Few and far between are the days with news of the Second Ave. subway. Along Second Ave. on the Upper East Side, work continues apace on Phase I of the long-awaited subway, but south of 72nd St., the future isn’t as rosy for the New York subway’s very own Moby Dick.
Speaking a few days at the MTA board meeting, the agency’s CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander spoke guardedly about the project. The Downtown Express was on hand to bring the news:
Sander was asked several questions about the Second Ave. subway under construction on the Upper East Side, and every time he mentioned the full build plan to extend the line to Chinatown, the Seaport and the Financial District, he used some form of the word “hope.”
He said it would be more than 10 years before it is built and he offered no guarantees that it will ever happen. It’s the fourth and last phase of the project. “That’s phase 1, 2, and 3 away,” said Lois Tendler, vice president of community relations for N.Y.C. Transit, who joined Sander at the meeting.
Sander remains passionate about the new line but said if he has to make drastic cuts to the capital program, he would sooner cut mega-projects like Second Ave. and East Side Access, which will connect Long Island commuters to Grand Central Station, than cuts to the existing system. “If you had to make a choice between those two, there is no choice — it is the core program,” he said.
Those core projects seem to be the signal-modernization efforts and the computer-based train control program.
Of course, who hasn’t been expecting tempered expectations from the MTA over the Second Ave. subway? Anyone who knows their subway history wouldn’t actually expect a full Second Ave. subway any time before the Armageddon.
But in reality, Sander is simply speaking the truth. Right now, as the MTA deals with a massive deficit in its operating budget, it is facing a blackhole of funding for its capital budget. The agency needs around $30 billion for its next five-year plan set to begin in 2010, and that money is no sure thing. If the funds don’t arrive, there will be no Second Ave. subway outside of the three stations at 96th St., 86th St., and 72nd St. under construction.
New York needs the Second Ave. subway, but New York also needs a modernized system. If push comes to shove, the MTA will make that right choice, but hopefully, push won’t come to shove. If history is any indication, I’m not too optimistic.