"It’s not the cry of the dodo bird, but it’s about to vanish forever," wrote the New York Times last week, "and it goes something like this: 'Passengers, you must be in the first five cars in order to exit at South Ferry.'
"It is the cry of the No. 1 subway train conductor. Hundreds of times a day for decades--sometimes garbled, sometimes virtually inaudible, sometimes ringingly clear--it has serenaded downtown-bound straphangers as they approached the line’s terminus at the tip of Manhattan: the anachronistic, 103-year-old South Ferry station, where the truncated and sharply curved platform has room for only half the cars on the train. But one day next month, the last cry will die upon a conductor’s lips as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opens a new South Ferry station directly beneath the old one."
a sign that will soon vanish
I rode the #1 to South Ferry this weekend to hear the conductor's cry for the last time. Sadly, I got the garbled, inaudible version, but I did get to run from car to car at Rector Street, the conductor pointing out the open window with a gloved hand, saying, "This car, this car."
I took some shots of the soon-to-be sealed platform. Its replacement, according to the Times, "will be spiffy and a bit sterile," like "a new hospital wing." As goes the rest of the city, hushed under a stark, iPod-white blanket of cleanliness. 2nd Ave Sagas has a full slideshow, revealing decorative glass and stainless steel--because everything in the city now has to look like a condo, like a Cemusa, etc.
The old South Ferry platform is grimy, curved, and foreshortened, wreathed in safety chains beneath a low ceiling on which ancient rosettes and figure-eights still blossom in their peeling paint. On the walls, dating back to 1905, terra-cotta plaques show a man working the tiller of a sailing vessel, navigating between blue sea and blue sky, a cornucopic festoon above his rigging.
What will happen to the old platform's details? Will they be entombed like the beauties of buried City Hall? Or dislodged and framed as artifacts in a museum?
A century from now, will anyone bother to save, or even worry about saving, the plain black-on-white lettering of the new South Ferry?