The 7 line extension down to 11th Ave. and 34th St. isn’t quite what I’d call ready for passengers. In some spots, the floor is down; in some areas — conveniently behind the train that pulled in carrying the mayor this afternoon — the wile tiling is there. But mostly, it’s a station without finishes. Wiring, paneling, ceilings, walls and floors: None of it is in place yet, and it doesn’t have to be. The opening date for the station, perhaps optimistically, isn’t until June of 2014.
Still, with Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure up in a little bit more than a week, he wanted the opportunity to talk about his contributions to New York City. It wasn’t quite a ribbon-cutting; that will come when the station is complete. But it was a ceremony as a 7 train rolled down the tracks from 42nd St. to deliver the mayor to the station he helped see through with $2.4 billion in city money. Since this was, after all, the first city-funded subway extension since the Queens Boulevard line went east to Jamaica-179th Street in 1950, the mayor, flanked by his daughters, wanted to be there himself to see something through. I don’t blame him.
Press materials distributed by the Mayor’s Office today spoke about how the extension “demonstrates the commitment by the Bloomberg Administration to invest in infrastructure projects that will ensure New York City continues to be a leading global city in the future.” For a one-stop subway extension priced at $2.4 billion, the pomp and circumstance was almost too much, and when Bloomberg dropped an “on time and on budget” reference into his remarks, I shed a tear for our dearly departed station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. Yet, in the mayor’s comments, what he said about investment rang true.
The mayor, who flashed his senior MetroCard, admitted to “virtually never taking the bus” and spoke about how he rides the subway often, spoke about the need to invest in infrastructure. New York City, he noted, will not have more streets, and it is going to be even more dependent on mass transit. Yet, the transportation network hasn’t kept pace with the growth of the city. “We stopped building subways,” he said, “but the population keep moving.”
In his remarks, Bloomberg touched upon areas I’ve covered over the years. He spoke about subway service deeper into Brooklyn, extending lines into eastern Queens and a connection for Staten Island. He talked about he need to renovate and overhaul the city’s aging airports, and he discussed how he expects congestion pricing to one day return and pass. “There will never be a time,” he said, “when you don’t have the opportunity or necessity to expand infrastructure.”
Through it all, I thought about my lukewarm embrace of Bill de Blasio and if he truly understands the need to focus on infrastructure expansion, but I also thought on Bloomberg’s past 12 years. He seems to get the role mass transit plays, and his contributions — Select Bus Service, borough taxis, Citi Bikes, pedestrian plazas — have been multi-faceted. But considering how many areas could use a subway extension, even of a stop or two, and how there are no firm plans on the horizon for more capital work after Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway wraps, I wondered if we had missed some good opportunities to exploit shorter expansions to deliver better service for New Yorkers. We don’t always need to build full lines; even just 2.5 miles down Utica Ave., for instance, would make a big difference.
So today the 7 line had its moment in the sun, but it’s debut is a while away. The wall tiling is up only where the Mayor’s train pulled in, and the floor isn’t in place everywhere. Work remains to be done on the mezzanine and platform, but it’s coming along. And when it opens and tens of thousands of people a day start using this new station, the Far West Side won’t be so far after all.
After the jump, a slideshow of all of my photographs from today. You can find a few more on my Instagram account as well.