The El, Herald Square, undated.

Visitors find the elevated a convenient and pleasant way of getting around the city, as it affords some good views. The New Yorker always chooses the subway, the quickest way – if he can get an express. If he must take a local for a few blocks, he changes to an express as soon as possible. 

I found this today in a box of bits and pieces I haven’t looked at in years. It reminds me that I was once asked, in all sincerity, whether the NYC subway system was built before the city. 

It also suggests that like the High Line perhaps, the El was designed for tourists – that real New Yorkers travel as fast as they can, underground.

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Actually, some of the subway *was* built before the city, in a sense. The number 7 line from Manhattan to Flushing was built through what was somewhat of a wilderness. Only after the subway was built did the people come and fill up the neighborhoods in what was previously “the country.” Here’s a photo:

While it’s a good photograph, it wasn’t actually the one I was looking for. The one I had in mind was even emptier than this one as it was from when the 7 line had just opened. There were freshly bulldozed and very empty streets branching off from the elevated subway line and not a heck of a lot else.

Posted by Seth Elgart on 30 August 2009 @ 12pm

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