Home Second Avenue Subway Feds repeating the past with $1.3B pay-out for SAS

Feds repeating the past with $1.3B pay-out for SAS

by Benjamin Kabak

There’s an old saying in New York, “Everything new is old again.” And today’s announcement concerning the $1.3 billion heading the MTA’s way for the Second Ave. Subway certainly fits that bill.

First, the news, courtesy of William Neuman and The New York Times:

The long-dreamed-of Second Avenue subway will take another important step toward becoming a real thing of concrete and steel today, as the federal government plans to announce that it has formally approved $1.3 billion in financing for the project’s first phase.

Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said in an interview that the money would be paid out over the next seven years as construction progresses on the subway’s first leg, which will have stops on Second Avenue at 92nd, 86th and 72nd Streets and at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue.

This federal approval was simply a formality after a September announcement that the FTA had given this $1.3-billion expenditure the greenlight. A rubber stamp approval from the Bush Administration was simply a formality.

While this news is exciting for New Yorkers long awaiting a subway line with a tortured past and future, Jeremy Olshan on his Unchanging Times blog notes that this story sounds remarkably similar to the news New Yorkers have heard over the last few decades. Olshan goes back into the archives of The Times and digs out this article from 1974.

In that article, 33 years ago, The Times reported that the feds were going to fund a Second Ave. subway with the expectation that the line would be built. If that rings a bell, it’s because Secretary Peters said the same thing today. “It will be very good news to people in the area that this long-planned, on-again-off-again project will finally be completed,” she said.

Of course, as we know in the 1970s, nothing went right for the city or the MTA, and here we are again, 30 years later, repeating history. Will the outcome differ? Only time will tell, but most New Yorkers aren’t holding their collective breath waiting for the subway just yet.

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paulb November 19, 2007 - 9:42 pm

The past holdups on the SAS were for specific reasons: the Great Depression, the use of the 50s bond money to lengthen stations on the Lexington line instead, and in the 70s, how NYC’s economy just fainted dead away there, for awhile. Now, I don’t think we’re looking at some serious reversal in the city’s economy. (I hope not.) I really think that this time it’s going to go through.

But what about looking past the SAS? For it to be a real success, there should be new, faster subway lines feeding the SAS line with riders from the outer boroughs. At some point the Second Avenue line will begin to look like a done deal, and that’s when I’d like to see NYC Transit put under some pressure to study new, fast lines to unconnected neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, and maybe the Bronx and Staten Island, too.

Second Ave. Sagas | Blogging the NYC Subways » Blog Archive » Doubting the future of the Second Ave. subway November 20, 2007 - 12:48 am

[…] 2nd Ave. Subway History « Feds repeating the past with $1.3B pay-out for SAS […]

Nathanael Nerode November 20, 2007 - 12:17 pm

It seems unlikely that ‘phase one’ will get killed at this point. Given that half of it is already constructed, it seems likely that ‘phase two’ will go through as well. (I don’t see another NYC near-bankruptcy like the 1970s happening.)

Phases 3 and 4 are far from certain, unfortunately.


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