March 30 2012

Inserting Infrastructure: New York City’s Second Avenue Subway

The subway system in New York City is one of the most extensive public transit systems in the world. Nonetheless, the number of people living, working, and traveling through the East Side has been steadily increasing since the 1940’s and the Lexington Avenue Line (4, 5, and 6 trains) is now operating beyond its capacity. Additionally, convenient access to subway service has always been lacking on the far East Side of Manhattan. In response to these problems, in 2007 the MTA began construction of the Second Avenue Subway, which will parallel the Lexington Ave Line from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square on the Lower East Side.

Station Cavern

A soon-to-be station cavern for the Second Ave Subway.

The idea for a Second Avenue line is not new; proposals for this route date back to 1929. However, the plans were repeatedly held back by The Great Depression, World War II, and escalating costs. After the MTA was founded in 1965, construction officially began under Second Avenue in 1972 but was halted in 1975 due to the City’s poor financial condition. Only three unconnected segments of tunnel had been completed. Updated proposals finally came back under serious consideration in 1995, and the contemporary project, as we know it today, began. The long history and slow but committed progress of this project represents one of most complicated urban planning and engineering feats in New York City’s history. Second Avenue Sagas, a blog created in 2006 to track the subway’s progress, provides an excellent in-depth chronology.

The structural challenges of inserting new subway infrastructure into such a dense corridor have been solved by the many engineers involved with the project. However, the social and economic issues created above ground are still being navigated one day at a time by planners, city officials, and area residents and business owners. Residents have logged hundreds of complaints about construction noise, dust and mess, and real estate values along Second Avenue on the Upper East Side have gone down. Unfortunately, there is always some price to be paid for progress.

What are the best strategies for mitigating the above-ground side effects of major construction projects?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Nina Coveney

Nina Coveney graduated from Cornell University in 2011 with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Studies. When she began as a blogger with Global Site Plans, she worked for the Town of Ithaca, New York Planning Department. She then transitioned - in writing and real life - to New York City where she began working in the Events department of the Bryant Park Corporation. She hopes to eventually pursue a Master’s Degree in urban planning and design. A native of the New York City metro area, she blogged about trends in sustainability, housing, transportation, and adaptive reuse in both Ithaca and the Big Apple until April 2012.

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This entry was posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012 at 5:29 pm and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Engineering, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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