'Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!'
In past entries in this blog, we have explored the role New York City has played in the history of sports such as boxing, bowling, and baseball. Now we will turn our attention to another sport, hockey.
New York may not appear to be much of a hockey town. The Rangers rank about sixth in importance in the local sports media behind the city’s other teams, and the nearby Devils and Islanders rank lower still. There are a limited number of rinks around the city, and most players and fans are found in the suburbs. Compared to Minneapolis, Boston, Detroit, or any Canadian city, New York has weak puckhead credentials.
Nevertheless, New York is so big, with so much to offer, that it doubtless will have whatever it is you are looking for, and hockey is no exception. The city has a storied hockey history. Four Stanley Cups have been raised at the fabled Madison Square Garden, and along with Montreal, New York is the only city to host two NHL teams simultaneously, when the New York Americans shared the Garden with the Rangers from 1925 to 1942 (during their last season, they were renamed the Brooklyn Americans, as they had intended to move to the borough the following year, but they folded before they could move). The Amerks have been replaced by clubs in the suburbs, but the Islanders also have four Cups, while the Devils have won three of their own. With three NHL teams in the local area, there is no shortage of places around the city to watch, play and enjoy the game of hockey, and we offer this guide to help you find them.
Watching the Devils at 'The Rock' in Newark.
Going to a game.
The metropolitan area is blessed with three teams in the National Hockey League, the New York Rangers
, New York Islanders
, and New Jersey Devils
. Tickets to NHL games are never cheap, but here are a few tips on getting tickets and getting to the respective arenas.
The New York Rangers
, with their home arena at Madison Square Garden, are conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan; unfortunately, tickets are not always so easy to secure. The Rangers average near sell-out crowds
, though these numbers are somewhat misleading – due to the high number of season tickets the Rangers sell, many of them held by corporate sponsors who don’t always fill their seats, tickets can usually be had from third-party ticket resellers (like StubHub
) for a reasonable price, depending on the opponent. After winning the Stanley Cup in 1994, the Rangers went through a long period of lackluster performance. Though they missed the playoffs last year (by one point), they have finally embraced drafting and developing young players over signing overpriced, aging free agents, and it's paying dividends with a more balanced squad that boasts young studs like Mark Stall and Brandon Dubinsky, sniper Marian Gaborik, and perennial team MVP, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Where once the Rangers wasted big money on losing clubs and the New Jersey Devils
deftly built Stanley Cup winners with limited budgets, those roles seem to have reversed. The Devils signed star forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a $100-million contract this off-season, yet they currently sit near the bottom of the standings. This season aside, despite routinely outperforming the Rangers on the ice, the Devils have never been able to match the draw of the Broadway Blueshirts. Now that they are mired in a dreadful campaign, tickets at the Prudential Center in Newark are even easier to come by. Despite the team’s poor showing thus far, their two-year old arena is beautiful, and it is easily accessed from Manhattan by the PATH train
to Newark-Penn Station; when you get off the train, it’s a just a short walk through the mall to the rink. No matter where they sit in the standings, it is still worth the trip to watch the all-time winningest goalie in league history, Martin Brodeur, ply his trade in the Devils crease.
The squirts take over the Garden ice during an intermission.
have been a franchise almost constantly in crisis since they hoisted the last of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1983. Due to mismanagement and financial struggles, the team still plays in the dilapidated Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. They sit near the bottom of the league in attendance, and their tickets are affordable, but unless you have a car, the trek to the Coliseum is not an easy one; the only way is to take the Long Island Railroad to a bus (or walk 3 miles, as the team’s website offers as an option
). If the Islanders’ owner Charles Wang ever does realize his dream of building a new sports and entertainment complex for the team, rail links to New York City will be a critical component of reviving their fortunes.
The NHL may offer the best hockey in the world, but the less polished levels of the game have their virtues as well. In many cities and towns across America, minor league hockey
is a local institution, a place to take the family on Friday night to watch some on-ice mayhem at a price much more affordable than the pros. I was raised on the New Haven Nighthawks
and Coliseum hot dogs, and that’s where my love for the game really blossomed. My hometown team and arena may be gone, but those memories remain.
Speaking of bygone teams, the beloved Hartford Whalers skipped town more than a decade ago, but the Whale is back. The American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack
– the affiliate of the Rangers – has occupied the Hartford Civic Center since the Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997, but now as a nod to the city’s NHL past, the team will be renamed the Connecticut Whale on November 27th. Hartford is a long way to travel for a hockey game from New York, but the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
, play about 90 minutes from Grand Central by train, and their arena is just a short walk from the Bridgeport train station.
But you don’t have to travel to Connecticut for minor league action. New York is home to a fourth professional team as well, the New York Aviators
, who play at Floyd Bennett Field
in south Brooklyn. The Aviators play in the Federal Hockey League, a low minor league composed of teams from New York, Connecticut and Ontario. As a further sign that Whaler fever is sweeping the state, the Danbury Whalers
also play in the Federal League.The minor leagues still have a reputation for being out of control – earned from movies like Slap Shot
– but back in the brutal days of the 1970's, the Garden saw its fair share of lawless violence as well, as seen below:
Fortunately, there's no longer any chance of players climbing into the stands and beating the spectators with their own shoes, as the Bruins' Al Secord did at the Garden in 1979.
For fans of the less violent, more cerebral college game, none of the city’s universities have Division I or III teams, but there are a few schools that do within a couple hours of New York. In Connecticut, Sacred Heart
all ice D-I men’s teams, and all are located within two hours of the city. Yale is also accessible by MetroNorth
train from Grand Central Terminal – the school’s hockey rink is a short bus or cab ride from the train station. Princeton
also plays D-I, and the campus can be reached by NJ Transit
from Penn Station. In New York state, the Black Knights of West Point
are just 60 miles away, but the closest college hockey can be found in Rye, where D-III Manhattanville
plays its home games (click on team links for schedules and directions to arenas).
Sabres faithful pray for their club at Kelly's.
Catching a game at the bar.
With three NHL teams in the local area, not to mention national broadcasts on Versus and NBC, you can find a game on TV almost every night of the week in New York. But if you can’t find your hometown team on the dial, or you just prefer to watch the game in the company of fellow fans and draught beer, here are a few options around the city.
It is a rare thing to find a bar in New York where people genuinely care about hockey. Many places show games, but in most, hockey is a sideshow to baseball, basketball, or football depending on the season, and you are usually relegated to watching your chosen match on a single TV with no sound. What makes Kelly’s Sports Bar
, located on Avenue A and 1st Street in Manhattan, different is that people genuinely care about the game, and one team in particular – the Buffalo Sabres. When their team is on, every TV is tuned to the game, and every patron is glued to it. I’m not a Sabres fan myself, but no matter who you support, the atmosphere on game night is hard to beat.
My team is the Boston Bruins, and when I want to catch their tilts, I head over to Professor Thoms'
on 2nd Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village. A Boston bar through and through, this place frequently offers lobster dinner specials and has a good selection of beers from Boston’s Harpoon Brewery
. Unfortunately, the B’s still play second fiddle when the Red Sox or Celtics are on, but it’s still the best place that I have found to watch the Black and Gold.
Brooklyn's best hockey bar just happens to be a sauna.
In baseball, whenever the Red Sox or Cubs come to town, you will undoubtedly find scores of their rabid fans filling ballparks across the country. In hockey, the Montreal Canadiens deserve that distinction, as their fans can be found everywhere. Even as far away as Tampa and Denver, I’ve seen the sea of red and heard that unmistakable Quebecois accent. In New York, the faithful of les Habitants
gather at the Blue Moon Cafe
on 1st Avenue and 75th Street on the Upper East Side, a Mexican restaurant that happens to be very hockey friendly.
Russian-style bath houses – known as banyas – can be found across the city
, especially in Brooklyn. One such place, known simply as “Russian Bath House
,” located in Gravesend, is not only one of the best banyas in New York, it is a great place to watch a hockey game. The banya’s cafe (which serves excellent Russian food) is decorated with hockey memorabilia, including autographed photos and jerseys from Russian stars from the NHL. The place boasts three saunas (plus one for men only in the locker room) of varying temperatures and humidity and a large pool, and flat screen TVs surround the place, so you can enjoy a hockey game while swimming, lounging in a poolside chair, or enjoying a beer at the bar. A long steam in the banya, a cold beer, a plate of pickled herring, and a hockey game – that sounds like pure heaven to me.
The famous rink at Rockefeller Center.
Lacing up your skates.
For hockey players, New York does offer a few options for playing pick-up games, joining a league, or just going skating.
Lugging your equipment around the city on public transportation is a real pain, but if you are able to manage it, there are rinks within close distance of the subway. The City Ice Pavilion
is a short walk from the 7 train in Long Island City, and they offer open hockey for adults on weekday afternoons (except Wednesday) and nighttime sessions on Friday and Saturday. They charge $20 per skater, but goalies can play for free. The Chelsea Piers Sky Rink
is also somewhat accessible from the train, located on 11th Avenue and 20th Street in Manhattan, but they charge a much heftier fee of $36 for 90 minutes of open hockey playing time, though goalies are also free. Their open hockey is also on weekday afternoons, and there are no weekend sessions. My rink of choice has been the Aviator Sports Complex
at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. It’s only accessible by car, but they offer pick-up games throughout the week, and it costs only $20. The complex has two rinks, and in addition to hockey, they offer a wide range of other activities for all ages. All these rinks also offer leagues for kids and adults – check their websites for more details.
Finding places to buy equipment and sharpen your skates is a challenge in New York. Most rinks offer skate sharpening, as will many sporting goods stores, but there are few full-service hockey shops around with knowledgeable staff (and skilled sharpeners). I get most of my equipment at Wonderland Sporting Goods
in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and they do a good job with my skates. If you are just looking for an overpriced NHL sweater, the league has two stores in Manhattan.
If you are interested in just ice skating, all these rinks offer regular public skating hours, but there are other venues throughout the city as well to lace ‘em up for a bit of relaxed gliding in a circle in a crowd of people. The Bryant Park Pond
offers free skating throughout the day, though it does get extremely crowded in the evenings. Free is also a relative term – access to the ice may be free, but renting skates is a whopping $13, and even if you have your own pair, they will hit you with a $9 charge to rent a lock for a locker to store your shoes, or you can pay $7 to check a bag. To avoid all of these charges, bring along your own skates and a padlock.
offers skating at the Wollman Rink, located in the southeast corner of the park, and at Lasker Rink, near the entrance at 110th Street and Lenox Avenue. Prices vary, but it is best to bring along your own skates and a lock as well to avoid the fees piling up. For those in the outer boroughs, the Department of Parks & Recreation
also operates rinks in Coney Island, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and Staten Island’s Clove Lakes Park. Then, of course, there is the famed Rockefeller Center Ice Rink
– it is small and crowded, and a ticket can cost up to $19 per person during the holiday season, but I suppose it is one of those experiences people have to have when they come to New York. And no, the Rangers do not practice there, despite what Michael Scott claims
. And if it gets cold enough this winter, just go and find yourself a pond to skate on
.Finally, if all this isn't enough to satisfy your hunger for all things hockey, check out the world's greatest hockey-themed rock band, The Zambonis, who regularly play gigs in and around New York.
Here they are performing "Hockey Monkey" with artist and rocker James Kochalka
If you have any hockey-related questions or suggestions for other venues to enjoy the game, please leave a comment or contact Andrew Gustafson (email@example.com). If you would like to follow this blog, subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for updates via email in the box above on the right (this is separate from the Urban Oyster email newsletter). You can now also see what Urban Oyster is up to on Foursquare – check out our venues or follow us at foursquare.com/urbanoyster.
Caspar Diefenbach's passport.
This post was written by Don Diefenbach, a genealogist and amateur historian who began researching his family history four years ago. Don lives in Pennsylvania, and he visited Brooklyn for the first time in his life last year, which only deepened his interest in the subject. Don's research has taken him to sites such as the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary Church, and even to Germany to scour the archives. This post is the first in a three-part series that tells the story of one immigrant family – Don's great-grandparents – pursuing the American dream in the colorful, vibrant and fast-moving world of Brooklyn in the 1880s.
Brooklyn and the American Dream grew up together. While many other cities and towns across America have hosted immigrant communities throughout their histories, there is something about Brooklyn that trumps other places in imagery, legend, fact and lore – it was, and is, a special sort of “Gateway to the American Dream.”
The American Dream as realized in Brooklyn embodies prospects of religious freedom, economic opportunity and the promise of a better life than formerly known in the places left behind. This is as much the case today for the recent arrivals from the Caribbean, Latin America and Eastern Europe as it was in earlier centuries for those from Holland, England, Germany, Ireland and Italy. Most of the life experiences of the millions of immigrants and their descendants who knew Brooklyn as the gateway to the American Dream in earlier eras have faded into vague memory or vanished entirely. But long ago, on dusty streets and behind tenement doors throughout Brooklyn, there were children, challenges, struggles, laughter, worries, tears and dreams.
How better to understand what it must have been like for millions than to look at the life and times of a single immigrant family as they pursued the dream of a better life, as tenements and streets were teeming with humanity; as churches, schools and neighborhood businesses were being constructed in record numbers; and as horse-drawn wagons filled alleys around the neighborhood breweries. These sights defined and marked the geography of East Williamsburg (then known as the Eastern District of Brooklyn) in the 1880's as well as any neighborhood signposts along Bushwick, Metropolitan, Union and Montrose Avenues.The Diefenbach Family made quite a go of it in Brooklyn in the 1880s. Theirs, like so many others, is a story of thrift, faith and hard work, punctuated by challenges of childhood illness and death, and striving to acquire a better home further down the block, or beyond the corner store. As generations of immigrants have marked decades of dreams and life stories within Brooklyn, and then moved away, not all has been forgotten.
The W.A. Scholten, which carried Caspar Diefenbach and Catharine Herrmann to New York.
Arrival in New York Harbor, 1880
A combination steamer/sailing ship, the W.A. Scholten, arrived in New York Harbor in October 1880. The ship’s manifest indicates that Caspar Diefenbach, age 24, occupation: baker, carrying a passport from Nomborn, Prussia (which had become part of unified Germany in 1871), was aboard. As the young German immigrant took in the sights and sounds of the city from the railing of the ship, there was not yet a Statue of Liberty to greet him. Also aboard was a young German woman, Catharine Herrmann, age 20, occupation: laborer. She too was out of Nomborn – a small village built around farming and forestry in the Rhineland, located six miles from the medieval city of Limburg an der Lahn and 50 miles north of Frankfurt. The immigrants were processed at Castle Garden on the Lower Manhattan waterfront, as Ellis Island had not yet been established as the reception center for new arrivals to America.
Why did the young baker, Caspar Diefenbach, leave the natural beauty of the German Rhineland, with its patchwork of verdant forests, county villages and meandering deep brooks? Among the factors which might have influenced the bold decision to leave the land of his ancestors, and pursue a new life in a new land, were the following:
Political Unrest and Poverty – In 1848, Europe was in turmoil with many nations engulfed in revolutionary civil wars, and a three-year war between Prussia and Denmark erupted during this period. Three shorter wars followed in 1864, 1866 and 1870 with Denmark, Austria and France, respectively. Even though Germany was rapidly industrializing during this period, most citizens remained poor, and farming was on the decline. Nomborn had survived past calamities, while some neighboring villages were simply abandoned. Caspar had knowledge of these national and local histories as well as the knowledge that his family was deeply rooted in the history of Nomborn – his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all lived and died there. But his family ties might have been weaker than in previous generations because Caspar was less than two years old when his father died. The young man felt that his chances for success would be better in America, and he made the fateful decision to leave family and friends behind, not knowing for certain if he would ever see them again.
Farm worker in Nomborn, Germany, with the village in the background, c. 1930. Photo courtesy of Jacob Kurt Herrmann, a current Nomborn resident.
Political Freedom – Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, there were social and political movements in Germany fighting to establish rights and liberties as had been established in the United States and France in the late eighteenth century. In 1871, the German-speaking states of central Europe were unified into a single state; Caspar was 15 years old when this historic event happened, and even though Europe was relatively peaceful following German unification, at the age of 24, he was bound for America, perhaps pushed by the uncertain future under the new political order, and pulled by stories of independence and adventure by others who had left farming villages to try their luck across oceans.
Love and Marriage – The Herrmann Family, also out of the German Rhineland, had emigrated to America in 1866, when their oldest daughter, Catharine, was six. At age 20, as a young adult, she returned to visit family in her native village of Nomborn. When she returned to America in the fall of 1880, she brought back with her a souvenir – the baker, Caspar Diefenbach, and they were married the following year.
Sibling Rivalry – Caspar Diefenbach’s only surviving sibling, an older brother named John, had become a successful surgeon, meaning the Diefenbach family may have been relatively prosperous at the time. Regardless, Caspar’s future as a baker in Germany would be played out in the shadow of his older brother. His future in America would allow him to seek independence and self-determination. Over many decades, Caspar and Catharine Diefenbach traveled back to Germany to visit John and other family members, but for whatever reason, John never visited his brother in America.
Hope – Independence and the possibility of a better tomorrow were dreams that had already come true for the young man. Caspar, who was looking at the Manhattan “skyline” on August 29, 1880 (it would be eight years before New York erected its first skyscraper) was about to set foot on American soil. Within two years of arriving in Brooklyn, while employed as a baker working for wages, he would be married and become a father. Through these early years, he was working long hours, saving and planning on having a business of his own some day.
Settling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The two young Germans were more fortunate than many. As they left Castle Gardens, they did not succumb to hustlers in the crowd offering them luggage service, travel service, lodging, employment and overpriced goods. They had a most valuable connection in Brooklyn: the Herrmann family. Catharine's parents John Herrmann and his wife Maria Henkes Herrmann had immigrated to America in 1866 with their young daughter. Catharine’s father, a tailor, had established himself in Brooklyn, participating in German-American church and social organizations and was a member of the Union Guard. He would be able to introduce his future son-in-law to potential employers and give him other guidance about life in the big city. In 1880, Brooklyn was growing rapidly; it was the third-largest city in the United States, behind New York and Philadelphia (Chicago and Boston ranked fourth and fifth, respectively). Being unmarried, the couple would live apart for their first few months in America. After Catharine's travel abroad, she moved back in with her parents and five siblings at 137 Montrose Avenue, directly across the street from Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church.
Caspar Diefenbach meanwhile obtained lodging at 80 Bushwick Avenue. There was a neighborhood bakery nearby, located at 168 Bushwick Avenue, and no doubt the young man wasted little time before meeting the proprietor and learning about employment opportunities in the area. The location of this bakery shop was exceptional, strategically positioned on a busy thoroughfare, a few blocks from the Otto Huber Brewery on Meserole Street, which in turn was adjacent to a passenger and freight train terminal. The young man did not know it as he walked through the bakery shop door on that first visit in 1880, but in time, it would be his destiny to run this neighborhood business with the words “Diefenbach Bakery” painted on the storefront window.
Catharine and Caspar Diefenbach, Williamsburg Brooklyn, c. 1880s.
Work and Marriage
Caspar worked as a baker in an orphanage for a few years after his arrival in Brooklyn. Considering the times, steady employment in an institutional setting was a godsend, as it helped to integrate the new immigrant into the community, provided secure roots, and allowed for modest savings. How fortunate was this young man when one considers the plight of so many bakers in the 1880s? Back in Germany, there was such an oversupply of bakers that some young men traveled across Europe seeking employment. For those who were employed, wages were pitifully low, with many bakers being single men, unable to afford families. Rarely was there a day off throughout the entire year. In the 1880s in Germany, most bakers worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week – that adds up to a 98-hour work week. Humane relief finally came for German bakers in 1896 when the government issued a "decree limiting the hours of work and improving sanitary conditions in Germany’s bakeshops. The law prohibited work before four A.M. and most Sunday work, and introduced the thirteen-hour workday.”
Times were also difficult for bakers in Manhattan and Brooklyn during this period. German-American bakers were among the lowest paid workers in the metropolitan area. Most bakers worked in cellars under tenement homes, routinely working from sunrise to sunset for eight to ten cents an hour. To make it, Caspar Diefenbach would have to change occupations or somehow get his own bakery shop. He could not make it working for wages.
“Children’s ward with children, nurses and doctors or directors - hospital or orphanage.” Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.
In the spring of 1881, a brief strike by the fledgling Bakers Union of New York City and Brooklyn resulted in agreements by bakery bosses (mostly owners of small bakery shops) to limit working hours to 12 hours a day, six days a week. The 72-hour work week was a huge victory for the union, and the future for the workers seemed a bit brighter. But bakery bosses reneged on their promises a year later, and the bakers union dissolved. Our ancestors in Brooklyn, and across America, worked long and hard back then. Though grueling by today's standards, for many in the working class, winning a 72-hour workweek was a significant achievement. Add to this the fact that most work in that era was not done behind a desk in air conditioned offices. For the vast majority, their workday consisted of physically demanding labor, done for long hours throughout their lifetimes.
With work uncertain, the church was an important part of the family's life. The Herrmann and Diefenbach families were deeply religious. Caspar was named after Father Caspar Diefenbach, who had officiated at the wedding of his parents in 1850. Most Holy Trinity was more than a church to these families; it became the foundation of their lives. The two families would take great pride in the fact that Catharine’s younger sister would grow up to become a nun, Sister Eulalia.
Just a few months after Caspar's arrival and Catharine's return to America, the couple were married on January 30, 1881 in Most Holy Trinity Church. It was a grand church for those times, and the parish was the oldest German Catholic congregation in Brooklyn. The Diefenbachs were married in the second church in the parish’s history, which was constructed in 1853-54. The church also served as an important crossroads and social center for the community, with five priests active in parish activities in 1881. It was a short trip to the alter that day for the bride, as the Herrmann residence was directly across the street from the church. For the next decade, they would raise a family and start a business, almost all within a few blocks of the spot where they began their pursuit of the American Dream.
The second Most Holy Trinity Church, Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Father Timothy Dore of Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary Church.
In Part II of this series, Don will examine tenement life in Brooklyn in the late nineteenth century and follow the Diefenbachs as their family grows and takes root in America. Special thanks go to Father Timothy Dore for putting us in touch with Don, Don for taking the time to share his story, and Andrew Gustafson for editing this post. If you would like to follow this blog, subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for updates via email in the box above on the right (this is separate from the Urban Oyster email newsletter). For questions or comments about this blog post, please contact Andrew Gustafson (firstname.lastname@example.org). Schneider, Dorothee. Trade Unions and Community: The German Working Class in New York City, 1870-1900. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994, p. 182.
This past week, a couple members of our team were featured in the New York press. It wasn't for any of our tours or special events, though it was for activities at least tangentially related to what they do for Urban Oyster.
Brian Hoffman, who regularly leads our Midtown Food Cart Tour
and the Brewed in Brooklyn Tour
, was featured in last week's issue of Time Out New York
. Brian also runs a food blog, Eat This New York
, and last year, he set out to eat every item on Time Out
's best 100 dishes of 2009 and chronicle the experience on his blog. I don't think I have even eaten at 100 restaurants in New York in my entire lifetime, but Brian completed the monumental task in a matter of months. He informed Time Out
of his accomplishment, but unfortunately, they ran their 2010 best dishes list in October instead of December, as they had last year, so Brian didn't make it into the issue. They did, however, include him the following week (October 28 – November 3), and he vowed to conquer the newest installment as well. I don't think any other person in New York has eaten all 100 dishes from last year, and even if they have, they certainly have not written about them with the honesty and enthusiasm that Brian has over the past year.
Right now on Eat This New York
, you can follow Brian count down his own top 100 list of 2010
. Also check out his series of videos in which he tracks down the best pizza
, ice cream
and kosher meats
in New York City.
The other team member featured in the media was yours truly, Andrew Gustafson. Last Monday evening, I was sitting at home when I was suddenly bombarded by emails, phone calls and text messages informing me that my face was on the home page of the New York Times
online. The paper was running a feature called “Your Life, Your Map
,” in which they invited readers to submit their own interpretations and re-imaginings of the New York City subway map. Being a cartographer, I decided to submit a map I had made based on my Halloween costume from last year. I dressed up as the subway map by sewing pipe cleaners and buttons to my shirt and pants. Not wanting to sew 26 lines (since reduced to 24) and 468 stations, I decided to make a “mental map” of the subway, including only the lines and stations that I frequent. I then took a photo of myself and overlaid labels and geographic features, which had been absent from the costume. I was surprised to see that not only was my submission accepted, but my face and body, thrust into an awkward position to mimic the course of the A train from Inwood (my right arm) to Rockaway Beach (my left leg), were used as the thumbnail image for the online feature. I was even more surprised on Sunday to see my map, along with seven other submissions, featured in the paper's print edition.
The map piece was part of the Times
' “Subway Issue
,” an online and print feature celebrating 106 years of the New York City subway system. There were some wonderful submissions alongside my own; Cay Yoon's “Interborough Affairs” and Ira David Socol's “Memory Map” were among my favorites. I liked the latter especially because it really embraced the notion of a mental map by reflecting how an individual conceptualizes and navigates the real world independent of the existing MTA map. Many readers used the feature to take out their frustrations on the G train. As a frequent rider of the G, I have to defend the oft-maligned line, and I believe that the perception of its untimeliness and irregularity is perhaps influenced by the fact that many readers may be riding the train late at night on the weekends while frequenting the bars and clubs of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. According to the Straphangers Campaign, the G actually gets decent marks
for reliability and cleanliness.
As Urban Oyster's resident cartographer, I have made maps for the Brewed in Brooklyn, Fermented NY, and Food Cart tours, though none of them have been as creative or personally revealing as the subway map. If you would like to see more of my work, including projects I am currently working on, visit my personal website
, where you can also find out more about the subway map. Unfortunately, due to my poor needlework, the costume barely survived Halloween night, but now it will live on in the New York Times
! Finally, if you would like to a see a map of the world of Urban Oyster, check out our new interactive map
. If you would like to follow this blog, subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for updates via email in the box above on the right (this is separate from the Urban Oyster email newsletter). For questions or comments about this blog post, please contact Andrew Gustafson (email@example.com).