New York City

The world already heard it happened, but we tell why in one word: Silly

No Pants Subway Ride Takes Brooklyn

January 11, 2016 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn family poses before re-boarding the R train to Union Square Park. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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“If you’re not here to take your pants off, then you’re in the wrong place!” Zach Linder declared to some 150 fearless Brooklynites mustered beneath a darkening sky in front of Park Slope’s Old Stone House in Washington Park on Sunday.

Linder, a “senior agent” for the New York City-based prank collective Improv Everywhere, welcomed the assembly to the 15th annual No Pants Subway Ride. Founded in August of 2001, Improv Everywhere is the brainchild of Charlie Todd, dedicated to creating, in its own words, “scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” Although the collective is known for a wide variety of events such as “Seeing Eye People,” “Worst Ice Skater Ever” and “Meet A Black Person,” the No Pants Subway Ride has become its signature “mission,” observed, according to the group’s website, in more than 60 cities in 25 countries.

“If you’re here for the New York City No Pants Subway Ride,” Linder went on to remind the group, “you’re also in the wrong place. This the Brooklyn No Pants Subway Ride!”

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Volunteer team leaders were quickly selected to lead smaller groups, divided up by the last digit of their phone numbers, onto a Ninth Street/Fourth Avenue subway car. After boarding the train and riding a short while, each participant (or “agent,” as they are known) casually drops his or her drawers, stuffs them into the bag or backpack they’re instructed to bring, and continues the ride en deshabille, ignoring the potential consternation of fellow straphangers.

Insouciance is the name of the game here.

Each agent is an island unto him or herself, generally riding apart from others and avoiding any acknowledgment of other agents.  Members of the media are requested not to take photographs in an ostentatious way or to interview agents during the ride. During a stop at DeKalb Avenue, one middle-aged agent, wearing only tighty-whities above his tennis shoes, gave directions to several women who, being from out of town, seemed to take his appearance in stride. When approached by press, the agent chatted enthusiastically about the D train versus the N, but when the reporter asked whether this was his first No-Pants Subway Ride, the agent simply turned away.

Agents from starting points all over New York City eventually converge on Union Square Park to dance, display the (pantless) costumes some wear, take pictures with bemused NYPD officers on duty in the station and generally celebrate a mission accomplished.

In spite of unseasonably warm temperatures, veterans admitted that this year’s mission was probably not as well attended as previous ones. But missions are less about numbers than they are impact. In an email follow up, Todd wrote: “The awful forecast and particularly bad service changes from the MTA led to smaller crowds than expected, but we still numbered in the thousands. It’s great to see people from all over New York come together to do something so silly.”


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