Home Second Avenue Subway Second Ave. station entrance sagas hit 96th St.

Second Ave. station entrance sagas hit 96th St.

by Benjamin Kabak


The current schematics for the 96th St. station along Second Ave. do not feature an entrance on the north side of the street. (Click to enlarge. Image via the 2008 CB8 presentation.)

Few streets offer up as a stark a dividing line between two neighborhoods as 96th St. does on the Upper East Side. Although gentrification has stretched the boundaries of the two areas, south of 96th St. along Second Ave. has been the Upper East Side while north has been Harlem. The two neighborhoods have tolerated each other over the last few decades, but they are quite different.

As the MTA has planned the station stops for the Second Ave. subway, we’ve seen neighborhood groups object to just about everything. Some groups complained about the station entrances; others targeted the auxiliary ventilation structures.

At 96th St., the complaints are similar. The current MTA schematics call for a northern station entrance on the south side of 96th St. Residents in Harlem, Dan Rivoli reported last month, are crying foul:

The proposed station will only have entrances and exits on the south side of the street, where the traditional boundary for the Upper East Side begins. East Harlemites will have to cross a busy intersection to access the new subway line.

Critics have also pointed out that Metropolitan Hospital Center, which occupies the area bordered by East 97th and 99th street between First and Second avenues, will be underserved. The hospital has 341 beds and saw more than 400,000 visits last year. “It’s a highly congestion intersection. There are safety considerations to crossing 96th Street or Second Avenue or both,” said Hunter Armstrong, executive director of Civitas.

The group, a civic organization focused on the Upper East Side and East Harlem, has called for added subway entrances. In June, Civitas published a study suggesting that a northern subway entrance is necessary to accommodate the 35 percent of station users who are expected to come from north of 96th Street. “It would be not only beneficial but prudent for the neighborhood to have an entrance on the north side of 96th Street,” Armstrong said.

For its part, the MTA says it can’t dig north of 96th St. due to preexisting tunnel infrastructure. A segment of the Second Ave. tunnel, dug out decades ago and planned for the northern Phase II of the project, is in the way. “The 96th Street Station will connect to an existing tunnel which prohibits the station from being moved further north,” agency spokesperson Kevin Ortiz told Our Town.

The community groups may have a point; in an ideal world, the 96th St. station would allow passengers to enter and exit on both sides of a busy two-way street. It is, however, hardly alone in limiting entrances to one side of the street due to station plans. The 96th St. stop on Broadway has entrances on only the south side of the street, and many riders have no problems crossing the street to head to and from the subway.

There are, of course, safety concerns whenever people have to cross the street, but here, the limits of engineering handicap the MTA’s ability to alter the designs. Harlem is the next area to enjoy Second Ave. subway access if and when Phase II is built, and for now — or in 2017 — straphangers will just have to cross 96th St.

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Jaquan December 22, 2009 - 7:25 pm

Give me a break,these community organizations and grassroots movements are killing this capital project.We need a Robert Moses to tear down some buildings to get this subway project built.For some reason the mta cannot move smoothely with bigger capital projects.We need to learn from L.A’s Transit system,who’s planning stages are very well mapped out and made more public.

Alon Levy December 22, 2009 - 7:28 pm

Yes, what New York needs is exactly another Moses to screw with every black neighborhood in the city to build infrastructure for the white middle class. It needs to learn from LA, which makes sure to reserve subways for the rich and forces the poor to take light rail and make inconvenient transfers to get to the West Side.

As we all know, racial equality is just a Marxist idea and we need to stamp it out at every opportunity. Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation to the far horizon!

Lawrence Velazquez December 22, 2009 - 7:55 pm

Ha! There are rich people in Los Angeles who take the subway? Not the last time I was there…

Alon Levy December 22, 2009 - 8:40 pm

Yes, there are – they’re even trying to extend the subway all the way to the sea to serve the West Side better.

Boris December 23, 2009 - 12:28 am

We don’t need Moses. Only Jesus can help us now.

herenthere December 22, 2009 - 11:29 pm

Why not build an exit/entrance path under existing tunnel infrastructure?

Scott E December 23, 2009 - 8:41 am

If you look at page 19 of the CB8 presentation, you’ll see that the station footprint ends halfway between 95th and 96th St, with the entrance stretched half a block to the southwest corner of 96th & 2nd. Now, look at Google Maps, and you see a pretty wide sidewalk in front of a one-story Rite-Aid. This is where the entrance is going (presentation page 12). The northwest corner, however, has an 11-some story building which comes right up to a narrow sidewalk. Unless the residents want that building torn down, there’s not much choice. I think a wise, justifiable, decision was made here.

(I hope my Google Map street-view links work.. apologies if they don’t).

Leo December 23, 2009 - 10:51 am

What we do need is to build the new subway line as soon as possible. All this talk about “discrimination”, when the reasons for the lack of entrance are purely logical/technical is ridiculous. Everyone will win from having the new line operational. Actually, there are quite a few white people living around 96th-98th Street nowadays, especially on the 1st avenue. Comments by Alon Levy for this articles reminds me of my childhood in the Soviet Union. They were always trying to do something that is fair to everyone, that is “just” on every level, and that’s why many projects were taking 20 to 30 years to build.

Alon Levy December 23, 2009 - 4:17 pm

I think you’re the first person who’s characterizing the Soviet Union as a state that listened to community organizations too much.

rhywun December 23, 2009 - 10:16 pm

Yawn. My home stop also forces me to cross the avenue–the station entrances are on the north side only. Big deal.

As for the awkward placement of many of these station entrances, we have the ADA to thank for that. I’m not against it, but it and the many other regulations that have arisen in recent decades certainly contribute to skyrocketing costs and endless delays.

Alon Levy December 24, 2009 - 3:47 pm

They have disability regulations in other developed countries, too. For example, in Singapore, the subway is fully acceptable but for one station. And yet, all those countries, with unions and high wages and labor regulations, manage to build subways for one seventh to one third the cost of SAS.

rhywun December 25, 2009 - 12:51 pm

I think it’s not at all inconceivable that our local and state governments might just be seven times more corrupt than any of these other places.

Alon Levy December 25, 2009 - 4:27 pm

“in Singapore, the subway is fully acceptable…” should read “the subway is fully accessible.”

English word usage fail.


Nathanael December 25, 2009 - 12:12 am

WAIT A SEC. They’re building an “ancillary building” north of 96th Street. That means they’re doing serious digging north of 96th Street already!

Why can’t they build an entrance in the ancillary building (combine the two)? Why NOT?

This smells wrong.

Nathanael December 25, 2009 - 12:13 am

At the very worst it would seem they would need to build a pedestrian tunnel through the basements of the properties on the block containing “Ancillary 2”. Is this impossible?

Justin Samuels December 28, 2009 - 11:02 pm

The subway in LA is ridiculously short and doesn’t serve most areas, not even most well to do white areas. Overall, rich people there don’t take the subway, they DRIVE. LA doesn’t have good public transportation. It can take hours just to go a short distance.

Along 2nd Ave., more complaints about auxiliary buildings :: Second Ave. Sagas September 1, 2010 - 1:16 am

[…] Second Ave., they’ve faced their fair share of complaints as Upper East Siders have bemoaned entrances at 96th St. and 72nd St. as well as ventilation structures up and down the avenue. Yet again, the auxiliary […]

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