on the cover

On the Cover of New York Magazine: Who’s Afraid of the Subway?

Photo: Natan Devir

New York Magazine’s April 25–May 8 issue, published less than two weeks from the April 12th subway shooting in Brooklyn, reflects on both the event and the broader uneasiness some New Yorkers feel about a vital organ of the city that is also in constant crisis. Depending on who you ask or what you read, disorder on the subway is either common or rare; worrisome or simply a nuisance; and rising criminality is either a symptom of scant police presence, or of capitalist dysfunction only exacerbated by the pandemic.

“In the aftermath of the first mass shooting on the subway in nearly 40 years, we wanted to take the temperature of the city and our relationship to the subway,” said features editor Marisa Caroll. “Features writer Reeves Wiedeman spent the following week underground, riding every train line, and talking to MTA workers, buskers, riders, and temporary residents of the platforms. What he found was a creeping return of fear — and a lot of New Yorkers unsure how to feel about it.”

In addition to Wiedeman’s cover story, the issue includes three meditations on the train, from features editor Ryu Spaeth on how the subway has become a social safety net for the unhoused and unwell, contributor Collier Meyerson on the specter of subway violence for teens, and contributor Mark Jacobson on the gallery of New York folk hero-villains through the ages. The photographs, by Natan Dvir, are an extension of his photo series, Platforms, where he documents the cultural landscape of the subway system. “Dvir photographed more than 20 stations in multiple boroughs to create a rich tapestry of New York’s underground,” said photography director Jody Quon. The final cover features four stations at different times of day: Union Square, 36th Street, Roosevelt Avenue, and Canal Street.

“Part of the reason we did this package was that, between the lurid stories about crime in the tabloids and the staid approach of mainstream news organizations, no one was addressing what the subway actually feels like these days, amidst an uptick in violence and a general dishevelment,” said features editor Ryu Spaeth. “My own feeling was that, yes, the subway can be kind of scary right now, embarrassing as that is to admit, but we should channel that fear into more constructive and humane projects than simply sweeping unhoused and unwell out of sight and out of mind.”

Who’s Afraid of the Subway?