Service of a Wet Blanket–Much Ado About Little: the New Second Avenue Subway

January 9th, 2017

Categories: New, Subway, Transportation, Wet Blanket

Second Avenue subway tracks

I finally had a reason to try the new 2nd Avenue subway in NYC. It’s not new, just an extension of the Q train. I got on at 2nd Avenue and 86th Street.

My destination, 51st and Lexington Avenue.

That was my mistake–thinking I could conveniently go anywhere on the East side below 63rd Street using this east side train. Forget it also if you’re hoping to get to Grand Central Station or Union Square in a reasonable amount of time.

I exited at 63rd Street–where I took three long escalators to reach the street–and followed instructions to transfer to the Lexington Avenue subway at 59th street. I could have walked to 51st Street but I wanted to test the system.

It failed.

For one thing, I had to pay another fare. For another, had the weather been stormy, freezing or sweltering or had I been lugging anything, the clumsy four block walk would irk. And the clock was ticking—what a waste of time.

Speaking of time, I waited over 20 ++ minutes for the Lexington Avenue local. OK–it was a Sunday. But really. This is Manhattan for goodness sakes. And last—and this is a frivolous complaint. With all the talk about the new subway I’d expected to travel in a new train. It wasn’t.

The subway extension is super for some:  People coming from Coney Island, Brooklyn to the upper east-east side [as far as 96th Street for now], or for those who live way east and are going to theatre. After 63rd, the train heads west and stops at Times Square on its way south.

There are engineering reasons, no doubt, that the train doesn’t connect to the Lexington Avenue subway, but this is 2017–we can do anything, no? Oops! I forgot: It took almost 100 years to get this far. We don’t want to rush things.

wet blanketI’m more the cheerleader type and dislike being a wet blanket. I love this city. But we haven’t been getting much right of late. Returning home in the snowstorm on Saturday afternoon I heard the welcome scraping noise of a snow plough. Where was it? Not where the cars are on First Avenue but on the bicycle lane. With two inches of frozen slush and more snow coming down, who made that decision? Granted the subway extension is a state project and the city cleanup belongs to the local sanitation department but the impact of poorly thought through decisions hit citizens equally.

Do you love the “new” Second Avenue subway? Can you point to an infrastructure or other major project about which much is made with disappointing impact? Do I have unrealistic expectations?

Much ado about nothing

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8 Responses to “Service of a Wet Blanket–Much Ado About Little: the New Second Avenue Subway”

  1. hb Said:

    As someone who vividly remembers Third Avenue El from his early visits to New York and has unintentionally spent many unpleasant hours underground in parts of the city that even God would have had reservations about visiting, you have earned both my interest and sympathy in your 2nd Avenue adventure.

    However, the time has come to dry out your wet blanket. Take the Q south from 96th Street and 2nd Avenue to Herald Square (34th Street) and transfer to the M north, getting on at the front of the train, and get off at 3rd Avenue and 51st Street, two blocks from where you live. The mileage may be convoluted, but the trains are fast, the service is relatively good (much better than the Lex.) and safe and the cars are usually uncrowned except at rush hour.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Half a ha–I need to take two trains to get home no matter how you slice it when the Lexington Avenue train would get me to the same place without any changes? But thanks for doing the research.

    I know myself: I would end up in Hoboken when looking for the M at Herald Square. Your way saves from getting wet, hot or cold, which the trek from 63rd to 59th cannot for sure.

    I want to go to Paris! Metro life there is not so convoluted.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I am a Bostonian so I cannot properly negotiate the New York Subway system, let alone properly evaluate it. Boston has a legendary ineffective terrifically flawed subway system with regular breakdowns in all seasons. It is the country’s oldest subway system. In any case it has been preserved in a song known as “Charlie on the MTA” about a man who may have never returned after boarding! It actually terrifies me.

    However, I visited the city during the time your new subway was being created. The inconvenience, dirt and disruption to people and places should have been for a very carefully thought out plan that would have substantially contributed to the transportation system in an often unforgiving climate. I can only assume that this project for better or worse must share some of the benefits of its construction with those who programmed it and labored on it. Perhaps it also contributes to higher employment statistics with interesting demographic patterns as seems to happen in MA.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I remember that song! I haven’t been on the MTA in a dog’s age. I recall getting around OK in the day but that was 100 years ago!

    The construction of the 2nd Avenue subway was a DISGRACE. I’ve written previously that people whose apartments faced or were near the avenue walked away because of the noise, dust and neighborhood disruption. I felt so terrible also for the stores. One of the workers in a small store in that neighborhood that we have visited for years told us about people who simply moved away. Imagine the fumes from cars, busses and trucks stuck on that avenue literally for hours at times. Fortunately for the tenants in question they could afford to do that. What of the others?

    Tenants in one of the old buildings in the 90s and 2nd were given a few hours to evacuate as their building was condemned. The construction made it unstable. I knew that because I worked in an office with one of the tenants who had lived there with her then boyfriend for a few months so she hadn’t accumulated much. To find another place to live in a few hours was stressful. But I thought of the elderly who had 30-40 years of belongings in their apartments in that building. Goodness knows what happened to them and their things. Yet another example of failure at city planning.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    The new subway is a great convenience for some, at several billion dollars cost. Since it’s a state project, the rest of us will be footing the bill. No further comment.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Lucky for the residents of the state as we are promised several more stages–this one cost $4 billion but the next is estimated at $9 billion. I’m being sarcastic, of course, and I also predict that if the rest goes as the first tranche has, we will all be long gone when it is completed in 100 years.

    While the jobs that Martha refers to are welcome, those who lose businesses or properties –and the millions who will never step foot in Manhattan much less on the Q line–are all victims. Gracious me! Thank you for pointing this out. Remember this when Gov. Cuomo runs for President.

  7. JM Said:

    I remember I had to shovel my car out on Grand Concourse to go to my 1st teaching job in Long Island. When they plowed the Concourse in those days the plows left a pile of snow covering the tire wheels. We lived across from the Court House on 158th St.
    By the time I got across the bridge the roads were good.

    Unfortunately, I can’t address the new 2nd Ave. subway.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We park our car in an outdoor lot at an upstate railroad station. When it snows the plows shove snow up against the cars willy nilly instead of piling it in one big stack in a section of the lot.

    Just the other week snow was higher than the headlights of our sedan. Once it freezes, good luck getting out of the spot unless the weather is warmish the day you hope to use your car. We were so lucky the last time but you never know. One year the block of ice was so thick we had to hire a man with the right equipment to chip it away. The garden variety shovel we keep in the car was of no use plus we are not strong enough.

    The plows that clean the roads do the same thing at the entrances to our driveway. We may have paid someone to clean the driveway and access to the road but after the town plows have come along, if there’s enough snow, and they have not lifted their plow, it’s back to work if we want to leave the house in the car. The houses are very far apart on our road so they wouldn’t have to do this often but…..

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