Thursday, January 05, 2017

Riding the New NYC 2nd Ave Subway Line

What a year 2016 was! Alongside some very positive personal experiences and news the year brought the debacle of a national election and, just a few weeks ago, during the holiday season, my brother's untimely death. I do want to thank everyone who has sent private notes about my family's loss. I deeply appreciate them.

The other day, to lift my spirits, I decided to visit one of New York City's newest attractions, the Second Avenue subway line. Planned for almost 100 years, with multiple groundbreakings in the 1970s that led to stalled efforts, the line now is now running, having debuted on December 31, 2016.  In truth it's really a "tiny-snippet-of-2nd Avenue" Q train, which no longer heads into Queens; but that tiny snippet, which cuts through one of the City's richest neighborhoods on the Upper East Side, is worthy of praise. The new stations are clean (still), light and airy, like ones you might find in Barcelona or Paris, with public art, and, when I visited on Monday, sightseers were milling about, smiles gracing nearly every face, cameras out for group portraits and selfies. Even some of the MTA workers were grinning happily, perhaps because none of the three new stations had yet become so crowded with commuters--or tourists--that they were almost dangerously unmanageable, as other once new attractions, like the High Line in Chelsea, now are. (I've yet to see to the new 7 Line Hudson Yards-area station, but I hope to soon.)
The vaulted, airy upper floor, 72nd St
The new 2nd Avenue line, though limited in length, should begin to help alleviate the crowding on the 4-5-6 Lexington Avenue line, which I can attest from my many NYPL Schwarzman Research Branch trips is often so packed during evening rush hour that once I've wedged myself into a car I can hardly breathe, let alone move. One argument that I've seen advanced, and which I agree with, is that as the MTA is completing the 2nd Avenue line, which will eventually run from 125th Street in East Harlem to Hanover Street at the southern tip of Manhattan, it should also aim to optimize all other resources to address numerous straphanger requests and needs across all five boroughs. While many of the MTA's stations have undergone renovation and improvements over the last fifteen years, and there seems to be new or ongoing construction on several lines, most notoriously the L, many stations are still in dreadful shape, train service often feels chaotic on the weekends, and the infrastructure in general has not kept up with the City's ever-rising population. On top of this, the price of MetroCards keeps increasing, with inadequate to no subsidies for poor, working-class and even middle class riders, making the subway, one of New York's most vital assets, increasingly unaffordable for millions of riders.

The train to 96th Street
One positive change that has affected nearly all Manhattan stations is enhanced Internet service. I can never connect to the MTA's wireless system--which is probably a good thing, for security reasons--but I was been able to connect to AT&T in all the 2nd Avenue stations, as well as while on the E train yesterday. To tell the truth, I'd rather see air conditioning and a better PA and alarm system in the subways than wireless access, but net access is a welcome addition. One thing I have yet to witness, thankfully, is loud telephone conversations in the cars, but I'm sure those are coming if VOIP service is also universally possible.
Two more New Yorkers

After a short wait I caught the Q train at 14th Street, and rode it up to 96th Street, got off at that station, then rode down to 86th, did the same tour of the station, then finished up at 72nd St. When the train got to 63rd Street I almost got off to photograph that station too, but recalled that it was just a new route for the Q and not a new stop.  Here are photos of the stations and sightseers, with mosaics at 86th Street based on Chuck Close paintings, and mosaics at 72nd Street showing New York's racial, ethnic and social diversity.

A sign announcing the Q's route
In the station
Last stop
Upstairs on the mezzanine level 
The escalators 
The mezzanine at 96th Street
MTA workers with new guides
at 96th Street; the murals in the background
Looking down at the boarding area
Photographs in front of the
unoccupied newsstand 
Leaving the 96th St. station 
The dark gray-green marbled
stairwell and escalator wall (at
all three stations) 
One of Chuck Close's paintings,
of musician Esmeralda Spalding
in mosaic form
The Spalding image up close 
A mosaic version of Close's
portrait of artist Alex Katz 
People gathered around a mosaic
of Close's self-portrait
A view from the mezzanine
Selfie with mosaic of Kara Walker
The boarding area; you can see
how newly laid the tiles are
At 72nd Street
Heading upstairs 
Some of the mosaics at 72nd Street
I believe these are images of real New Yorkers
A crew filming a straphanger with
one of the mosaic portraits
Waris Ahluwalia (one of the few
mosaic portraits I knew)
One of the most talked about mosaic portraits,
featuring a working-class same sex couple 
A mural
One of the MTA workers taking a photo

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