Psst, You Wanna Buy a Transit System?

Joel Epstein
6 min readMar 18, 2020

By: Joel Epstein

#coronavirus #transit #trumpvirus #voteblue #MTA #NYC #Citibike #votebluenomatterwho #leadership #globalpandemic #traffic #socialdistancing #shelterinplace #CentralPark #LES #Brooklyn #DUMBO #BrooklynNavyYard #donaldtrump #AnthonyFauci #trumprecession #trumpdepression #Katrina

Just because I can’t Take the A Train doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the memory of transit.

Right now, stopping the spread of the fatal coronavirus is everyone’s Job One. It’s why yesterday’s Citibike rides were probably my last for a while. In hindsight, perhaps it was irresponsible of me to be out there riding a bike that had been ridden by potential carriers of the virus. Perhaps I am a carrier of the virus myself; though until this country gets its testing regimen together, I am hardly a testing priority. I feel good physically and have avoided crowded places including the subway for weeks now.

Still, having sinned in a communitarian way, albeit while wearing protective gloves and washing my hands frequently, indulge me here and in the guilty pleasure I engaged in for a few hours yesterday.

What’s on my mind, as well as coronavirus, is transit. M.T.A. seeks $4 billion federal bailout as ridership plunges is the headline on this minute’s site. Let’s face it, the coronavirus, or trumpvirus*, as I call it, is doing the transit-hating Koch brothers’ bidding. Across the country and around the world, the virulent virus is killing people as well as decimating transit ridership and driving too many of those who normally ride trains and buses, to private cars. Here in New York City, thousands more have turned to Citibike, to their own bikes or to scooters to get where they need to go. Until the State of New York imposes martial law and orders all of us to shelter in place, walking and Citibike are how I get around the increasingly dystopian and eerie city.

With work “slow,” to say the least, I needed to get out yesterday. So as I have done most days lately, I walked the three quarters of a mile from my apartment in Sugar Hill to 126th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue to pick up a Citibike. Lyft, which owns Citibike, and the Department of Transportation have promised to expand the successful bike share program to Sugar Hill and Washington Heights this Spring but now who knows when that will arrive.

Central Park’s Cleopatra’s Needle inches out the supertalls in this deceptive photo of a nearly empty Park Drive East yesterday. Yes, practicing social distancing, I biked against the heavy traffic in the park,

With the streets stripped of their usual congestion it was a beautiful ride down Saint Nicholas Avenue to Central Park, through the Park to 59th Street and then down Fifth Avenue, to Broadway, Union Square, over to Second Avenue and down through the LES to the Manhattan Bridge. My destination was Underground Signs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a short ride from DUMBO.

Fifth Avenue was so empty I biked the east side of the street from 59th Street to 23rd Street.

Underground Signs is my new antidote to transit withdrawal, now that Citibike may be verboten.

The company’s market niche is signs and signage from various transit and transportation agencies. Like any smart business, they can also make up a sign that says whatever you want. Happy 87th Pop!

For months I’ve been looking at the MTA’s Memorabilia and Collectibles site but frankly, most of the surplus property they have for sale is overpriced for the state that it’s in. And anyhow, in the coronavirus era, do I really need their *NEW ADDITION* REFUSE CANISTER? For that matter, does anyone, even if it is “Authentic, unique, and probably one of the most useful items in every home, work or office…”

¡No, gracias! Though given today’s news on the MTA’s woes, maybe I should call them and offer to redo their webpage. Psst, you wanna buy a transit system?

All kidding aside, we need to save the MTA so once this virus is beat, the transit that millions rely on to get to work is there for them. We can’t rebuild the regional, national and global economy that New York is so important to without those workers and without the transit that gets them to their jobs.

But back to the Navy Yard.

Underground Signs which is owned by Trevor MacDermid, offers licensed props that look everything like the real deal, but without the schmutz and graffiti that can be found on the beauties for sale on the MTA asset recovery site. I hope Trevor is also selling to Steiner Studios, the TV and film production studio which operates, or at least once did, a short walk away at the Navy Yard.

A quiet Flatiron District, looking northbound.

But enough about me. Did you catch me as an extra in the Simon Says scene at the Borscht Belt hotel in Season Two of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about reduce, reuse, recycle. Just ask my somewhat concerned kids and sisters. Still, I like what Trevor’s selling and enjoyed meeting him, and his young daughter on Day _X_ of the Trump era plague.

Trevor MacDermid and his daughter at Underground Signs.

Trevor hooked me up with three MTA signs and some signage for my apartment and as gifts. Now I can wait for the train without leaving the comfort of my capsule. Given that the shelter in place plan till the end of the apocalypse is 24/7 solitary, it could be a long wait.

Dry Dock 1, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Yes, it’s a New York City landmark.
Leaving the Navy Yard, signs in tow. “Yes Ma, I wore my helmet.”
Williamsburg Bridge bound with my haul. Social distancing at the bike rack.
Astor Place, back in Manhattan.

Here are my prayers for the world and an end to this plague:

  • Wash your hands and respect your friends, elders and neighbors by following Tony Fauci’s latest guidelines.
  • Ignore the so-called president’s lies and revisionist history of his belated, inept response to the crisis. He has blood on his hands. It’s his Katrina and recession/depression all wrapped into one.
  • Vote blue no matter who!

And if you want some fun subway signage for the four walls to help get you through the next number of months while supporting a small business, give Trevor a call. All of the signs are online and the company can ship anywhere.

Remember Trump’s lame and belated response to the pandemic. Plus his pesky recession/depression. Vote blue, no matter who!

Given the coronavirus drill, that’s probably a lot easier, and safer, than visiting the company at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Yours in transit,


* No, I don’t believe Pinocchio caused this plague but one would have to be an idiot or as venal as he is to deny that our poor excuse for a president contributed to some of the coronavirus deaths by acting on the basis of his reelection hopes rather than the public health.

Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.