It is part of life in New York to wait for the train. It is an experience that New Yorkers have in common, especially now as differed maintenance and underfunding have led to a deterioration in service. I have been spending entire evenings waiting for the A, D, F, J, M, and 7 elevated trains as they pass through Brooklyn and Queens. Below the tracks, it is dark in the day, deafeningly loud when the trains pass by. And yet, these corridors along Broadway, 86th Street, Jamaica Avenue, Liberty Avenue, McDonald Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, New Utrecht Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue, and Westchester Avenue also offer opportunity, lower rent and community. And the trains themselves promise more than physical mobility as they thunder overhead, heading into and out of Manhattan. Each neighborhood is distinct, each with its own character. Some are undergoing ethnic succession, others are besieged by gentrification. While there are some chain stores, primarily mom-and-pops—Nelly’s Flowers, Sam the Glazier, the Lion’s Den among others—often started by immigrants, operate here. This is the heart of New York City.
Waiting for a train just after sunset, as the light turns blue and the tone of the sky darkens to match the tones on the ground, I work like a painter. I am not quite in control of the image, dependent on the flow of traffic and the train schedule. When the train does pass by, it creates a brushstroke of light. Cars and buses also move through the frame drawing red and white lines. Pedestrians are blurred by the long exposure. The lights turn on along the street and in homes and businesses, just before it becomes night, and add color. The result is magic, beauty created by the movement of the city and the mix of artificial and natural light at the end of the day. And for few brief minutes before it gets dark, the ordinary streets, the ones usually passed through without note, are vibrant and alive.