Website Introduction

Federal Art Project, “Work Promotes Confidence,” c. 1936. Courtesy Library of Congress, call # POS-WPA-NY.01.W76, no. 1, available at

The Great Depression-Great Recession website explores New York City at two crucial moments in its history: the Great Depression of the 1930s, when former New York governor Franklin Roosevelt became president of the United States and created a series of “New Deal” programs to revive the devastated American economy; and the current Great Recession, when financial sector meltdown, high unemployment, and housing woes have undermined the city’s–and the nation’s–economic stability.

In March 2012, twenty first-year students in the Macaulay Honors College seminar “The Peopling of New York” created proposals for this website and then voted as a class to choose what they considered to be the best proposal in the group. In the end, they decided to look at New York City, both during the Great Depression and the Great Recession, through the lens of its subway system.

Subway interior, c. 1933. Courtesy New York Public Library, available at

Berenice Abbott, "Union Square, 14th Street, and Broadway, Manhattan," July 16, 1936. Courtesy of New York Public Library, record 104478, available at

This was a fascinating and appropriate choice: builders completed the last piece of the subway system, the Independent Subway System, in 1932, one of the worst years of the Depression, and the city took over the entire system in 1940, at the very end of the nation’s economic crisis. In our current recession, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) cutbacks and fare hikes have become a staple of discussion and a cause of hardship in a city that greatly relies on public transportation.


The students who put together this website have used the subway system to document the way New Yorkers travel from their own neighborhoods to the places where different lines converge and where individuals come together to work, play, eat, create art and music, and protest. The students have woven their own commuting stories and unique perspectives into the site while also focusing on the larger questions and problems of a city in the midst of economic crisis. All the work is their own and represents a diversity of voices, ideas, and attitudes. They, and I, hope you enjoy it.



Please click on an icon below to go to a map of that subway line. Once on the map, click the “subway” icon to view information about the transfer point.