During these hard times of riding the subway, where getting on the train creates anxiety for thousands of New Yorkers, they were lured back into the trenches for a party last night. The Metropolitan Transit Association partnered with Nike and Boiler Room for a celebration of the Air Max 97. It was a spectacle as crazy as Pizza Rat. For the first time— probably in the history of the NYC transit system—had anyone thrown a legal party in a train station. In an interview with NY1 last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo had lofty aspirations of throwing a New Year’s Eve party in the brand new Second Avenue station. It turned out to be a pipe dream. Michael Alig came close with his illegal Outlaw parties in the ’80s, specifically the one where he and his crew of Club Kids descended upon an abandoned West 23rd St. station. Then in 1998, Gang Starr filmed the video for “Royalty” in the 42nd St. Times Square station. Back then, the MTA was at a turning point through the rollout of a new program to brand Metrocards with advertisements. Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth album was promoted, continuing a trend for the MTA to sell Metrocard ad space to companies such as as DKNY and Supreme New York, Citibank, and the NFL (Super Bowl XLVIII).
(Ed. Note: The MTA started selling ad space on the back of Metrocards in ’95 and on the front in 2012.)
The most ambitious of all subway dance parties took place in the summer of 2013, when WanderLust Projects—a group of organizers—invited fearless New Yorkers to a secret location, seven stories under the city, as reported by Gothamist.
Nike and Boiler Room locked off a side of the 163rd St. and Amsterdam Ave. station. The entrance was plastered with wall-sized posters, leaving one space open for the subway’s old-school revolving door. Once inside Station 97, partygoers walked through a museum of the varied styles of the Air Max through the ages. The Air Max 97 has a global footprint: Nike shoe designer, Christian Tresser was inspired by Japanese bullet trains for the sneaker’s first introduction dubbed the Silver Bullet; upon its global release in the fall of 1997, it was a fashion staple in Italy’s nightlife and graffiti scenes; Gold-medalists Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis endorsed the Silver Bullet for Nike; in London and New York City, the Air Max 97 was popular amongst ravers and celebrities.
To the untrained eye, if it looks like Nike is running out of ideas by recycling another silhouette from 20 years ago, you’re missing the point. The Air Max 97 is timeless. Its offspring, the Air Max Ultra 97 uses the original silhouette with an upgrade of new materials. Dylan Raasch, Nike Senior Sportswear Design Director announced on the company’s website, “We updated the airbag, which is tuned softer, and the foam around it is streamlined to be closer to the ground. The Air Max 97 Ultra retains the spirit of the OG through details you can really feel,” he adds.
Kids are suckers for sneakers. People standing in front of a makeshift newsstand in Station 97 were glued to their phones, either downloading the SNKRS app or refreshing their browser as they awaited a mobile alert to buy the Air Max 97 Ultra before it hits stores in the fall. Event staff handed out posters and long-sleeve Air Max T-shirts as partying gifts. People want free stuff. They also want exclusive stuff, like the portable fans with an LED light on the blade. People also want free drinks. They served these fresh-and-fruity non-alcoholic beverages with kitschy glow stick stirrers. Rumor was that NYPD shut down the event’s liquor license at the last minute. With no drugs or alcohol in sight to drown in the cavern of sound and light crescendoing in place of a disco ball, snacking on soft pretzels, creamsicles, and brownies sufficed. It was a 4-hour party without a bathroom in sight. It was best to play it safe if you were way out from the comfort zone of your own toilet. The only rumbling you could sense was the throbbing bass from the DJ lineup of Joey Beltran, Physical Therapy, and Laurel Halo. You couldn’t even hear the train from below your feet—only feel the vibrations of house and techno.
For once, the MTA did something fun and exciting. It’s not necessarily the improvement that straphangers need and want. But the MTA is in no position to turn down money from the likes of Nike. “Modernizing” the subway system was a recent solution by MTA Chairman Joe Lhota when he was put on the clock by Gov. Cuomo to come up with a plan to pull the transit system out of this dark age. Lhota is focused on the infrastructure of underground transit. On another level, it is through marketing opportunities with companies like Nike and Boiler Room that’ll add some semblance of cool to the MTA. Most people could probably care less, because they just want to get back and forth on a train that is timely, clean, and safe.
The party was half-full though. That can’t be for lack of promotion or interest. For this unique nightclub experience, I expected lines outside of the station to snake around the block like when adidas Originals re-opened The Tunnel last summer. Setting a grand stage for the adidas NMD and the Air Max 97 buck the trend of a typical release party. To do it with the backing of corporations is rare, but in the dying space of New York City still hanging on to the hope of the return of its halcyon days of nightlife, it might be the only way. There is a cost to restore that feeling, which seems only affordable by corporations such as Nike and adidas because they can secure unique spaces and skirt the city’s racist and prejudicial cabaret law. Call what Nike or adidas do an artificial recreation of the culture currently thriving in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Queens. But a party is a party … “catch me on the rebound or maybe at The Tunnel.”