•    History of the 7 Line   


    A 1917 photograph of the Queens Boulevard Viaduct under construction. The use of cement in the supports of the structure decreases some of the noise associated with most above ground subway lines. The station in the image is the 33rd St-Rawson St station of the 7 line.

    An elderly gentlemen with peppered gray hair slides into the middle car of the train at the 33rd Street station, a guitar slung back between his shoulder blades. If you frequent New York City’s subway lines, he may be a familiar sight. The musician begins begins to play, but his performance is interrupted by a service advisory. A man, possibly Indian, begins to chat with the artist in Spanish. Based on the few words you can understand, the musician is from the Dominican Republic. The commuter requests a song for a fellow passenger and after a few minutes of playing, the musician hands off the guitar to the man and lets him play. The man struggles to keep the guitar balanced as he plays a sequence of minor key chords on the moving train. We reach Courthouse Square. Five Pointz, a haven for another type of street art, passes below. The guitar switches hands again and the street musician plays another song while another commuter on the train begins to sing in Spanish. His eyes eyes are closed, but the entire subway car is watching the scene. At the next station, the musician departs. The singer and commuter begin their own talk and the 7 train makes it departure from Queens. How did this start?

    The Interborough Rapid Transit Company, the private precursor to the MTA, began plans for a subway line to connect Queens with Manhattan in the 1910s, initially connecting the two boroughs by building a subway tunnel and later extending the line up to Times Square and Flushing, thus completing the modern IRT Flushing Line, in 1928. Although Flushing had already been a successful town, the introduction of a subway line allowed an increase of traffic into the future Queens neighborhood.

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    Corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, Circa 1930

    The IRT Flushing Line’s current name, The Seven, was introduced in 1948 as the line’s “rollsign” name found on the front of each train car. The line was the last to use red R36 subway cars which were intended to curb graffiti on the subway cars. The last “Redbird” subway train was retired in 2003. The 7’s 11 car train is the longest in the city’s subway system. Sites found along the line include Shea Stadium (now closed) and Citi Field, Five Pointz (a graffiti art mecca), Queens Boulevard, and Flushing Meadows Park. The line reaches some of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the world, including Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, Flushing, and Long Island City. During a baseball “subway series” the 7 train is branded with Mets colors as the foil to the Yankee’s 4 train in the Bronx. Plans to extend the line in Manhattan to 10th Avenue and 34th Street are currently underway.

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