spring and art in New york is great. a crowded subway? Not so much.

April 15, 2014 |  Category:   art + design life nyc outings







An afternoon at the Whitney Museum on a weekend when there are sketching tours and open studios for kids on their calendar is a great way to spend a Saturday in the city. Admittedly, the girls usually groan when I announce that we’re going to an art museum, but they always declare it a fun day after the fact. Give them an activity booklet and a pencil and they make it their mission to fill out all the pages and find the relevant artwork to each activity. They’re tireless, and their love for crafting is tireless too. You all know by now that I’m not a crafter, but I admit I may have been picked up a piece of yarn and a pipe cleaner or two that afternoon (though the other day at my friend’s house I absentmindedly starting playing around with these striped pipe cleaners while we talked and made something of a sculptural piece with them. But I wouldn’t call that crafting either. I was fidgeting, and there is a difference).


I love how so many museums in the city organize activities and special tours for kids to get them engaged in the art. Kids under 18 have free admission too which makes it easier for a family to spend the day at the museum. As funding gets cut in NYC publics, art education is sadly one of the first things to go unless you have a PTA that has the fund-raising skills and resources to reinstate those enrichment classes, but unfortunately not every school is able to do this. I’d love to think that we benefit from having world class museums in the city that we live in, and as parents we can help supplement arts education for our kids, but the reality is that we probably don’t get to museums enough.
Now, the girls are old enough that we are paying subway fare for the 10 year old, though oddly enough paying for subway fare is determined by height and not by age which kind of sucks for families with tall kids. We’ve been getting away with the girls ducking under the turnstiles for a long time and bus drivers will still let the kids go on for free, but Mia is just too tall to be doing the ducking thing. This means that at some point it will cost us 20 dollars at the current fare for a family of 4 to take a round trip ride on the subway, and $30 if we need to make an additional stop and ride the train 3 times in a day. I love public transportation, but wow, I never considered the soon-to-be costs of these outings. I hate to say it but driving will become far cheaper and after our train experience last Saturday, definitely more pleasant. Not sure if it’s because the weather was so nice and there were more riders and tourists in general, but the subways were crowded, like rush hour levels crowded. The kind of crowded where you’re packed in like sardines and you wonder to yourself, even though you are totally pro-public transportation all the way, if the destination is worth the hassle of getting there. The girls were getting squished, especially because adults can’t see them at their eye level when they’re trying to push their way in. All they can see is an empty space thinking there’s more room when in fact it’s being occupied by children. So much fun, so much stress, trying to prevent your kids from getting trampled on a crowded train while you become that obnoxious person on the train who yells, “hey, we can’t move further in because there are kids down here!”.
I admit that I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to subway fare because as self employed people in NYC, we have to pay the MTA a commuter transportation mobility tax because…who knows why? It’s the stupidest tax created for the self employed on the planet. Let’s penalize freelancers who don’t even commute by making them pay hundreds of dollars to the MTA every year! So yes, even though we only ride the subway a handful of times a month if that, Mark and I both pay more tax to the MTA than we spend on subway fare every year. It makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? (said no self employed person ever). So whenever I think about the MTA tax, I shove Mia under the turnstiles at the subway stations despite her protests of wanting to pay, explaining to her that I’ve already paid for her, in taxes!
Oh, New York. Sometimes we put up with your bullshit to get to the good stuff.

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  • Katie April 15, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Family outings on the subway are something I had *not* considered. Interesting perspective. Good thing I like my neighborhood!

    And that freelance tax, what in the world? How long has it been in effect? My husband might venture into the freelance world one of these days and that definitely sounds like a bum deal.

    Always appreciate your thoughts.

    • Jenna April 15, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Since 2009. They actually raised the income threshold last year and people are trying to get it eliminated altogether because I think the consensus is that it’s ridiculous and we can’t believe that the tax even exists. I hope that it gets eliminated – then paying subway fare for our entire family won’t be so painful. As it stands now, I pay more than my fair share to the MTA.

  • yj April 15, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    The awful thing about subway squishing is that despite being a sizeable woman, because I’m asian and 5’3″ people like to pretend like I don’t exist in that space either.

    OH, and my mom still remembers when my sister and I were young, and in Seoul, and we REALLY got squished because personal space doesn’t exist outside of the US. She was just telling me this story this weekend and said that we cried. So apparently it’s not just NYC subways.

    But the MTA tax, that’s all NYC. I hope it gets repealed.

  • Megs April 16, 2014 at 1:25 am

    My friends and I were just discussing how many government taxes, policies, etc are designed to make people that are already struggling to succeed at being self-employed struggle just a little bit harder. I will never understand the logic behind that.

  • Helle April 17, 2014 at 3:09 am

    I always find you’re really good at taking the girls out to do all kinds of interesting things. Some years ago you mentioned that Mia was into birdwatching, she might of course not be anymore, but do you know that one can join birdwatching guided walks in Central Park for almost no money? There is a film about on Youtube, definitely something I’d like to do if I were ever in NY.

    • Jenna April 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      I didn’t exactly know about that tour, but I know that there are avid bird watchers in Central Park. When Mark was working at the restaurant there, opening up early around 6am, the park would be mostly empty at that hour except the the bird watchers and the dog walkers.

  • Laura April 17, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    It costs the exact same ($2.50 one way ticket) for a public transit bus in Winnipeg, and we don’t have all the culture of NYC…that’s why we drive here, too.