Updated 05/26/2010 01:36 PM
Once Upon A Time In Queens: Number 7 Train Provides Real Connection To History
As the station continues its vintage look at Queens, NY1's Ruschell Boone talks to a local photographer who has documented the 7 train's impact on life in the borough.
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Jeff Liao has long been fascinated with the number 7 train. So much so, he spent four years photographing every station to illustrate the train's impact on life in Queens and its connection to the people.
"The number 7 is like a river. In ancient time the old civilization they were all settled around rivers and number 7 is the new immigrations river," Liao said.
Pictures of this perceived river can be seen in Liao's book called "Habitat 7." In it, readers get a direct and indirect view of the train as it snakes through the heart of some of the borough's most diverse immigrant neighborhoods. The panoramic pictures also show the train flowing through the hustle and bustle of commerce, daily life and recreation in the borough.
"The most fascinating thing in Queens is every street, every corner when you turn the culture change, and the neighborhood change and the people change," Liao said.
It's said that people of over 150 different nationalities live along the 7 line which runs from Time Square to Flushing. Liao is one of them. He moved to Queens from Taiwan in 1999.
Riding the train to Manhattan everyday, Liao said he felt many of the passengers shared a common bond even though their journey might be different.
"Everybody is going there chasing the American Dream and that's a lot of stories to tell," Liao said.
And while Liao tells his story through pictures, Dr. Jack Eichenbaum, an urban geographer, provides a historical snapshot with walking tours. Part of his focus is how the subway sparked residential development in places like Jackson Heights and Sunnyside.
"It really served new communities that were built on empty land," Eichenbaum said.
Eichenbaum says the 7 train also changed the way people lived and work in the borough.
"In Long Island City, it brought workers to new industrial plants. In Flushing, it moved the center of a very old community from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue where the train was. In Corona and Woodside, it brought people away from the Long Island Railroad," Eichenbaum said.
The rail link's lasting impact can still be seen on Eichenbaum's tours and in Liao's pictures.
View the complete gallery of antique photographs of Queens from the archives of the Museum of the City of New York.