It’s been a crazy, screwy, messed-up journey, but somehow we’ve made it to the future– well, almost. Some said Manhattan would be underwater before the Second Avenue subway became a reality, but by Jove (or perhaps by way of a contract with Satan himself) the MTA is finally wrapping up the first phase of the century-long project over the next several months. Or at least, that’s what we’ve been told. However, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney actually checked up on the MTA’s word, and her office issued their findings in the 2nd Avenue subway “report card,” which was released today.
According to Maloney’s office, progress on Phase I of the Second Avenue subway is 94.4 percent complete. The report card granted the MTA an “A-” for the project, and hailed the “significant progress” made by the transport authority. Overall, there are still three phases left to complete on the project which will cost nearly $4.5 billion. Ever the strict grader, the Congresswoman maintained the same tight-lipped praise many officials have bestowed on the MTA as of late (especially at the L-train town hall meeting held last week in Manhattan), when she reminded everyone at this morning’s press conference that, “Unless the project is completed by December 2016, the MTA could still wind up with a failing grade.”
When/if this thing is finally completed, the teal-colored T-line– as it’s displayed on the MTA’s website– will extend from the 125 Street Station (home of the Q, 4, 5, and 6 trains) in Harlem to a brand new station, Hanover Square, in the Financial District. The line will also connect 14th Street and Houston, providing a convenient hop-over point for people wanting to skip right over the East Village to the Lower East Side and avoid massacres like Derby Day bro-fêting. However that won’t be a reality until Phase 3 of the project is complete, which will happen finally, maybe, when we’re all dead.
But on the real, Congresswoman Maloney emphasized in the report card the importance of a “seamless transition to Phase 2,” for which the MTA earned a “C,” among the lowest grades it received. However, the agency did achieve a “B” for planning and a “B+” for being on-time with this phase. That said, since full funding for the overall capital project, necessary to complete all four phases, hasn’t yet been guaranteed by lawmakers, and because the Second Avenue subway “nearly lost” the necessary money (yet again) last year, and “so much of what has now been allocated to the project is contingent on federal action,” Maloney awarded a “B” for budget.
Way back in 1920, the City solicited a report on the transit system which had seen rapid ridership growth in the previous decade. The report called for a brand new subway line and after construction began on the Second Avenue line in the 1930s, two more lines were demolished over the next two decades in anticipation of the project’s completion. In the mean time, the Lexington Line became overcrowded– but, at the time, it wasn’t worth getting too fussy about (nothing like the L-train debacle), seeing as this arrangement was only supposed to be temporary. However, two little historical developments that we like to call the Great Depression and World War II, first shoved a veritable shanty town and then dropped a metaphorical atomic bomb on the new subway line, halting the Second Avenue line indefinitely.
For years, economic fallout and budget cuts led to the project’s delay, which has been a hot-button political issue since at least 1950, when it made its debut on Democrat Ferdinand Pecora’s platform for the Mayoral race. Congresswoman Maloney, who was hailed by a representative on-hand today from the General Contractors Association of New York as the “true mother of the Second Avenue subway,” first began aggressively campaigning for a revival of the massive infrastructural project in the mid-1990s.
Maloney finally won the $1.3 billion in federal funding necessary to complete Phase 1 in late 2007, and another $1.5 from the State to complete Phase 2. The money was hard-won too– the Second Avenue budget was relentlessly cut by the feds and the State, all the way up until 2015. As Maloney told the crowd at the start of this month at the MTA’s Brooklyn L-train meeting, “I can’t tell you how hard it is to get federal money.”