Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Best Subway Tunnels in NYC

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Performances start tomorrow at 59E59 of Brooklynite Paul Bomba's first fully produced play in New York, The Man Under, an "urban love story" set in the city's subway tunnels. We caught up with Bomba—also an actor, the managing and producing director of Animus Theatre Company, and a subway explorer—to ask him about the best tunnels in the city, and his other favorite places in Brooklyn.

What neighborhood do you live in?
After theatre school, I needed a place that was cheap and close enough to my people in Brooklyn. I grew up in Gravesend, and my parents are still out there, so I got this place in Borough Park with some friends. They've since left, but I'm still out there, about four years now... About half way between Avenue U and the city.

Best abandoned subway tunnel?
I'm really looking forward to The Lowline, but until then there's that old abandoned Myrtle Ave. station you see as you pass between DeKalb and the Manhattan Bridge. It's called Masstransiscope, and was created by artist Bill Brand. Recently, some jerk has gone and defaced it. I would like to get whoever did that in a room and give them a really stern talking talking to.

Best active subway tunnel?
Definitely The Freedom Tunnel. Don't be idiots, people; it's really really dangerous. Use the interwebs for that. But that's very much kind of what I am imagining for my play. Something really breathtaking—beautiful and gritty. Lots of metaphorical images, etc.

Best place to people watch?
Any place that's culturally rich and feels strange to you. I walk down Thirteenth Avenue in Brooklyn and it raises so many questions... Bedford Avenue on the Northside is equally mindboggling, as is the stretch between Roll N' Roaster and the El Greco Diner in Sheepshead Bay. Go there on a summer evening, and I guarantee you'll be shocked at what you see.

Best place to drink?
I'm frequenting the Fourth Avenue bar scene these days. 4th Ave Pub and Cherry Tree are favorites. If I feel like actually talking to other people, I'm in love with Mission Delores. If I need to relax, I'll get an Old Fashioned at Temple on Lafayette—that's Manhattan.

Best restaurant?
I'd say best cheap eats is 218 Grand Restaurant. Get the "crispy pig with skin on rice," make sure they give you the real menu. Don't accept the "tourist" menu. Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia Street is another love of mine. Who knew skate was so good? But the absolute best is Spumoni Gardens. It's the best pizza on the planet, period.

Best grocery store/farmer's market?
I honestly don't know! I am on such a limited budget, I can't really afford anything but my local Pathmark. Every other morning I go to the bagel store between 48th and 49th streets on Thirteenth Avenue. It's really weird... You get what kind of bagel they give you, you don't actually get a choice, but get one with "tuna and hurif" and you'll be in breakfast heaven.

Best laundromat/dry cleaner?
The most convenient one. I bring a notebook with me or some kind of practical joke. Randomly playing remote controlled prerecorded farm animal sounds when there are old ladies and young children buzzing around is remarkably refreshing. Smiles all around.

Best outdoor spot?
I frequent the Boardwalk. I especially love that really strange roller-rink-type building down on the west end of things past the Abe Stark athletic building. I don't really know what it is, but it's really beautiful and I would love to turn it into a theater and do a show there.

Best place to attend a show/view a piece of art/see a movie?
A great thing about my show is that we're doing it at 59E59, and the venue is amazing. If you haven't seen a show there yet, make The Man Under your first. You'll be rewarded. It's completely worth it. I'm also a huge fan of The Metropolitan Playhouse. It is a hidden theater gem.

Best coffee shop?
I'm a big fan of 2 Moon on Fourth Avenue. It's quiet enough to settle in and do some work, and they are super friendly.

Best subway line/bus?
The D is the fastest subway into and out of deep Brooklyn, which is how I would classify best. The F, however, has the best views. On a clear day around sunset, riding the F over the Gowanus Canal is something magical.

Best date spot?
This question scares me a little bit. I thought we were liberated from these sorts of conventions! Seriously though, if you see my play, you will probably see how hopeless I am regarding these kind of things. The women are really in charge. I have no clue how to do it.

Best person whose name you don't know?
What does that even mean?! I think it would have to be the people we don't seem to thank enough, like our sanitation workers or something. I mean try to imagine New York City without those guys. No one would live here.

Best celebrity in the neighborhood?
No celebs live near me, aside from the extremely influential rabbis that I'm sure are famous in their communities. Patrick Stewart is apparently in Park Slope. He's an incredible actor, I have a ton of respect for that guy. If I saw him on the street, I would probably do something weird, like try to kiss his hand.

Which are there more of: dogs, bodega cats, strollers, American Apparel ads, or old men on stoops?
Oh, easily strollers. I think there's a real value on having large families in the Hasidic community. There are so many children around. It's really full of life!

What's missing from your neighborhood?
A good coffee shop. I'd love to sit down and do some writing without having to get on the subway. A Staples would also be handy, as I'm always in need of a new printer cartridge.

What's been the biggest change since you've moved in?
I'm seeing more and more artists venturing far from Manhattan in order to escape recession-proof rent increases. It still hasn't hit critical mass, but I think in the next few years, things will really start to feel different in Borough Park and Bensonhurst.

It's a Saturday night in January; you don't feel like traveling very far but you're antsy for a night out. Where do you go?
I get on that D train and I head over to Atlantic Center area or Union Street. I can be at Atlantic in 15 minutes if the stars align.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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