The MTA’s unmentionably bleak budgetary outlook did little to dissuade many straphangers from displaying some unmentionables of their own.
What started as a cheeky subway prank by an improv comedy group nine years ago has escalated into a flourishing festival, the “No Pants! Subway Ride” with thousands of pantsless participants. The group Improv Everywhere, which “causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places” has organized the ride every year since 2002, as well as other events such as “spontaneous musicals,” a symphony using multiple cell phones and, most recently,“guerrilla handbell strikeforce” where multiple actors wearing red aprons shook small brass bells to form a choir, backing up a Salvation Army volunteer in midtown Manhattan.
Last year, 1,200 people and 2,400 legs participated in the ride on city subways, up from 900 in 2008 and 300 in 2007, disproving the myth that No Pants Ride organizers have had ongoing troubles with shrinkage.
This year, subway riders shivered onto one of 44 regional rides throughout the city, including two in Brooklyn, which met near Maria Hernandez Park (Irving Avenue and Starr Street) and Prospect Park (Propsect Park West and 15th Street). At 3 PM, dozens of pale-legged passengers boarded their respective L and F trains and spread throughout the train before converging at Union Square.
It is unclear whether the flash mob uncovered their opinions about recent MTA service cuts or were exposing more riders to the benefits of public transportation. An MTA spokesperson declined to comment and organizers for the No Pants Ride could not be reached.
Transportation advocate and NAG member Lacey Tauber said that the goal of flash mob groups, similar to the Santa Con festival in December, was to make city streets and rail lines more exciting.
“They proved that the subway doesn’t have to be a boring place,” said Tauber. “I wish I had been there.”
Community Board 2 District Manager Rob Perris argued that getting the Culver Viaduct finished and having a serious exploration of express services would be a better way to improve the F line than riding it half-naked. Perris noted that events like the No Pants Ride make the city a fun place to live until he learned who was behind it.
“Were they the people who did that fake archaeological dig in Governor’s Island? That was horrible!” said Perris, who asked when Idiotarod will be happening (it will be January 30).
The Community Board 6 District Manager was even less amused.
“This is Brooklyn New York. It’s hard to shock people. We’ve seen it all and now we’ve seen even more,” said Craig Hammerman.