Second Avenue Subway Construction Halted—Again

The MTA says the loss of projected congestion of pricing revenue is at fault. Governor Hochul vows the project will move forward at some point, just not now.

| 24 Jun 2024 | 10:58

Work on the Second Avenue subway has been halted—again.

The alleged cause this time is Governor Kathy Hochul’s surprise June 5 cancellation of the highly contentious congestion pricing plan for Manhattan below 60th Street. The plan was set to go into effect June 30 and raise an estimated $1 billion a year for the MTA.

That billion dollars in turn was, according to the MTA, to be used to secure $15 billion in financing for other repair and construction projects. Work on two other MTA projects making Long Island Rail Road stations in Forest Hills and Hollis, Queens, more accessible to riders with disabilities—has also been suspended.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday June 18, MTA construction boss Jamie Torres Springer said: “We have stopped work on the Second Avenue subway. There are a lot of projects that we will not be able to build, and we’ll be focusing instead on state of good repair.”

“We have, in a couple of cases, issued stop work orders on projects that not strictly meet the state of good repair requirement.”

Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking that same day proclaimed that halting congestion pricing “does not mean that will not find funding for the Second Avenue subway.”

Which party is more or less believable is open to interpretation. Or perhaps the MTA and the Governor both speak sincerely and represent the separate truths characteristic of New York state’s often dysfunctional government.

While the MTA declares that all major construction projects must now be reviewed and are in potential jeopardy, Hochul remains breezily optimistic. “As the Governor made clear today, she is committed to funding the MTA, and is working with partners in government on funding mechanisms,” wrote Hochul spokesperson Anthony Hogrebe.

The next phase of the Second Avenue subway line would dig a tunnel to East 125th Street and open a new train station there.

Plans for a Second Avenue subway line date to the 1920s—a time when elevated trains ran above both 2nd and 3rd Avenues. The IRT Second Avenue line ran from South Ferry to 129th Street, and all its stations above Canal Street were closed and its tracks removed by 1942.

The IRT Third Avenue Line ran from South Ferry all the way to Gun Hill Road in the Bronx. All of its stations and Manhattan tracks were removed by 1955.

The Second Avenue subway plans were resurrected in the 1970s, including some tunnel digging, only to be abandoned again due to the city’s fiscal crisis.

Like a zombie that just won’t die, in the 1990s, the project once more sprang to life. After various environmental and financial issues were resolved, construction began in 2007.

While the subway tunnel was bored underground, the stations were built using cut and cover techniques, causing some displacement of businesses and significant disruption at and around the new stations at Second Avenue and 72nd, 86th and 96th Streets.

Because of its connections with the 4, 5, 6 Lexington Avenue line, the entrance and exit for 63rd Street station is actually on 3rd Avenue. Google Streetview photos show streetscape disruption here from 2012 to 2017.

One casualty of the construction: Pookie and Sebastian, a women’s clothing store, that stood on the northwest corner of 3rd Ave. and 63rd St.

Sometime, perhaps in our children’s children’s children’s lifetimes, the Second Avenue subway will include not just its present four Q train stations but an east side T line running from 125th Street to Hanover Square in lower Manhattan.

Those plans, it should be noted, are highly speculative and no work has been yet done or even scheduled below 63rd Street.