Friday, December 23, 2016


A generation of New York children has grown up thinking
this is what 2nd Avenue is supposed look like.
When the Second Avenue Subway opens on January 1, 2017, we Upper East Siders will have the opportunity to travel to Coney Island on a stinking hot summer day without having to transfer to a separate subway line. That should shave at least 15 minutes off of what now takes an hour and a half. I made that 90-minute trip once, over 30 years ago, and I can assure you, the shorter travel time won't be worth it. 

However, it also means a direct line to Times Square, which will make our occasional trip to Broadway shows much easier, especially in the winter. It will almost make up for the overpriced orchestra-seat tickets.

No matter how cool the entrance looks, there's still
that crummy-looking Rite-Aid next to it.
To gin up excitement, the MTA hosted an open house at the 96th St. station yesterday and today, for four hours each day. 

If you know anything about me, checking out a subway station for free is about as thrilling an experience as I can stand. With my Kindle Fire tablet on hand to record the historic moment, I ambled 12 blocks north and three west to see what a decade of construction hath wrought on my neighborhood.

Each of the new subway stops features original work by a different local artist commissioned by the MTA. Unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art's "suggested" $20 entrance fee, you can't decide that you're only going to pay two bits for a subway ride -- it's $2.75 or hit the road, pal. (Next year, it's likely to go up an extra two bits, so get riding now.)

Even if it was in focus, it wouldn't have made a difference.
The 96th St. station features Sarah Sze's Blueprint for a Landscape. Across New York, architects are whining, I could've done that! And for half the price!  

If you've seen one subway station, you've seen them all.

I admit to being disappointed when reaching the bottom of the escalator and seeing... just another subway station. The years 2016 and 2017 still sound futuristic to me -- and yet, here's something that doesn't look much different than what was designed 40 or more years ago. Where's The Jetsons when you need it? 

Unlike other stations, music was piped in for your pleasure. It was mostly New York-related, like Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising." But then there was "Another Sunny Day" by Belle & Sebastian. It was a strange choice, when you consider the opening lyrics:

Never mind that, where's the nearest bar?
Another sunny day, I met you up in the garden.
You were digging plants, I dug you, beg your pardon.
I took a photograph of you in the herbaceous border,
It broke the heart of men and flowers and girls and trees.

"Herbaceous border"? This is an island of concrete and steel, kids. Our herbs come in glass bottles sold at the grocery store. You can take your tea time with garden gnomes and go across the Atlantic where you came from. 

Take a good look. After January 1, you will never seen such
a clean New York subway track again.
But you know what? Ultimately, it makes no difference. Starting January 1, the only thing riders will hear will be the screeching of subway brakes. And that will be music enough to East Siders' ears.

And the Q line is only the beginning. If all goes well, work will eventually start on the all-new T line, running along 2nd Ave. from 125th Street to Hanover Square on the southern tip of Manhattan. 

What does that timeline look like? Well, going from 96th to 72nd -- 24 blocks -- took a decade. By that standard, the T line should take about 80 years, and the price of a single ride around 70 bucks -- 60, if you buy the monthly pass.

Back when five cents would buy you the opportunity to
peer into strangers' apartments.
By then, no one will remember that the city could have saved billions of dollars if it hadn't torn down, in 1942 and 1955 respectively, the elevated tracks that ran along 2nd and 3rd Avenues... in anticipation of a subway line that wasn't started until 2007, and might not be entirely finished before the end of the 21st-century. 

And the stations will still look like it's 1975.


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