In a damp tunnel under East Harlem this morning, Governor Spitzer, MTA executive director Lee Sander, and lots of other officials — though not Mayor Bloomberg, who was in Cincinnati campaigning against guns — gathered to break ground for the first phase of a Second Avenue subway. It was actually a wall-tapping, marking the start of preparations for a tunnel-boring machine to expand an existing tunnel dug in the seventies. The line, called the T, will have a royal-blue logo and share stops in its first phase with the Q. Most of the tunnel will be 80 feet underground, said MTA Capital Construction chief Mysore Nagaranjan, though the tunnel where the ceremony took place is only about 45 feet down.
They're breaking ground (again) on the Second Avenue Subway today, perhaps even as we speak. In honor of the occasion, we present you with Stephen Colbert's thoughts on the matter, which we learned at the Hoax premiere last week.
Your show's on the West Side, not the East Side, right?
West Side. I love the East Side. I can see it from the West Side. It looks great from there.
Well, you probably won't care, but they're breaking ground, finally, on the Second Avenue Subway —
It's gonna be on an ancient burial ground! Blood on the tracks. Just pools of blood, and ancient Indian spirits that smite us all! It's gonna happen in the mid-Seventies. It was the rich people who kicked those Indians out.
As the Second Avenue Subway's now-it's-for-real-we- promise groundbreaking looms, the Times takes a wary walk down memory lane to recall three similar ceremonies in the seventies. A Willie Neuman–narrated video revisits the consecutive groundbreakings at 103rd Street (1972), Canal Street (1973), and 2nd Street (1974). "The line had at least three groundbreakings," says the author.
Oh, at the very least. As Greg Sargent reported in New York three years ago, the first mayoral pickax swing over the star-crossed project occurred way back in 1925, when the mayor was John Hylan. The next time the line came close to reality was 1950, when voters approved a $500 million bond issue to finance it. No pickax action that time: The MTA quietly funneled the money into repairs of existing lines instead. Ten years later, Nelson Rockefeller got involved, which eventually led to the seventies rash of groundbreakings with similar non-results. In a bit of ready-made symbolism, Mayor John Lindsay's swing failed to crack the asphalt in 1972. We'll see how Spitzer does on Thursday.
Is That Finally the Sound of a 2nd Ave. Subway? [NYT]
The Line That Time Forgot [NYM]
Now that it looks like the Second Avenue Subway will actually happen — the groundbreaking is set for next week — it's time to dream even bigger: As the Times reports today, the planners are considering "roomier, brightly lighted" stations with glass walls and double sets of sliding doors (like on AirTrain). And the glass walls are merely a harbinger of something even, um, cooler: With the platforms sealed off from the tunnels, the dream of every sweaty summertime commuter — air-conditioned stations — becomes a tantalizing possibility. Those Upper East Siders get everything, don't they? Well, except a subway line, that is, for the last 80 years.
2nd Ave. Subway Platforms May Get Glass Walls and Sliding Doors [NYT]
Earlier:Groundbreaking Set (Again) for Second Avenue Subway
A historic announcement was made inside the MTA's Madison Avenue boardroom this morning: The groundbreaking for the Second Avenue subway will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, April 12 — a mere two weeks away. The ceremony will be held inside a tunnel, which might suggest to literal-minded folks that ground has in fact already been broken. Of course it has! In fact, there have been two previous groundbreaking ceremonies for the star-crossed subway — first in 1925, again in 1972 — but MTA executive director Elliot Sander, who made the announcement, promised this morning that "the third time's a charm." Plans are in place, he noted, for noise mitigation and sidewalk navigability and tunnel-boring machines so badass they require assembly in Italy. Naturally, actual work won't start until several weeks after the ceremony. —Alec AppelbaumThe Line That Time Forgot [NYM]
• The MTA has finally committed to the Second Avenue Subway, signing the $337 million contract with MTA Capital Construction (hey! nepotism!) to build the first leg of the line. Only six to eight months until the tunnel-boring machine revs up. [NYP]
• The third cop in the Sean Bell case — Detective Marc Cooper, the one who fired the fewest shots and faces the weakest charges — may get a separate trial. His attorney is mulling a motion to sever. [NYDN]
• One imagines working at a Bronx welfare office is depressing enough without being "groped, fondled, tackled, kissed, and spanked" by a supervisor. Even, or perhaps especially, a female supervisor who calls herself "Hurricane." [WNYC]
• Uma Thurman and bizarre hotelier André Balazs have split up. We predict his impending move into the William Beaver house. [amNY]
• And the Postal Service is introducing new Zip Codes to the Upper East Side, 10065 and 10075, which means that the iconic 10021 will shrink even further (it will extend only from East 69th to East 76th). The sound you hear is corks popping at the local paperies as thousands of millionaires order new stationery. [NYT]
In a town where big public-works projects can languish for years or even decades — how're you liking that Freedom Tower? — one is well advised to relish tangible steps wherever they can be found. And so we're pleased to report a nugget revealed during a dull MTA board meeting — "terminally boring," one staffer said — this morning: The board authorized $15 million to buy a vacant lot at Second and 93rd for emergency exit and ventilation for the Second Avenue subway's 96th Street stop. Which suggests that stop will actually, you know, be coming. Apparently the MTA reminded a developer at work on an apartment tower there of its "right to condemn," according to staff reports; he agreed to sell for a price that covered his construction costs. By getting an empty lot, the MTA avoids the need to displace existing users, which, as Bruce Ratner can tell you, can create problems. "You’re going to keep seeing stuff like this," exulted lame-duck MTA chairman Peter Kalikow, "and at some point the project goes from doubtful to inevitable." We're still not holding our breath on inevitability. —Alec AppelbaumEarlier:The Second Avenue Subway Is Brought to You By the Letter T