“Most folks just don’t know it,” she said.
Bencivenga is the director of the New York Transit Museum, the largest museum dedicated to urban transportation history in North America.
The museum opened as a temporary exhibit in 1976. It was only supposed to run from July 4 to Labor Day that year, but 42 years later it has established itself as an important fabric of New York City.
“We basically tell the story of how New York came to be through the lens of public transportation,” Bencivenga said.
Their exhibits have a little bit of everything, from history to art to engineering. Bencivenga calls it the “perfect STEAM laboratory,” filled with aspects on science, technology, engineering arts and math.
That’s because the region’s transportation system, including the subway, is “one of the engineering marvels of U.S. history,” she said.
The museum itself, located in Downtown Brooklyn, is historical. It’s sited inside a decommissioned 1936 subway station at 99 Schermerhorn Street.
It features 20 historic subway cars that date back to 1904. Bencivenga noted that one of the museum’s original slogans was “Catch All the Trains You Missed.”
“We’ve got over 100 years of rail history on the platform of the museum,” she said.
Visitors can expect to learn not just about the history of the train, bus, trolleys and other modes of transport in New York City history, but understand how they have influenced life in the Big Apple.
It’s an undercurrent that plays out today, as the MTA faces a subway and bus crisis.
Bencivenga said the Transit Museum is a great initial museum experience for anyone.
“It’s a great place to start your arts and culture life,” she said.