Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Geographic uncertainty

Huntington has moved. Not far, I'm sure, but it has definitely moved.

As far back as I remember, Huntington has been 66 minutes from the city by train. Now, it is 76 minutes. The only conclusion I can draw is that Huntington has moved a few miles east.

"Don't be silly," I hear you saying, "the train is just slower, or there's an extra stop, or perhaps the LIRR is having problems." How little you know of life in the quintessential suburb!

Long Island is an excrescence of New York City. The City. Everything that happens on LI is measured by the yardstick of the city. One of the more noticeable effects of this dependent existence is the use of time measurements for east-west travel. Huntington is one hour from the city, not 39.5 miles. Honestly, I had to look up the distance on Google Maps; it's that irrelevant. I know LI is about 15 miles north-south, and about 2.5 hours east-west.

This is why Huntington has moved. Regardless of its geographic position, it is now ten minutes farther from the city. Ten minutes farther from its heartbeat, with limbs beginning to tingle and fall asleep. Rush hour probably begins ten minutes earlier now, and lasts until ten minutes later. Unless the peak trains still run at the old speed. That would be an interesting comment on who needs to be closer to the heartbeat.

Maybe Huntington is going to benefit from this. It could become more of its own center, relying less on the city. In some ways, this is certainly already happening. Huntington has the oldest and largest Pride parade on LI, the best independent movie theater on LI, one of the most racially and economically diverse communities on LI. It has something of an existence of its own. Nevertheless, the trains to the city are always packed at commuting times, and even on weekends.

Clearly, I am overstating the impact of ten more minutes. I believe, though, that I am not doing so as much as you might think. Life on LI really does hinge that much on distance from the city.


I somehow never really noticed the deeper similarities between LI and LA. While LA purportedly has no center, instead relying on Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards as extended linear downtowns (Mysterious X, who said that? I have forgotten.), LI has a defined center, but it is located due west of the entire island. Therefore, we have our downtowns called 25, 25A, 27, Northern & Southern State Parkways, and the LIE. Strip malls, strip malls everywhere, and all the towns did shrink.

I'm not sure where these ruminations are heading; being in Huntington always makes me grow ponderous. Yes, I mean that. I will remain in Huntington until Sunday morning, continuing to grow and ponder. Any thoughts on sprawl and geography and transport are welcome.

4 comments:

Alexandra said...

Bob Fink said it! But he was quoting someone. Probably some blowhard. I enjoy being an unhelpful smartass.

Amanda said...

About two weeks ago the LIRR changed all train schedules, it seems there is construction along the 'queens interlock'. What that means is today, on the way home, the train sat still for ~10 minutes while the conductor said, "There is only 1 track open up ahead, and we must wait for another train to pass." I am happy the conductor did not try to race the other train to the one-train-at-a-time section.

Ms. Chakravarty said...

you know, in your profile picture (though less in real life) you look very much like my parents' friend steve. steve was one of my very favorite grown ups when i was little. and you are one of my very favorite not-grown-ups now that i am big.

huge, in fact.

twice your size!

Violet Vixen said...

I believe it was Banham who focused on LA's lack of center.