Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A short film looks at the personal side of the much-maligned service, the same year it shut down for good.
Elevated trains along Manhattan’s Third Avenue stopped running for good in 1955. At the time, developers framed the service as a hindrance to progress as the city’s subway service expanded. Their removal—as Vincent Valk explains for CityLab in his look back at the old els—meant quieter, cleaner blocks to build new, market-rate apartment towers on. A short film released the same year focuses instead on the humanity that relied on the lines.
Without dialogue, the Oscar-nominated 3rd Ave El depicts a day on the maligned service through the perspective of its riders. From sunrise to sunset, a young filmmaker, an old drunk, a small child, and a young couple all experience the city differently. But the old el links them together unknowingly.