isn’t he part of this system? Doesn't he profit from this? (Yes, I know that he "donated" most of the income from his works, but it serves as an advertisement for his work and generates interest in his work, for which, from what I hear, he receives quite a decent compensation)". The quotes are closed. That is, the small rogue does not even remember the root cause of the squabble. Only envy of the master's earnings bubbles in him. But he does not understand that with his daub he closed the door for himself not only to the temple of art, but simply to the house of any decent person.

But despite these petty passions and squabbles, the little midgets of Tom Otterness exist safely at the station subway 14th street. They live, rejoice, grieve, quarrel, work and rest. But we, big Gullivers, are forced to stop, sit down, admire, smile, take a photo, and be sure to touch. To receive from them the warmth of their little bronze souls. In a word: be happy. And all this thanks to the efforts of the great master - Tom Otterness. You will be in these parts - be sure to look into his "Underworld". Or you can walk around. After all, you know the address of the metro station: 14th Street–Eighth Avenue. See you again.

Read also on our website the essays of Leonid Raevsky's series "Aesthetics of New York Subway Stations":

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