Photos and text by Alex Mattina and Holly Ng
Since beginning service on Jan. 1, the long-awaited Second Avenue subway has been welcomed by residents and businesses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after a decade of disruptive construction.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates that 200,000 daily riders will use the new line, which extended the existing Q line with stops at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets at a cost of nearly $4.45 billion. Additional funding, estimated by the MTA at $6 billion, is needed for the second phase the project, which would extend the line north, with stops at 106th, 116th and 125th streets, and serve a less affluent population than that of the Upper East Side. Work on that phase has not begun.
The Second Avenue subway was needed to alleviate overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue 4, 5, and 6 lines. Here, riders ascend from the tracks at the 86th Street Q station.
Businesses along Second Avenue were hit hard during construction phase of the new subway line. Officials estimated that shops and restaurants lost up to 30 percent of their business and many were forced to close. Gracie’s Diner, at Second Avenue and East 86th Street, survived and is only now beginning to recover lost business, said owner Steve Nikolakakos.
“Business was terrible,” said Nikolakakos, who has owned the diner for 35 years. “Now that the subway is finished, business is much better. More people come in every day.”
Katie Conway, 35, a recreational therapist who works on the Upper East Side, takes the Second Avenue subway to work. “The new train has cut my travel time from 30 to 40 minutes on the 4,5 or 6 to 10 to 15 minutes on the Q,” she said. “It’s clean and fast.”
Janet Lam, 19, a sophomore student at Hunter College, said: “I’m glad I no longer have to crowd at the 63rd Street station to catch the Q train. At 72nd Street, I always get a seat for my long ride home.
The new stations all have newly commissioned art work, among them Vik Muniz’s portraits of straphangers seen here at the 72nd Street station.