Magazine article The New Yorker

Track School

Magazine article The New Yorker

Track School

Article excerpt

June marks the onset of what one Village resident refers to as "devil-baby season"--the time of the year when the temperature climbs and New Yorkers start doing crazy stuff. This year, the weather stayed cold, and damp. Things still got weird. On Long Island, a newborn was found in a shoebox. In Albany, the government fell apart. You didn't need to see Tony Scott's remake of the seventies classic "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" to be reminded that the city can be a cracked-up place.

Scott wanted the subway "to be a third character" in the movie, in which a white-collar con named Ryder (John Travolta) takes train passengers hostage and leaves it to Garber (Denzel Washington), a regular-guy dispatcher, to muster ten million dollars in an hour, or not. Scott's subway is totally recognizable (queasy light, podiatrist ads, Hasidim) and, at the same time, a little ridiculous (a major plot twist relies upon functioning wireless). He and his crew shot underground for four weeks, mostly in a "ghost tunnel"--the track for the old HH shuttle, which ran until 1946--at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station, in Brooklyn. By the end of the production, three hundred of the film's cast and crew had graduated from the N.Y.C. Transit Learning Center's Track Safety class, earning them both the right to work on the tracks and a white plastic wallet card proving it.

"We generally do these classes with actors on a P.M. tour, when there's less of a crowd," Kevin Bress, the senior director of Track Infrastructure and Maintenance Support Training for N.Y.C.T., said, the other day, at the agency's headquarters, at 2 Broadway. The class, he explained, takes eight hours and is mandatory for anyone working on N.Y.C.T. property. Of the curriculum, he said, "The main theme of the class is teaching people how not to get hit by a train."

Rene Corcino, a course instructor, added, "We also identify areas that the homeless may tend to get comfortable in before the police chase them out." Other topics: the third rail, tripping hazards, how to scoot up the platform ladder from the tracks. "You have to kind of put your foot sideways," another instructor, Joseph Lupo, said.

Over the years, Corcino and Lupo have done a lot of work with entertainment people. …

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