Each subway line in New York City, whether underground or elevated, has its own vibe. It comes from two factors: 1) the neighborhoods it travels through, and 2) the neighborhoods at the terminals of the train. This is the first of a series of what you will find if you go to The End of the Line.
I am starting with the Number 1 train. Not because it is the lowest number, or even because it is one of the oldest subways in New York. I start here because this is my line. I grew up on this line, and I have lived somewhere along it for almost all of my life. When I picture a subway in my head, it is always the Number 1 train I see.
|Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=138076|
The Number 1 train is part of first subway line that was built in New York. The Interborough Rapid Transit System was a private company and the operator of our first subway. Today you will hear old-timers (like me) still refer to the IRT. In 1904 it opened a line that went from City Hall up to 145th Street and Broadway. Today that line has been spilt into three sections. Part of it is the southern end of the Number 6 train, part is the shuttle between Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, and the northern part is now the center section of the Number 1 train. This is the Broadway Local which travels from South Ferry, at the southern tip of Manhattan, to 242nd Street in the Bronx, traveling under or over Broadway for most of its journey. It starts in the financial district and, after passing through some of the cultural centers of the city, works its way through several middle and working class neighborhoods to Kingsbridge, in the Bronx.
On the south end of the line, South Ferry is a place that is well known to visitors and New Yorkers alike. It is the station you use to visit The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, or Battery Park. You can spend time walking through Battery Park. See my blog about Battery Park here and about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island here, or take a ferry to Governor’s Island. Built originally as a fort to guard the harbor, and then acting a Coast Guard base, today it is owned by the city and includes parks, art exhibits and concert space.
|Governor's Island Ferry|
My favorite thing to do at the southern end of the Number 1 train is to take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. To me, this FREE ride offers the best views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Oh, did I mention it is FREE? Once you have crossed the Upper Harbor you have to disembark. You can either get right back on to return, or you can spend some time exploring the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island. One of my favorite times to take this trip is a sunset. The sun goes down over the harbor and the buildings of lower Manhattan light up. It is almost magical.
|Staten Island Ferry Terminal|
|Subway Decorations celebrate the maritime history of South Ferry|
|South Ferry waiting room|
|Looking north up the East River at the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge|
|Hitching a ride on the ferry|
When you return to Manhattan, take the Number 1 train north for about an hour. It ends at the Kingsbridge section of The Bronx. Kingsbridge gets its name from a toll bridge that crossed the old Spuyten Duyvil Creek, built in 1693, that connected the northern tip of Manhattan to The Bronx. Today this stretch of Broadway is a growing commercial center for the western Bronx. This area was often my destination.
|242nd Street Station|
|242nd Street Station|
I would come to Kingsbridge for two main reasons. One was the Riverdale Skating Rink. While it is no longer there, this ice skating rink was a favorite destination. This indoor rink was a popular place, and a real neighborhood hangout. Let the tourists and rich go to Rockefeller Center or Wolman Rick in Central Park, we came here. I took figure skating classes, and my brother played in its youth hockey league. We would come up on weekends and spend an afternoon staying from one free skate session to another. Unfortunately The Riverdale Rink is now gone. It has been torn down and now a Self-Storage warehouse is now in its place.
Today the stretch along Broadway in Kingsbridge is the main shopping area for the western Bronx. With a Target at one end and a BJ’s a mile away at the other, Broadway is filled with Bronxites all day long. It is a place to come to shop and eat. On 231st street is Loesser’s Deli, the last old fashioned Kosher Jewish Deli in the Bronx. On Broadway, just north of 231st street is the El Malecon, home to excellent Dominican food. If you are looking for a place to buy fresh fruit and veggies there is Garden Gourmet, an excellent market that also has a great prepared food section. This wide range of stores attract a true cross section of the Bronx, Dominican, Indian, Jewish, and from many West African countries, Kingsbridge is truly an international cross roads.
Another reason to come to this end of the line is Van Cortland Park. These 1100 acres (third largest park in NYC) include a public swimming pool, a multiuse stadium, several playgrounds and two 9-hole golf courses, one of them is the oldest public golf course in the country. Weekends find West Indian families watching cricket players in their whites, Central American and African families around the soccer fields and Puerto Rican and Dominican families at the baseball fields. All joining together to enjoy the park. During and after the games everyone gathers just south of the Parade Grounds, where there is space for picnics and cook-outs. The smell of lechón mixes with the aroma of curry goat. During the summer the line to get into the pool stretches down the block, and the NY Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera perform concerts, complete with fireworks. But don’t wait or summer. Van Cortland hosts events all year long. You can find its schedule here.
|Van Cortland Stadium|
|Entrance to the Van Cortland Pool|
|Bar-B-Que and picnic area near Broadway|
The heart of Van Cortland Park is the Parade Ground and its Cross-Country race course. The Parade Ground is home to soccer, baseballs and cricket fields. On its edge is a 1.5 mile running track. The Parade Ground is also the Start/Finish area for one of the country’s best and most famous 3.1 mile cross-country courses. The course is challenging because it has a long flat section at the start and finish with hills that climb 160 feet. For over 100 years the best runners in the Northeast have tested themselves against the Van Cortland Park course.
|Tortoise and Hare mark the finish line of the Cross-Country Track|
|Van Cortland Parade Ground|
|Cross-Country Finish Line|
The Number 1 train travels the length of Manhattan and into the Bronx. It connects New Yorkers of many backgrounds and helps bring them into the heart of the city. I invite you to take the Number 1 train, uptown or downtown, and explore someplace new.