On Monday, I posted about a graffiti artist who was killed by an oncoming D train @ 59th street station in Brooklyn. If you’re a foamer, you’re probably thinking ‘The D doesn’t run there’, and if you’re a hardcore foamer, you know there was a service diversion that night, with the D running northbound on the N route. This little detail might have been what cost this man his life.
Very little was said in the news about the particulars of what happened, or who this graffiti writer was. We now know his tag name was Jan. I never met him, but he was about to rent some art studio space from an artist friend of mine. Had he lived a bit longer, I’d likely have met him and perhaps gone on a few adventures with him in the coming weeks. I haven’t seen any of his art myself, so I can’t give an opinion on his talent. From what I can gather though, this was an ambitious fellow who would have made a name for himself over time.
That ambition lead him into what I consider a fairly dangerous subway tunnel in the early hours of monday morning. In case you’re wondering why I chose a not-very-awesome photo to go with this post, it is because it is the only photo I ever took of the location I believe this young man died. It’s a blurry, unfocused, hurried photo that I fired off very quickly late one night. Just beyond the blue lights is the northbound platform at 59th street. I didn’t set down the tripod and get a proper shot here because the area felt just that unsafe. Just plain not enough clearance for my liking, and an air of unpredictability.
While not much detail was printed in the papers of exactly how and where he was hit by the train, one can make an educated guess that it was just south of the northbound platform. The D was only running northbound on the N that night, and it joins the tunnel just outside of the station. The N line joins the R at this point via a ramp that comes upward into the tunnel, so you can’t see a train coming as readily as you would in other straight subway tunnels (thus why I suspect it was south of the station, not to the north, where it’s very straight and there’s plenty of room to avoid trains). The area south of the platform is a no clearance zone, with walls coated in candy stripes and a split switch from the N ramp onto the northbound local and express tracks. There’s also third rails where you might not be ready for them. With bad timing, anyone could get killed here – and with the service diversion in affect, it’s not hard to imagine a writer or explorer waiting for an N to go by, and proceeding to try to enter or leave the tunnel under the assumption that the next N is 20 minutes away (as would be the normal schedule at such any early hour in the morning).
This young man’s death could easily have happened to anyone entering the tunnels of the NYC subway system. Ambition is a devil sometimes. It drives us out of our comfort zones, and sometimes, it pushes too far too fast. Sometimes bad things happen. This is one of those times.
If you find yourself serious compelled to wander the tunnels, please learn as much as you can before you hop off that platform, and even then, may Apollo grant you glory. The risks are the same, for seasoned vets and up and comers alike. Stay safe out there. And for the Train Operator, I hope you get some time off and realize it wasn’t your fault.