Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has played the role of the goodnatured, slightly clueless frontrunner ever since he entered the NYC mayoral race. Despite gaffes and goofs galore, he has now embraced a new “post-embarrassment” phase. And he seemed to kick things off by going on the comedian Ziwe’s self-titled Showtime show on Sunday evening to uncomfortably answer a few questions about his favorite billionaires, rap songs, and racial stereotypes.
But there was one little thing that really stuck out for New Yorkers: when asked what his favorite subway station is, Yang said it was his local stop…Times Square. “It’s big, it’s cavernous, there are entertainers there, sure, like, what’s not to like?” he said by way of explanation.
Some were incredulous: “This is like saying your favorite Italian restaurant is Olive Garden,” tweeted Jessica Valenti. Some called Yang’s pick “disqualifying,” such as Miranda Yaver, PhD. Others said those reactions were extreme and elitist.
“You can have legit issues with Andrew Yang as mayor and also not lean into gross tropes about authenticity of belonging,” tweeted Jeff Yang in response to someone who declared that Andrew Yang was “one thousand percent Not a New Yorker” because of his love of Times Square.
Notions of authenticity amidst this mayoral race aside, the thing that most interests me about this topic is how New Yorkers define what qualifies as a good or bad subway station. Because there are huge differences in the maintenance, amenities, and vibe of every stop. The subway, more than any other part of the city, is one thing that the most number of New Yorkers have in common, and we all have passionate, incredibly specific ideas about what makes one station stand out from another.
Is it about the ease with which you can traverse the station, and whether it’s ADA-accessible? Is it about the amount of options for taking different lines? Is it about the cleanliness or lack thereof? Is it the art on the walls, the stained glass mosaics, and the shine of the tiles? Is it because there’s something unique about the station that only regulars would know? Is it about whether it has entertainment or food available, or perhaps fresh fruit and concessions? Or is it all about convenience—do you inevitably develop Stockholm syndrome for whatever station you use the most?
Maybe it ultimately come down to nostalgia and sentimentality—maybe it’s just the fact that our memories commingle with the changing landscape of the city, and from that our urban identities are formed. Traversing the city then becomes a mini-tour through your own personal history. Maybe the York Street station was where you kissed your first love; maybe the Jackson Heights–Roosevelt Avenue/74th Street station is where you broke down crying after breaking up with them; maybe Dyckman Street station is where you ran into that person again after five years and saw them drop a bagel on the ground, pick it up, and eat it—don’t deny it, I just saw you do it!—so you counted your blessings you already broke up.
To try to get to the heart of all this, I posed the question of favorite subway stations to my colleagues, some of whom decided to also let me know what their least favorite station is, because New Yorkers are nothing if not discerning.
FRANKLIN STREET, BROADWAY JUNCTION & 28TH STREET STATIONS
“The Franklin Street subway stop (serving us since 1918) is the most beautiful and subtly whimsical subway station in NYC,” says Jen Carlson. “From the terrazzo floors to the art displays embedded in the walls to the rose-tinted hues… it deserves your R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” In fact, following Aretha Franklin’s death, the MTA put up some official tributes to the legend in this station.
Meanwhile, the 28th Street Station (Lexington Avenue line) is another beaut — this one “underwent some renovations in 2018 and came out of it a straight up stunner!” This is largely thanks to Nancy Blum’s “Roaming Underfoot,” a set of subway mosaics meant to “capture some of the magic” of the nearby Madison Square Park, an urban sanctuary that features flowers like Red Buds, Magnolias, Hellebores, Witch Hazel, Daffodils, Hydrangea, and Camellia, which were “chosen as representation of plant species that withstand changing climate conditions of the city.
Carlson also says she loves “the multi-tiered chaos (and churro vendors) of Broadway Junction. The design feels a bit like what would happen if a child was told to create an Escher-esque subway station — like they just kept stacking more pieces on top of it?”
68TH ST / LEXINGTON AVE
James Ramsay had an unexpected pick for his favorite station: “68 St / Lexington Ave, that’s deep as hell, that’s probably my favorite station,” he said. That station happens to have one of the steepest escalators in the city. “For some reason I like the ordeal of all those escalators. I also have sentimental feelings about the Upper East Side because I was born there and then my family immediately bailed, so there’s life-that-coulda-been energy to that stop.”
As for his least favorite stations, he points out “the Bedford L and Union Square L stations because everyone is very attractive, which I find distracting and unnerving. I can accept one hottie per station.”