Red Train Blues


Q: On the Metro-North, when the train pulls into Fordham and 125th Street, why does the conductor on the New Haven Line often announce that the train is only there to “discharge passengers”?
—Tricia Berlin, New Rochelle

A: The better question is, “Why does the conductor on the Harlem Line not say that?” Actually, that’s a worse question—but it does matter for the answer. You see, back in 1848, the future New York and New Haven Railroad (predecessor to the New Haven Line—we’ll call them the “red trains”) had a problem. It had tracks between Westchester and Connecticut and could carry passengers up and down the coast, but it couldn’t get them into Manhattan. And everyone wants to go to Manhattan, right? So the red trains struck a deal with the New York and Harlem Railroad (predecessor to the Harlem Line—we’ll call them the “blue trains”), which owned the track into the Big Apple, and that deal allowed the red trains to connect Westchester and Grand Central. But the blue trains didn’t want the red trains poaching their intra-city fares along the way. Fordham and 125th Street were blue-train stops with blue-train passengers who paid blue-train money to go to Grand Central. Thus, the red train was not allowed to make any money skirting people throughout New York City—only into (and out of) New York City. Full speed ahead to today. It may seem silly to keep this deal in place, but, while the MTA runs all Metro-North trains, the individual lines are funded, at least in part, separately. The New Haven Line uses some Connecticut tax dollars while the Harlem Line uses some New York money. So, next time you see some schlub try to sneak on your train at Fordham Station, kick him off. He’s the reason your property taxes are so high.

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Q: Does Westchester County have any sister cities? What is a sister city, anyway?
—Kevin Fleigel, Yorktown Heights

A: Kevin, how could a county have sister cities? Obviously, we’d have sister counties. I mean, what kind of stupid quest…what’s that? In what country? Oh. Our bad. Well, Kevin, thanks for the great question. It turns out Westchester County does have a sister city in the form of Jingzhou (Pronounced Ching-Joe), a metropolis of Hubei Province, China, with a population of more than six million. Why China? Why not China? The county has been courting business relationships with the world’s most populated country for well over a decade. And the folks there seem to like us. After we attained sister-city status with Jingzhou in 1996, they gave us a pavilion, which, according to the county, was “constructed in China, disassembled, and shipped to the United States, where it was installed by several craftsmen from China.” We put it in the Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Somers. As for what a sister city is, there are various organizations that promote these relationships and then help foster reciprocal communication, tourism, business development, etc., between the new family members.

Q: I’m curious about a property that faces a little mall area in Yonkers where Gianna’s restaurant is located. It seems that there must have been an estate there at one time, since a wrought-iron fence appears in the overgrown garden area. Where would one go to find information for Yonkers?
—Lucia Madler, via e-mail

Alder Manor

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A: We suppose you could go to Yonkers, or to the library, or to the Internet. We hear good things about Google. But we’ll save you the keystrokes. You’ve actually stumbled across a pretty cool piece of Yonkers history. The wrought-iron fence of which you write is on North Broadway between Odell Terrace and Executive Boulevard. It’s right down the street from the Boyce Thompson Institute, the former agricultural research facility (see February’s “Ask”), and the recently restored Alder Manor. Said manor housed the eponymous William Boyce Thompson, who, with tobacco financier Caleb C. Dula, founded the Hudson River Country Club, a prominent golf club and course, and they most likely put up the fence some time in the first half of the 1900s.

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