Archive for Second Avenue Subway
If all goes according to plan, the official opening for the Second Ave. Subway will be in 35 months. Of course, knowing the project’s multi-decade history and the MTA’s penchant for delivering on time, that date is far from set in stone, but already, the subway is affecting the Upper East Side real estate picture. If the latest news is a preview of things to come, we’ll soon see that a subway through a developed and previously up-zoned neighborhood can still drive the market.
The story that broke last week involves a property on East 66th St. near Third Ave. It is, in other words, only a few blocks away from the new entrance to the Second Ave. Subway and F train that will open at 63rd and 3rd. Adrianne Pasquarelli had the story in Crain’s New York:
The increasing popularity of northern Third Avenue has led to the sale of a building on the corner of East 66th Street. Chicago-based real estate investment firm L3 Capital recently sold a four-story, 5,300-square-foot property at 1128 Third Ave. for $9.5 million to a local investor. L3 purchased the building about three years ago for around $6 million, according to Adelaide Polsinelli, the Eastern Consolidated senior director who negotiated the sale on the firm’s behalf.
She attributes the 58% jump in price in part to the forthcoming upgrade in the neighborhood’s transit options with the arrival of the Second Avenue Subway. “There is activity percolating in the area,” said Ms. Polsinelli. “The Second Avenue Subway definitely has impacted this in a positive way.”
The history of New York is, of course, replete with examples of transit spurring on economic development and creating more desirable places to live. Without the the subways, jobs wouldn’t be as concentrated in Manhattan as they are, and the city wouldn’t be nearly as dense or as big. We’ve seen the famous photos of the subway snaking through farmland in Queens shortly after construction on the Flushing line wrapped, and we’ve seen a marked increase in development activity near the spot of the 7 line’s new 34th St. on the Far West Side.
Now, we’ve received another reminder of the power of transit. People want it, and it drives up the desirability of real estate. Plus, developers and building owners are tuned in, and as the completion of Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway inches closer, we’re likely to see buildings change hands and retail rents on the Upper East increase. It’s hard to over-stress how much more convenient everything east of 2nd Ave. will become when the subway opens.
The key going forward for New York is to capture some of that value and help turn it into additional transit upgrades. Tax financing will help offset some of the costs of the 7 line construction (though considerable tax breaks given to developers will eat into that money), and the same should be done both north for Phase 2 and south for Phases 3 and 4 of the Second Ave. Subway. Perhaps, too, such an approach could work in areas of Queens and Brooklyn that are ready and willing to embrace subway expansion.
It’s easy to lose sight of the way transit has pushed New York’s development throughout the ages, and those who forget history do not stand to gain from it. We have a modern-day reminder of the power of transit. At a time when future expansion efforts are in doubt, the city, the state and the MTA should harness that economic drive to promote further growth.
The Second Ave. Subway took another step toward completion today — and Upper East Side residents will now get something of a reprieve — as the agency announced that all blasting for Phase 1 construction is complete. The controlled explosions began in November of 2009, and the final blast, for a future escalator at the north side of 86th St., took place at 5:21 p.m. this past Monday. “This is a significant milestone, and one which I am sure will be welcomed by all of our Second Avenue community neighbors,” Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, said.
Additionally, the heave construction for the 96th Street station cavern wrapped earlier this month. The $365 million contract award to a joint venture of E.E. Cruz and Company and Tully Construction Company Joint Venture is the third of ten to finish for the long-delayed subway line. This contract involved utility relocation, demolition of existing buildings, underpinning, slurry wall construction, station excavation, and concrete placement of the station invert slab of the main station, entrances, and ancillary facilities. Crews relocated approximately 82,000 linear feet of Con Ed cables and 4500 feet of Verizon cables and removed 440,000 tons of soil, rock and concrete debris.
The MTA says that completion of Phase 1 is still on pace for December of 2016. So we have now just three more years to go before the Second Ave. Subway becomes, in part, a reality.
When last I had the opportunity to venture underground at Second Ave., in April of 2011, the future subway looked something like this. ADI, the tunnel boring machine, had completed her runs, but with December 2016 at the time over five years away, a new subway line was only vaguely taking shape.
Fast forward to today, and while we still have 38 months to go, it’s beginning to look a lot like New York’s own underground version of the impossible dream will come true. The MTA yesterday released a brand new set of images from the construction zone, and the progress is significant. Atop this post is an image from 96th St. — nearly the same view as the one I snapped two and a half years ago — and you can now see a station platform and track bed clearly taking shape. (Here is another view.)
Things are looking a bit rougher around the edges at 86th St., but you can see waterproofing well under way and track beds taking shape. Notice the difference in design too between the Second Ave. Subway and our standard-issue early-to-mid 20th century tunnels: With two deep-bore tubes, passing trains will see each other only in stations.
For more on the world underneath the city, browse over to this Vanity Fair long read. MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu loves himself the Second Ave. Subway, but East Side Access, unsurprisingly, gets more muted praise from those involved.
Over the last seven years, two questions from readers appear most often in my inbox. Once involves the Q train. What will happen, Queens residents wonder, when Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway opens and the Q heads to the Upper East Side instead of Astoria? The MTA hasn’t said yet what their plans are for the routing, but I’ve long believed that the W will return to service in some form. Astoria won’t lose train service, and we’ll probably see some trains terminate at Whitehall and some cross the Manhattan Bridge from both lines.
The second question always concerns future phases of the subway line. Now that we’re a little over three years away from the official launch of a subway line that’s been in the planning stages since the waning days of World War I, everyone wants to know what’s next. Will the MTA build out Phase 2? When will the subway reach Hanover Square and the South St. Seaport? What about extensions in the Bronx or Brooklyn or a spur across 125th St. in Manhattan?
Current MTA head Tom Prendergast said he hopes the full line is finished by 2035 — which would be close to the 100th anniversary of the start of construction — but odds are good he won’t be in the job that long. So what is next? Recently, Dana Rubinstein, Capital New York’s transit reporter, called me with exactly those queries. She was working on a longer piece about the future of the Second Ave. Subway and asked all the right questions about the project’s future. The piece hit the Internet on Wednesday evening and contains some juicy bits for those keeping a close eye on the Second Ave. sagas.
First up is a brief tidbit about the MTA’s future plans. As I’ve noted before, the next phases of the Second Ave. Subway have been noticeably absent from the agency’s latest round of planning documents. The full line gets a mention in the 20-Year Needs Assessment, but the capital planning has focused around behind-the-scenes state-of-good-repair work. Still, that doesn’t mean the MTA isn’t at least thinking about the future subway.
MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg told Rubinstein that the agency will “update the environmental impact statement in order to do Phase II, because it was done years ago and we want to make sure that all of the conditions still apply.” Lisberg doesn’t know when this update will happen, but it’s something that the MTA should consider starting soon. The FEIS was published in May of 2004, and most of the work for that document had been completed over the previous five years. At least, the MTA will have to issue a Statement of No Change will supporting materials. (For what it’s worth, Lisberg also said that Phase 2 doesn’t necessarily have to come next, but considering the practical connection Phase 2 offers at 125th St. and the engineering complexities of Phases 3 and 4, I’d bet real money that Phase 2 will be next.)
Beyond that, though, there are some very practical reasons to continue construction, and these reasons cast doubt on the wisdom of the current phased approach. Rubinstein writes:
At a recent breakfast, I asked Tom Prendergast, the authority’s new chairman, whether funding for the Second Avenue Subway Phase II would be in that capital plan. “Yes, I think one of the things that we need to be able to do is for the system expansion projects, either complete them or continue on the road to completion,” he said. “If you take a look at the fact that the original bond issue for the Second Avenue Subway was 1936, you know, it would be nice to be able to get that project done within 100 years of when it was first thought of.”
…Advocates argue, optimistically, that the next phase ought to begin as soon as the first one is completed so as to avoid having to re-alienate the neighborhoods the subway will be serving. “If everyone goes home, you have to destruct the area all over again,” said [the RPA’s Richard] Barone. “It takes years to start all over again.”
There are other reasons to believe that starting up again, once the construction has stopped, is a good idea. “What is more of a factor is keeping the project staff in place” who have built up the necessary expertise to build a subway through a very dense part of Manhattan, according to Lisberg.
For the MTA, the phased approach has proven costly because the agency is going to have to build out another launch box and reengage tunnel boring machines. That’s the bargain they made with Sheldon Silver though to get Phase 1 started. Losing the institutional memory and the infrastructure to build a subway system would be even more costly.
In speaking with Rubinstein, I thought that a 50-50 chance of Phase 2 starting soon after Phase 1 was optimistic, and I’ll stand by that assessment. Rep. Carolyn Maloney has made some noises about continuing the project, but until the grants are in place and the studies are completed, construction will dry up when Phase 1 is finished. Will the Second Ave. Subway be anything more than a stub or can Manhattan finally, after a century, get the subway line it needs?
One of the dirty little not-so-secrets about the latest round of MTA construction concerns just how far underground everything is. East Side Access checks in at a depth of 180 feet; the 7 line extension will be around 80 feet deep; and the Second Ave. Subway stations around the same. As a comparison, some of the original IRT stops were a flight of stairs below the surface.
As a practical and operation matter, these depths mean lots and lots of escalators. The MTA will install fancy escalators at the end of the 7 line that are at an incline. They’ll install 47 escalators to deliver folks from the absurdly deep East Side Access cavern with travel times long enough to catch up on sleep, eat lunch or read a book. The Second Ave. Subway will also have escalators but clearly not to the same extent as the deepest of the deep.
New Yorkers aren’t used to these escalators in the same way as, say, subway riders in Washington and underground riders in London are. Our system is close to the surface with stays. Much of the system predates escalators, and at those stations that have them, constant maintenance problems seem to crop up. And anyway aren’t we all too impatient for a slow-moving staircase?
These deep stations will be a bit a shock to the system for those of us used to sub-surface transit being only a flight or two downstairs. Even the four-level descent to the 6th Ave. line at West 4th St. will seem a bit tame by comparison, and so instead of covering the why — why are we building such deep subways anyway? — The Times has taken human interest transit stories to a new level. These new subway stations will have no grates, Sam Roberts has discovered.
For nearly 110 years, since the advent of underground trains in New York City, the metal sidewalk grates have been about much more than mundane natural ventilation for miles of subterranean subway tunnels. They have become urban artifacts, all 39,000 of them. They are the bane of women in high heels; a place for flicking cigarette butts, for expectorating chewing gum or for dropping valuables; a source of warmth to ward off a stiff winter’s wind; and a frightening opening to detour around.
But when the first phase of the Second Avenue subway makes its debut in 2016 — the first major expansion of the system in over half a century — these familiar, if unappealing, pieces of the city’s streetscape will be missing. Instead of flowing naturally from sidewalk grates, air will be pumped in and out of mechanical ventilating towers near every air-conditioned station, said Michael Horodniceanu, the president of capital construction for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “No more heel problems,” Dr. Horodniceanu said.
In addition to breaking heels, grates are for … avoiding, because they emit the unmistakably dank smell of the city’s underbelly or because they may seem more rickety than a cracked concrete sidewalk. They give way on the rarest of occasions, especially ones in the road that are rattled by heavy vehicles. In 1988, a woman getting out of a taxicab in Brooklyn fell through a grate to the tracks 50 feet below; officials said the grate had been weakened by cars driving over it during road repairs.
It’s truly hard to grow nostalgic over subway grates, but somehow, Roberts has accomplished just that. And yet, he doesn’t explore why the subways will be so deep as to make grates completely useless and completely necessary. But we should know, why? It’s because the MTA is constructing deep-bore subways so as not to risk the ire of a cut-and-cover NIMBYism. Much as how an elevated line will not see the light of day despite advances in engineering reducing the noise and blight, cut and cover and the disruptions it brings will never return to New York.
In exchange, we have billion-dollar station caverns and tunnel boring machines that chew through Manhattan schist. We have massive ventilation structures that will likely be architectural eyesores above street level as well, but hey, at least your keys and Marilyn Monroe’s dress are safe. That’s what counts, right?
Pressure from certain realms of New York City politics to keep moving forward on the Second Ave. Subway has grown stronger over the past few weeks as Representative Carolyn Maloney has trained her attention on Phase 2 of the project. After drawing out some words from the MTA on the fate of the project, she and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have penned a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast. Maloney could be emerging as the champion who can keep this capital construction effort moving forward.
The letter to Prendergast is a continuation of the latest dialogue between the two sides. Maloney and Silver acknowledge the MTA’s update as the agency reaffirms the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement, and the two are pleased the MTA hopes to discuss funding with the Federal Transit Administration. In the meat of their letter, they hit upon a key point:
We believe those steps need to be done with all due haste in order to ensure that the MTA is moving forward with a seamless transition to the next phase. In our view, it would be much harder to continue construction if there is a significant lag between the two phases. Currently, the MTA has a great team in place that knows the plans, knows the problems and can build on lessons learned during the first phase of Second Avenue Subway construction. If the MTA fails to move forward now, much of that knowledge will be lost as people move on to different projects.
In coming years, the number of people commuting to jobs on the East Side is expected to continue to expand and the need to proceed with construction of the subway grows critical, particularly in Midtown. Furthermore, East Side Access is expected to add riders to the already overcrowded Lexington Avenue line. These two changes make it more important than ever to quickly begin Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. The closer we get to the next phase, the closer we come to fully realizing the vision for the entire project, which is so urgently needed throughout the East Side, including Lower Manhattan. We look forward to learning more about your plans for the Second Avenue Subway, including the timetable for your study, any changes that you expect to make, any difficulties you currently foresee and the timetable for your negotiation of the full funding grant agreement. We want to reiterate our strong support for this project and our willingness to work with you to make sure the project moves forward as quickly as practicable.
Maloney’s office assures me as well that the Congresswoman plans to continue to push for progress on Phase 2 and will be staying involved in the process, however it shapes up to be. The MTA meanwhile will soon put forth plans for its next capital campaign, and the push is on to include initial funding for SAS Phase 2. It would indeed be a shame lose the forward momentum generated by Phase 1, and there’s no reason why Phase 2 discussions shouldn’t begin now.
When I think about the benefits of the Second Ave. Subway, my thoughts turn to property value. Already upzoned in anticipation of the subway decades ago, the Upper East Side will see real estate prices spike when the subway debuts. It will provide significantly faster and more comfortable rides for 200,000 subway riders per day and will open up a large portion of the neighborhood closest to the East River to transit access. I’d think, then, that real estate developers would love the idea of a subway line.
I would of course be somewhat wrong. Amongst some circles of developers, the Second Ave. Subway is a useless vanity project while the real value lies in sending the subway to unchartered territories. The 7 line extension is instead the worthwhile project. Of course, it helps if this world view comes from the man once in charge of ensuring that the 7 line extension went forward, but the thinking underscores why developers do not often rush to embrace funding mechanisms for new subway lines in the city.
While speaking at the Forum for Urban Design’s Next New York dinner last night, both John Zuccotti and Dan Doctoroff issued statements arguing against the Second Ave. Subway as a worthwhile project. Stephen Smith was on hand to report, and he filed a story for The Observer. As Smith noted, Doctoroff had some choice words for this site’s namesake. “A silly little spur that doesn’t generate anything other than some convenience for people who are perfectly happy to live where they lived before,” Doctoroff said. He referred to it “a subway that doesn’t have any value added” and a “pet project” of the MTA and Sheldon Silver.
Smith’s reaction tracks mine:
Are we talking about the same subway…? The one that will serve one of the densest neighborhoods in the city? The one that’s supposed to relieve a subway line that carries more passengers than the entire Washington Metro system? The one that’s been planned for the better part of a century? The one that Yorkville was upzoned in anticipation of decades ago? The one that, despite having only four stops, is projected to carry more riders than the entire length of the L train?
…But alas, the comments were the perfect illustration of the mile-wide chasm between transit planners and real estate folks when it comes to picking projects. Transit planners think of projects in terms of the riders who will be served (200,000 each weekday for the Second Avenue line’s first segment, from 63rd Street to 96th)—to many transit advocates, a neighborhood with an existing population deserves infrastructure more than an empty one whose sole constituency is developers.
Real estate insiders, on the other hand, think of transit primarily as a way of spurring development, and are not swayed by arguments about easing overcrowding or serving tax-paying citizens. And it wouldn’t be the first time Mr. Doctoroff has argued that transit should serve the needs of developers over existing New Yorkers—when the 7 train stop at 10th Avenue and 41st Street was cut, he downplayed the significance, since buildings were already going up in Hell’s Kitchen without it. (By that logic, what was the point of the entire Independent Subway System, now the A/C/E, B/D/F/M and G trains?)
As you may have expected, Zuccotti expressed his support for the 7 line extension — a subway route to an area primed for new development. Doctoroff, who was in charge of the project while serving in the Bloomberg Administration, was forced to cut a station that would have served preexisting buildings at 41st and 10th, but that point isn’t important to developers.
This story and these comments detail, as Smith notes, the disconnect between transit planners and real estate developers. It’s why no one in Brooklyn is agitating for a Utica Ave. or Nostrand Ave. subway extension, why the Second Ave. Subway enjoys lukewarm support from REBNY and why the 7 line has been celebrated in some circles. Until we figure out a way to bridge that divide, built-up areas that need subway service for reasons other than virgin development won’t get the transit infrastructure they deserve. What a shame.
In last night’s post, I delved into Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Second Ave. Subway report card and issued a call for someone to take on the mantle of championing Phase II of the four-part project. Maloney and her office took exception to my angle, and yesterday, I’ve learned that Phase II may be inching closer toward a reality than we previous knew. Perhaps, it has one of its funding champions already in place.
In response to my article, Maloney issued the following statement:
“I appreciate your attention to my report on the Second Avenue Subway; however, you are mistaken to suggest that I am not paying attention to the need to move seamlessly from Phase I to Phase II. I sent a letter on June 11, 2013 requesting information about what the MTA is doing to plan for Phase II. They responded to me on June 21, 2013 confirming their commitment to moving seamlessly to Phase II. On June 21, 2013, I met with then Acting Chairman of the Board Fernando Ferrer and others regarding the need to move to Phase II. And, my report makes clear that the next report will take a closer look at what the MTA is doing to plan for Phase II.”
I’ve had the opportunity to view Maloney’s letter and current MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast’s reply. It bodes well for the future of the project. “With completion of Phase I in sight,” Maloney wrote, “it is time to turn our attention to Phase II. I want to make sure the MTA is beginning to put together its funding so that it can begin to build Phase II as soon as Phase I is completed. I would like to see a seamless transition between the first and second phases of the project.”
Maloney went on to ask the questions she should be asking. Has the MTA approached the Federal Transit Administration for funding assistance? What requests for Phase II money will be in the 2015-2019 capital plan? What design work, if any, is required before the MTA can execute a full funding grant agreement with the feds?
In a response, the MTA pledged to Maloney that it also is “working toward a seamless transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2.” This is, as far as I can tell, the first real recognition from the agency that it should and will be looking to expand the Second Ave. Subway at least as north as 125th St. While the Phase 2 price tag is similar to that of Phase 1, the work is easier. Much of the tunnel segments exist, and the engineering challenges that the project faces south of 63rd St. do not exist.
Prendergast updated Maloney on the progress of Phase 2 planning. “Currently,” he wrote, “the MTA is in the process of reconfirming the Phase 2 alignment that was included in the 2004 Final Environmental Impact Statement and included in the Record of Decision. This analysis, which considers lessons learned in constructing Phase 1 as well as changes to land use and population that may have occurred since 2004, will help us determine whether additional environmental review is needed and also will inform the Phase 2 cost estimate. Once we have a better understand of what, if any, changes will be needed from the project evaluated in the FEIS, we will begin more in depth discussions with the Federal Transit Administration.”
The MTA, Prendergast said, will reveal further plans for the Second Ave. Subway when it finalizes its Twenty-Year Needs Assessment later this fall. It is likely that the twenty-year plan will include the full Second Ave. line from the Seaport to 125th St., but Phase 2 — north from 96th St. to East Harlem — could begin in the earlier part of that two-decade window.
We could debate the relative merits of breaking up the Second Ave. Subway project into phases for hours. It is a move that likely will see costs exceed what they should have been, but it was also a move that allowed Phase 1 to move forward. Will that initial section essentially on auto-pilot, MTA planners should be moving forward on Phase 2, and if Maloney, a representative from the area who has come to recognize the subway’s benefits, can serve as a prod and champion, so much the better.
At the rate the grade inflation in her report cards are heading, Representative Carolyn Maloney will be primed to give the Second Ave. Subway an A+ just in time for it to open in late 2016 — if it indeed opens in late 2016. After giving the project a B- in 2009 and a B in 2010 and 2011, Maloney has now given the project a B+, its highest grade in four report cards.
Now that the Upper East Side has begrudgingly accepted the pace of construction and the MTA has made more than a token effort to alleviate some of the project’s hardships, the benefits are coming into view, and Maloney is paying more heed to the pluses. “The project’s merit, its economic benefits, the MTA’s outreach efforts and the pace at which construction is being completed all get high marks,” she said. “When the MTA broke ground for the Second Avenue Subway in April 2007, there were a lot of skeptics, but with the progress of the last six years, the skeptics are starting to have to eat their words. In fact, we have now crossed the halfway point for Second Avenue Subway construction. I encourage the MTA to continue its progress and to keep engaging the public, as the project continues.”
Over the years, the report card has gotten lengthier and lengthier. It now tops eight pages in printed or PDF form, but it covers familiar ground. The project’s merit and economic benefits again warrant A+ grades while the MTA has improved communication with the public. Maloney is happy that tunneling has been completed and sees reason to be hopeful that construction problems have been mitigated. The B+ grade in that category, she says, “signifies good progress in getting the job done, with room for improvement in hope that there will be no more accidents.”
As she shifts her attention to the more problematic aspects of the project, though, I found myself thinking more about the items missing from the report card than anything else. In giving the project planning a B, she devotes a few paragraphs to the Yorkshire Towers dispute. The MTA, she says, “has declined to satisfy community complaints about mid-block entrances for the 86th Street station despite broad condemnation by local residents.”
While Maloney has to protect her constituents (and her re-election chances), the Yorkshire Towers complaints are entirely without merit and are designed to protect a mid-block driveway on East 86th St. Seeing a politician sympathetic to this cause — which even some residents of the building do not support — is hardly comforting.
As she runs through the rest of the grades — better marks for budgetary management and projected on-time performance; C-range grade for construction impact mitigation and forward progress on station entrances and ancillary buildings — she’s notably silent on the Second Ave. Subway’s future, and now is the ideal time to start speaking up for future funding and future phases. For all intents and purposes, the MTA is through planning Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway; it’s through bidding out the contracts; and it’s through fighting for money. All that’s left is the actual work and some rolling stock delivers in mid-2016.
Maloney spills a lot of ink praising the project’s economic benefits and the current job creation numbers. She looks ahead to the ridership and notes the potential promise of a full line. In her press release, Sheldon Silver says that he “looks forward to the day when it reaches my Lower East Side community,” and in her report card, Maloney promises that the next edition — whenever that may be — “will also consider what the MTA is(or is not) doing to prepare for Phase II.”
But as a relatively powerful representative in Congress, Maloney is in a position to do more than just grade the MTA on its plans for the future. She can work to secure the next federal grand that could push the MTA to start the planning process for Phase 2 right now. The project needs a new champion, and Maloney could be it.
Cutting up the Second Ave. Subway project into phases was both its saving grace and a death knell. It made Phase 1 very easy to fund and complete but created a situation where Phases 2-4 are more theoretical than real. If Maloney and other East Side politicians want to see a full Second Ave. Subway line, the time to act is now. Otherwise, once Phase 1 opens, it will likely be, as Tom Prendergast said a few days ago, decades until the other phases are realized. If the subway riders of New York issue a report card, then, assessing our politicians’ overall commitment to the Second Ave. Subway, I’m not sure anyone would warrant even the B+ Maloney awarded yesterday.
Every few years, some event, some stunt, some daredevil makes headlines that remind New Yorkers about the wealth of infrastructure, used or otherwise, that lies beneath the streets. No one knew about the South 4th Street subway shell until the Underbelly project came along, and few people remember various abandoned subway stations until they make the news.
The latest entry in this sporadic on abandoned infrastructure involves a topic near and dear to my heart: the Second Ave. Subway. At various stretches along the East Side, partially-built tunnel segments lie dormant beneath the streets. The sections north of 96th St. are due to become a part of Phase 2 of the project, but other portions built during the 1970s will remain forever devoid of trains. One such section spans a few blocks between Pell and Canal Sts. with an entrance portal just south of the Manhattan Bridge.
A gang of adventurers, explorers, trespassers — call them what you will — found the entrance and decided to host a party down there. Gothamist, in an intentionally meandering post, takes us along for the ride, and despite promises not to reveal the location and some sleight-of-hand attempts at misdirection, it’s clear that the party took place in the 1970s-era Second Ave. Subway tunnel.
No one, of course, is happy. The MTA has noted that trespassing is dangerous and illegal, and the NYPD are investigating. If the cops can’t keep limited-access abandoned infrastructure secure, one might wonder, how can they guard against attacks on the current subway system? Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time organizers thought they could publish photos of an illicit undertaking while keeping the location a secret, and this isn’t the first time it took Internet users a grand total of about 20 minutes to identify the location. Keeping a secret from those who enjoy and obsess over New York City’s infrastructure is all but impossible in an age of digital photography.
Many though are probably wondering about this stretch of subway tunnel. There are no tracks, and there are no stations. So what is it? For a video tour, check out Steve Duncan’s walk through the tunnel from early 2012. The tunnel itself was part of an $8.3 million (in 1973 money) contract for the lower portion of the Second Ave. Subway. At the time, before the city went broke, it tried to build the new route all at once, but this section was to run from Chatham Square to Canal Street. It’s unclear how much of the tunnel currently exists, but clearly enough is there to host around 150 people comfortably.
Interestingly, the tunnel itself won’t be a part of the current Second Ave. Subway project if it ever progresses to Phase 4. According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, because of the alignment choices through Lower Manhattan, “it would not be possible to use the existing length of tunnel near Chatham Square for the subway operation because of the shift in the horizontal and vertical alignment. The existing tunnel segment could instead be used for ancillary facilities, such as a power substation or ventilation facility, adjacent to (and higher than) the subway tunnel.” Ultimately, then, the only way to see this space is to sneak in, but I wouldn’t recommend it.