First the admirable part: Arun Wiita, a recently graduated MD-PhD, went to every single subway stop in New York City, took photos, and quickly described the surroundings over a two-week period for a project he calls The New York Subway Project. That takes patience, follow-through, and displays the level of curiosity we should expect from a doctor. Unfortunately, it’s the descriptions themselves that are pissing people off.
In each location, Wiita’s method is more or less thus: note the condition of the station, comment on the the surrounding structures, and then make a wild guess as to the area’s racial mix based on the faces at and near the station. Adjectives like “hoody,” “ghetto” and thuggish,” “depressed” and “crappy,” are tossed with abandon. Blacks and perceived Hispanics are listed matter-of-factly, but whites and Asians are in most instances called “gentrifiers” — often race is not even mentioned. The impression is that Wiita considers all blacks and Hispanics to be helpless game pieces, waiting in terror for some “gentrifier” to shift them along the subway “Risk” map to East New York.
In response to the 125th Street (2/3 line) station listing, Bushwick resident Joya Nemley points out his seeming amazement at the fact that “there are lots of people around, mostly black, many in professional attire.”
“Was he expecting Cross Colors jeans and 8 ball jackets?” asks Nemley — a black professional. “The shittiest part of it all is that he took all this time to do this project which could have actually been awesome. Instead it’s just a massive fail.”