The Blue Line
(New York City, New York, USA)

The differentials found between various urban subway system access strategies—specifically the vertical ascension and descension patterns (either mechanized or manual) and street access footprint and integration methodologies—can be, with the proper dedicated time and focus, a complex and vibrant area of investigation. This is at least the unanimous opinion of a scattered group of individuals that have sporadically gathered, for at least the last few years, at a unique handrail structure found at the east end of the High Street subway platform—part of a subway station situated between the residential neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights and the downtown business district of Brooklyn, New York.

In correlation to the above urban planning topics, it appears that this specific subway platform was most likely decided upon as a meeting point due to its unique location and design. In order to access the east end of the High Street station platform, two separate stairwell portals combine to form an unusual setting: the entranceways, both on Adams Street and on Red Cross Place, are physically separated from each other by the walled embankments of the (inaccessible to both cars and humans) Brooklyn Bridge automobile ramp and its centrally contained pedestrian & bicycle pathway. This makes the east end stairwells function not only as subway access ways, but as well as an underground passageway for neighborhood pedestrians wishing to cross the bridge's traffic flow. Due to this interjecting bridge ramp traffic flow, both portals are located on particularly barren stretches of two very short, nearly inaccessible streets—each containing almost no through automobile traffic. And as a result of their particularly trapped and isolated location, far removed from any adjacent residential streets, both entranceway environments see very light (if any) pedestrian traffic.

Finding one's way through the confluence of the two entrance portals' lower platforms, and on through the digitized turnstile access gates, and farther down to the lowest platform of the station (the train access platform), one will then come to the location used by the sporadic group for their occasional meetings and urban planning discussions.

Upon arrival at the train access platform, one can see, approximately 30 feet from the bottom of the entrance steps, a black, glossy painted metal horizontal hand railing, roughly 3 inches wide. This railing forms the middle structural support for a nearly 8 foot tall by 6 foot wide Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway platform sign display. The actual signage, seen at the top of the display, is composed of aluminum sheeting painted in the same industrial glossy black, with white lettering which reads: High Street/Brooklyn Bridge. The shiny black metal railing, at a width and height the same as a standard café counter, is well-suited to support a leaning body or for the resting of a person's elbows or forearms. The general foundation & support surrounding and encompassing the horizontal railing is of high-strength industrial build and, although warped and slightly damaged on one of the lower support columns, creates a solid structure for impromptu gatherings and meetings. Located nearby as well, on the ceiling above both sides of the sign structure and handrail, one will notice 2 audio speakers, placed perfectly to hear the latest MTA updates and announcements.

Although there were never any specified times and dates when the discussion group would meet, it was highly probable that during most weekday evening hours—especially from 7pm to 11pm—one could easily begin a conversation with one of the group's main participants, or as some members would say, its inevitable leader—a former track maintenance foreman holding many years experience with the A/C subway line, the same line running through the High Street station. This former track foreman, a local sage to most members of the discussion group, was at most times even prepared to supply any new conversationalist with a small plastic cup of hot, black coffee, poured directly from his prized vintage 1.9 liter gold and blue striped Thermos Pump Pot, an accessory accompanying the man since receiving it as a birthday gift from former work colleagues, sometime in the early 1970s.

With eyesight diminishing during the last years of the 1990s, verging on clinical blindness by the year 2000, the former track foreman, now most likely in last years of his 70s, still aimed never to miss a nightly conversation at the east platform railing structure of the High Street station. And if, after making the short journey on foot from his nearby apartment, no one came to talk (or sip coffee), he claimed to enjoy the repetitive sounds of the High Street commuter footsteps, mixed together with what he referred to as this station's unique "lonely nighttime hum".

Since November 2012, after numerous shut downs, delays and damages caused by a recent hurricane, there has been no sign of the discussion group leader at the railing of the High Street station. There was, however, no fear for his safety amongst the other members of the group, especially after a photograph appeared in a local newspaper article covering hurricane recovery proceedings in the Far Rockaway section of outer Brooklyn. It was one photograph from a larger group of photographs and charts accompanying the local news article. The image documented a grouping of volunteer recovery workers, as well as local residents displaced from the storm. Within this image, nearly out of focus in the distance, in the background of the scene, on a fold out brown vinyl covered playing card table, amongst plates of sandwiches, cookies and plastic bottles of water, if one looked closely, one could make out the multicolored stripes of an old-fashioned Thermos Pump Pot. Beside the pot, one could note as well, an aged and wrinkled set of hands pouring a small plastic cup of steaming coffee. And it was here, at the end of the A-train's long run (as any member of the group would tell you) that at least for the time being, a new conversation—one most likely regarding rail track reconstructions and grading issues, load bearing supports and even shuttle bus programming techniques—would carry on.


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