This project studies the New York City subway system through two analytical frameworks: invisibility/crisis and material/fantasy.
INVISIBILITY/CRISIS The project identifies three recent moments of crisis - Hurricane Sandy (2012), the Summer of Hell (2017) and the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020) - when the materiality of the system was rendered visible to the public. Through these crises, I identify crucial material components and human infrastructures that were exposed by the disruptions and in the post-crisis recovery process.
MATERIALITY/FANTASY By tracking specific components and types of repairs through the MTA’s capital plans, we are able to see patterns in the MTA’s prioritization of material investments. When seen through the lens of two fantasies, 1 our collective fantasy of the 24/7 transit system and 2 Governor Cuomo’s fantasy of the Second Avenue Subway, the MTA’s material investments demonstrate how the materiality of the subway is the result of a negotiation of competing social and political fantasies.
These investigations are particularly urgent today as the subway system is in a state of “existential crisis,” as stated in a recent report by the New York State Comptroller, and as infrastructure re-enters public political discourse in the US with a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill passed in the senate in November 2021.