Home MTA Economics Seventy-five years later, IND opening shows the SAS real estate effect

Seventy-five years later, IND opening shows the SAS real estate effect

by Benjamin Kabak


The Times’ coverage of the opening of the IND subway lines on Sept. 10, 1932, included diagrams of the entrances to the Times Square station.

Today, we celebrate the birthday of the Independent Subway. Seventy-five years ago, at midnight on the morning of September 10, 1932, the turnstiles opened, and the first IND trains started the trip from Chambers St. to 207th St. along Eighth Ave. Ah, subway growth.

When the AA made its first trip uptown, it rode through New York of a different era. This was New York as a growing city. Running parallel to the west of the new subway line was the West Side Highway, Robert Moses’ pet project. Large swaths of the city were still undeveloped, and the new subway lines would bring about development.

At the same time, the things we love about New York — multiculturalism, diversity, ease of access — were hallmarks of the city in the 1930s. Today, The New York Times commemorates the subway line immortalized by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington with an excellent article reflecting upon the opening of the new line. The MTA is following suite today, as the Authority has plans to run a special six-car train of original cars from 208th St. in Inwood to Chambers St. Catch it if you can. These folks say it’s set to leave between 10 and 11 a.m.

Nostalgia aside, The Times’ archives are chock full of interesting articles about the celebratory opening, political machinations and first successful rush hour run of the new subway. The one I found most interesting, however, is one piece from September 11, 1932, with the headline “Opening of Subway Called Realty Aid.”

In a sense, we in 2007, awaiting the arrival of the Second Ave. Subway, can glimpse the effect a new subway line had on real estate prices and development in Manhattan. The Times wrote:

The civic interests hailed [the Eighth Avenue subway] as likely to foster improvement in leasing and building on the west side…The subway will have the effect in the Forty-second Street area of relieving congestion on other lines and linking the midtown district more closely to uptown and downtown Manhattan, and should bring commercial gains in the whole section between Seventh and Ninth Avenues…

Improved transit facilities will help to accelerate the recovery of real estate values in the apartment districts of Chelsea, Central Park West, the Dyckman section and Washington Heights.

Now, while the Second Ave. subway won’t help bring New York out of a Great Depression-influenced housing recession, the lessons today are the same. And you can be sure real estate agents are finely attuned to them. The IND, operating a few avenue blocks away, from the IRT, led to development; the Second Ave. subway, operating a few avenue blocks away from the Lexington Ave. lines will bring service to an under-served areas of the city. This subway will spur on economic development and lead to price increases and demand in the area’s real estate.

This is not a groundbreaking argument, but for many living on the far East Side, this eventual reality may come as a shock. Rents will rise; apartment prices will skyrocket. Storefront space, particularly around entrances and exist, will be in high demand as well. In other words, the commercial and residential landscape along the East Side will change dramatically when the Q (and eventually the T) begins its trips up Second Ave.

A few months ago, we saw these lessons in action in Beijing. Seventy-five years ago, we saw them along the West Side when the new Eighth Avenue subway lines opened. And, in five years if everything goes according to plan, we’ll see it again along Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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