Second Avenue Subway Station Opens After Years of Construction

By Henry Mei ’18

After nearly a century in the making, the Second Avenue Subway (SAS) is finally here, bringing with it, modern innovations of the twenty-first century.

The SAS is a subway line that extends the NYC transit system to the Far East side of Manhattan. It primarily serves as an alternative for commuters using the Lexington Avenue line, which is crowded and often delayed.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)’s website, it was first proposed in 1929, but was put on hold due to various interfering conflicts such as World War II and a fiscal crisis in 1975. The MTA resurfaced and modified the proposal in 2004.

The line is being built in four phases. Phase One which consists of three new stations – 72 Street, 86 Street, and 96 Street, in the Upper East Side and the renovation of the Lexington Avenue 63 Street station – opened on January 1, 2017. It extends the Q train service to the Far East side. Phases Two, Three, and Four have not yet began construction due to a lack of funding.

“I love it [Phase One],” said Piper, a commuter on the Upper East Side who preferred not to give her last name. “It’s unbelievable, like magic. I’ve waited for it all my life. It’s been a running joke for so long – but it’s worth the wait.”

Phase One, which cost about $4.5 billion, is considered among the most expensive subway projects based on distance in the world.  

According to the MTA’s website, these state-of-the-art stations contain features that provide commuters comfort and convenience, such as: escalators and fully-accessible elevators for people with disabilities; air-tempered climate control to maximize customer comfort year-round; column-free construction for ease-of-movement; high ceilings to create an airy atmosphere; vibrant LED lighting; and modern digital signage delivering transit announcements and information.

In addition to the exceptional features of the station’s platforms that make it a better commuting experience for New Yorkers, the mezzanine is breathtaking. Each of the new stations’ mezzanines are like underground museums, featuring art installations that represent the vibrancy and cultural diversity of New York – a city always on the move.

According to the Governor’s website, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The Second Avenue subway provides New Yorkers with a museum underground and honors our legacy of building engineering marvels that elevate the human experience.”

According to the MTA’s website, the SAS features the largest permanent public art installation in New York State history commissioned through MTA Arts & Design.     

Four artists were chosen to each take one of the four stations and treat it as their own canvas, to paint their creativity and turn it into public art.

Jean Shin’s installation is called Elevated and is featured at the Lexington Avenue 63 Street station. He used archival photographs to create compositions using laminated glass, glass mosaic, and ceramic tiles to remember the demolished elevated tracks at 63rd Street.

Vik Muniz’s installation is called Perfect Strangers and is featured at the 72 Street station. She used glass mosaic and laminated glass to create detailed life-sized figures to show the diversity of New Yorkers.

Chuck Close’s installation is called Subway Portraits and is featured at the 86 Street station. He used glass and ceramic mosaic and ceramic tiles to create twelve large-scale works of cultural figures based on his detailed photo-based portrait paintings and prints.

Sarah Sze’s installation is called Blueprint for a Landscape and is featured at the 96 Street station. She used porcelain tiles to illustrate designs that feature familiar objects – sheets of paper, scaffolding, birds, trees, and foliage – caught up in a whirlwind velocity that picks up speed and intensity as the composition unfolds throughout the station.

According to the Governor’s website, MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “There’s no doubt that the launch of these new stations represents an historic expansion of the system. But it also represents a major milestone in terms of culture – the work of these four incredibly talented artists will provide a source of enjoyment, inspiration and beauty to both customers and visitors for decades to come.”

As commuters pass by on their way to work, or visitors stop by to admire the artwork, the SAS stands as a reminder to show that accomplishment is not about the time it took to complete something, but rather the commitment, effort, and persistence that was put in to make it happen.

It also signifies the uniqueness and capabilities of New Yorkers demonstrateS who we are and what can be done when we come together.

“I look forward to seeing the next phase,” said Piper. “Hopefully, it doesn’t take another century to complete.”

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