Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
A short film zips viewers through subway stations in all five of New York City’s boroughs.
Two well-heeled ladies chat about musicals near Lincoln Center. An elderly man bows an erhu in a deserted corner of the Lorimer Street stop. At Jay Street, two kids put pink plastic buckets on their heads and chant, “We’re going to the beach! We’re going to the beach!”
The short film Stations: A Quick Scan Through NYC races through 120 of the MTA’s stops, marrying scripted interactions with chance encounters, such as passengers yelping as they’re pelted by rain outside of the Astoria Boulevard station.
“I grew up loving anything and everything related to trains, and I still do,” says director Roddy Hyduk, a Michigan native who made the film with the Snowday collaborative. “But the trains where I'm from don't have millions of people riding them each day.”
When he lived in New York, Hyduk’s commute on the B train took him from 110th Street/Cathedral Parkway down to West 4th Street. But that daily trip didn’t really inspire him. “It was usually when I didn't have a set destination in mind…that I was afforded the freedom to really appreciate the details that make the subway experience special,” he wrote in an email.
Though he says it’s hard to pick a favorite station, he found himself captivated by the new stop near the Hudson Yards development. “I visited on my last day of shooting, shortly after it had opened,” he writes. “The platform was so expansive and clean. I wandered around there for quite some time, taking it all in.”
Throughout the short, there are grinding brakes, curious expressions, closing doors, automated announcements, people sprinting, people killing time. It’s a flickering montage of comings and goings, waiting, and the sense of community fostered through shared experiences, however temporary. In stitching together these snippets, the filmmakers create a dynamic portrait of the city itself.