‘Making the Impossible Happen’—100 Years Later, Second Avenue Subway On a Roll

Dec 22, 2016
In The News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Manhattan electeds came together this afternoon to celebrate “making the impossible happen” after years of physical and political obstacles: the New Year’s Eve opening of the long-stalled Second Avenue Subway, decades after it was first envisioned.

Speaking at the 96th Street station of the Second Avenue Subway line, Cuomo told the 200-strong crowd of elected officials, transit workers and advocates that there was a Second Avenue elevated line and a Third Avenue elevated line that were taken down in the 1940s because the plan was to build a Second Avenue Subway—”except they forgot to build a subway on Second Avenue.” He said that the delay in the implementation of the project explains why the 4, 5 and 6 lines are “the most heavily traveled lines in the world” and blasted what he described as excuses made by the government that prevented the line from being built.

 “We’re gonna remind New Yorkers that there is nothing that we cannot do in this state when we put our mind to it and we’re not gonna take no for an answer,” he said. “We’re gonna show you how dreams become a reality. Be here New Year’s Eve, be here New Year’s day and let’s start the New Year the right way.”

The first phase of the Second Avenue train—which will run the Q train between 57th and 92nd Streets—will open on December 31. The project received $1.3 billion in federal funding in planning that went on for more than a century. About 200,000 riders are anticipated to ride the subway line on a daily basis, and the business community sees the new subway as a way to revive business activity in the area.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney praised the governor for putting $1.5 billion into the budget for the second phase of the subway, which will extend downtown. She called him an “infrastructure king” because “infrastructure is in his DNA,” saying that the city “could have used you 100 years ago.”

She said that when she first got to Congress, completing the Second Avenue Subway was her key goal.

“I thank my staff for working on it every single day because politics is at its best when it is making the impossible happen and getting people to listen to reason and persuading them to do what makes sense,” Maloney said. “Even if it isn’t easy, even if it isn’t quick and even if it isn’t cheap.”

She noted that in 2000, she received the first federal funding for the project—$3 million for a study—and credited retiring Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel, who was in attendance, for his help in acquiring that. She said that the governor and the mayor at the time could not even offer a letter of support.

In December 2007, she said, the MTA was able to sign a full funding agreement, which guaranteed $1.3 billion in federal funds—which covered a third of the $4.4 billion needed for the project. The project had three previous groundbreakings and every single time, the money placed in the budget was “moved elsewhere,” she said.

“But it didn’t say when you would get the money, it was only that you would get the money,” Maloney continued. “So every single year, it was a fight to get the money out of Washington and here into New York.”

And it was a full house at the announcement, with even First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris on hand representing Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo, Maloney, Espaillat, Mark-Viverito, Rangel, Garodnick and others were seen entering the station for the first time with MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast, taking the escalator as a large number of reporters swarmed around them until they exited the station.

MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast credited Cuomo’s “direct challenge” to the MTA to complete the project on time.

“There is no mistaking what his priorities are when he has a conversation with you,” Prendergast said. “He made clear to those of us who were involved that this project was gonna get done on time.”