With a New Year’s Eve-style countdown at noon sharp on Sunday, throngs of New Yorkers crowded around subway stations on the Upper East Side to cheer the arrival of Second Avenue subway — a project that was billions of dollars and decades in the making and that will transform commutes, property values and daily life in this neighborhood and beyond for years to come.
The years of delays and cost over-runs seemed to recede from locals’ minds as quickly as the memory of a bad Monday morning commute when police officers pulled back barricades and let the crowds pour into new, improbably airy stations at 72nd St., 86th St. and 96th. Street. With eyes wide and iPhone cameras capturing every last detail of the historic moment, New Yorkers looked more like tourists in their own city than cold-eyed locals hurrying to catch a train.
“It will change my life practically speaking,” said Andrew Kavesh, a 20-year resident of the Upper East Side who endured years of cacophony from construction on the line and who waited in line at the new 86th Street station, to be among the first to ride the new Q service. “And it’s going to breathe new life into the neighborhood.”
Excited New Yorkers began lining up outside the new subway stations an hour before the line officially opened. The 2nd Avenue Merchants Association was on hand, giving out hundreds of Metrocards to those in line. With a New Year’s Eve-style countdown at noon, police removed barricades and cheering New Yorkers descended on escalators toward waiting trains.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who represents the Upper East Side among other neighborhoods told Patch the subway was an example “of what government can do when we all work together.” Gesturing at the line of people waiting to ride the new subway, she added, “You can see the immense need.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (pictured above) was on hand as several thousand New Yorkers piled onto the first official run of the new Q train. Cuomo, who has a mixed record on public transportation issues in New York City, has made a sudden and somewhat belated appearance on the scene to promote the launch of the city’s first new subway line in six decades. At least a few locals on hand didn’t begrudge the governor his newfound affection for the city’s subways; they greeted Cuomo with calls of “Thank you Governor!” as his made his way through a crowd on the platform at 72nd Street, after the first train pulled in.
The new service will mean shorter hikes to the train for residents living from Second Avenue to East End Avenue, who until now have had to walk west to the Lexington Avenue line. That line, the city’s most crowded, should see congestion ease as riders funnel off to the more easterly line.
The new subway stations will seem unfamiliar to New Yorkers used to riding the city’s older lines. With sweeping, well-lit concourses, wide platforms and high ceilings, the new stations feel more like the D.C. Metro than typical Gotham subway stations. A new vibration-dampening subway track offers a strangely smooth and silent ride, as well. There’s none of the metallic clackety-clack New Yorkers have come to expect as a soundtrack to their commutes. The new design though has come at a steep cost; on a per-mile basis, the first phase of the planned three-phase 2nd Avenue line is perhaps the most expensive subway in the world.
While that price tag may not bode well for the quick completion of the next two phases of the line, with subways, apparently, you get what you pay for: a three-stop subway extension that, even aside from its convenience, stands out as the most luxurious stretch of track in the New York subway system.