A Dream Deferred: The Story of the Second Avenue Subway

Two years after construction restarted, the announcement was made in Summer 2009: the Second Avenue Subway project was delayed.
The latest plans for the subway line include a two-track line along Second Avenue from 125th Street to the Financial District in Lower Manhattan with a connection from Second Avenue through the 63rd Street tunnel to existing tracks for service to West Midtown and Brooklyn. The line, which is being built in four phases at a cost of $4.4 billion, is presently in Phase One.

This is a project with a turbulent history.

The story starts in the 1920s, when the subway station was first proposed to meet the needs of almost two million European immigrants in Manhattan. But project cost overruns and catastrophic events in our nation’s history, such as the Great Depression and World War II meant that the line was plagued with numerous postponements.

The CHPC Archival Library showcases the hope and disappointment seen throughout the twentieth century and beyond. Two pieces from our collection have been digitized under the link below.

July 9, 1969: CHPC Memo Detailing Second Avenue’s Disputed Route and Design
In 1968, MTA announced that it would resume building the Second Avenue subway line. After the announcement, East Siders and Planners began to dispute with one another over what each felt would be the station’s best route and design. CHPC followed these discussions closely and kept detailed notes regarding each side’s stance. A memo detailing this information can be found below along with a map of the disputed, proposed route.

July 10, 1969: CHPC’s Second Avenue Subway Site Review at 570 Grand Street
In order to provide some insight to East Siders, Planners, the City Mayor and the City’s Board of Estimate Department regarding Second Avenue’s route and design, CHPC formed the Second Avenue Subway Station Committee. The Committee performed a site review at 570 Grand Street and drafted a memo of their recommendations. CHPC’s recommendations included: designing the station so as not to preclude future junctions; suggesting to the City that it commission an independent study that analyzes such things as the job locations of East Siders, whether or not the bus system in that area could be modified to better meet the residents transportation needs, etc; and, that the City take the necessary steps to ensure that any increased land values resulting from the subway line being built inure to the City.

Click here to download a pdf of the full report.