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From: "Paul S DOT Luchter" luckyshow AT mindspring DOT com
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 21:22:59 -0500
Subject: Subway Station with picture
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NY Times Metro section, December 11, 2001
Tunnel Vision column
by Randy Kennedy
"Unexpected Denizens of a Subway Station"
The following are not the kinds of things you typically find at a subway
A poster warning that pinkeye might be going around.
A nice woman handing out apple juice.
A group of Brooklynites sitting on the ground in a circle, singing, "The
more we get together, the happier we will be!"
But if you go to the Prospect Park station on the Q line in Brooklyn,
and if you choose the wrong door, you may find these things just about
any weekday morning, along with even more unusual sights.
For example, if you had been there yesterday morning, you could have
seen a Brooklynite named Colin Hamingson staring thoughtfully out a
window at a subway train, and then, in a kind of experimental gesture,
licking the window.
"I like the subway," he said.
It is highly unlikely that you will walk through the wrong door at the
station. The people behind it have put an electronic lock on it, and a
second door behind it with a second lock, because as much as they do not
want random people wandering in, they want even less to have the people
inside wandering out and onto the subway.
That is because many of the people inside are just learning how to say
"subway." Some wear diapers. None of them have Metrocards.
They are charges of the Maple Street School, a 25-year old nursery
school that moved in September into an old retail space that is part of
the station. making it probably the only subway-station nursery school
in the country.
In the process, the school placed two of the biggest worries of many New
Yorkers--commuting and child care--in close proximity in a daring effort
to ease both.
The above-ground subway station is on the other side of a thick wall and
so it is not easy, once inside the school, to tell you that you are
still, technically, in the subway.
There are reminders, though. In a fire stairway, there is a patch of the
original tile work from the station, circa 1905. Sometimes you can hear
the roar of the train, even over the roar of 40 toddlers. As in the
subway, there is a smattering of graffiti, though in the school it is in
But undoubtedly the best connection to the subway is in the upstairs
rear of the school, where a small window allows one to gaze right down
onto the open-air subway tracks.
For an urban child of a certain age, this window is better than
television and almost as good as chocolate.
"Of the littlest kids are crying, it's one of the things we do," said
Wendy Cole, the school's director and a teacher. "We put them up there
on the table so they can look out. I have one little girl it works like
magic for. She's transfixed."
So were Colin Hamingson, 3, and his friends, Cameron Gipson, 3, and
Marko Read, 4, yesterday morning. They were side by side at the window,
like a panel of experts, closely studying a motionless Franklin Avenue
Shuttle train on a storage track. Marko Read, speaking for the group,
reported, "It's broke, I think."
The parents who run the Maple Street School as a cooperative had always
hoped they could move their school closer to the subway. They never
expected it to be quite this close.
Ultimately, they chose the site because it was close to Prospect Park
and because the appendage to the station had 2,800 relatively
inexpensive square feet in which to relocate their school, which has
migrated over the years from Midwood Street to Lincoln Road to Maple
Street to Nostrand Avenue, outgrowing each location.
Had the parents known what lay ahead in turning part of an almost
century-old subway station into a school, they probably would not have
done it, said Kendall Christiansen, board chairman of the school.
The space abandoned for five years, looked like the subway had run
through it. "As I like to say, it was well ventilated and hydrated," Mr.
There were traces of toxic solvent, left as a kind of parting gift by a
former tenant, a dry cleaner. There was the mighty bureaucracy of the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority to negotiate. There were the
grants to cobble together, the locks to install to calm parents worried
about their children riding the Q train prematurely.
Four years and $850,000 later, the parents can be forgiven for feeling
as if their school will never quite be finished.
The other day, Mr. Christiansen was conducting a tour when Sarah
Prud'homme, a mother of two, entered. "There's this guy outside," she
reported, "some kind of a roofer, who says he wants to get paid.
Despite the renovation blues, though, the parents seem to be exceedingly
proud of their pioneering subway school. The children, for their part,
take it much more in stride.
"Of course I go to school in a subway," Ayla Safran, who said she was
"That's where people go to school."
[accompanying picture: "Colin Hamingson, 3, finds hypnotic charm in the
trains that pass below his schoolroom window at the Prospect Park subway