So that whole Second Ave. subway thing, it’s been around for a while.
Sitting on the top of this post, courtesy of the Modern Mechanix blog, is an image taken from a magazine that hit the streets in October of 1931 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was New York’s governor and Jimmy Walker was our fair city’s mayor.
The rendering of Second Ave. of the Future is part of a larger article — available here — about the streets of the future. The streets of New York’s future in 1931 were havens for cars with pedestrians earning their own separated walkways shielded from eight-lane highways.
But the roads are just the beginning. It’s what is underneath them that holds tantalizing glimpses of optimism 75 long years ago. City planners were working on the Second Ave. subway as early as 1920. The El was due for replacement, and the Public Service Commission had drawn up a plan that included a Second Ave. subway. Nearly ten years later, in 1929, the Board of Transportation announced plans for the subway. The Board planned to award contracts from 1930 through 1935 with a target completion date of 1941 and sections opening up before the.
Talk about optimism. In October, the nation’s economy came crashing down, and with it, the City’s best hope for a Second Ave. subway. New estimates predicted a 1948 opening date, but money was scarce. As we all know, the city is still waiting for a subway line that many think will never come.
It was in the midst of this planning that the Modern Mechanics and Inventions magazine published this feature, and what a grand vision it is. While our Second Ave. subway line will feature two tracks and no express service, this hypothetical Second Ave. subway from an age of optimism features four tracks and two suburban commuter rail lines. The two outer tracks right below street level would serve local stations while the outer two tracks of the bottom four would operate as express trains along the avenue.
Through it all, if you look closely enough, the train cars in 1931 still look pretty familiar today in 2008.
Meanwhile, as the Second Ave. subway slogs its way to completion, imagine a city that had built this subway line decades ago as these anonymous magazine authors assumed. Imagine a city with that extra line and maybe one or two others in the outer boroughs.
We’ll never get to know that New York City with six train tunnels running under Second Ave. Hopefully, we’ll get to know something of a Second Ave. subway, but as these long-forgotten New Yorkers who dreamed of that future 77 years ago could tell us, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. We need that subway; we want that subway; and we’ve been saying that since the Hoover Administration.