In 1972, 25 year old Tony Campo awakens to the blast of a jackhammer outside his apartment on Second Avenue. When he rushes to his window overlooking the corner of 2nd and 103rd Street, Tony realizes he is witnessing the groundbreaking of the new Second Avenue Subway (SAS).
The line was first proposed in 1929, long before Tony was born. At that time, the NYC Board of Transportation (pre-MTA) proudly announced the construction of the SAS from Houston Street up to Harlem, at a cost of $86 million. The SAS was scheduled to go into service between 1938 and 1941.
A combination of The Great Depression and poor planning by the board causes a postponement. The new grand opening of the SAS is rescheduled for 1948 at a cost of $504 million, and Tony’s construction worker dad is hoping to do some work on the line to help support his infant son.
But the plan is again delayed. In 1949 the Board accepts 10 brand new stainless steel subway cars specifically built for the SAS. The cars cost $100,000 each, and the SAS is now being called “The Million Dollar Train.” Among other state-of-the-art features, the cars are equipped with ultraviolet lamps in the ventilation system to kill germs.
Sorry for the delay, we should be moving shortly. It’s now 1967, and the southern tip of the 1948 construction plan is finally completed. Meanwhile the SAS and its futuristic subway cars is still not in service. But fear not—the MTA is now is charge.
By 1972, Tony’s dad is in his mid-50s and no longer in construction, but is pleased that work has resumed and the Second Avenue Subway dream will finally be fulfilled. The Upper East Side is hopelessly congested, and its lone Lexington Avenue line woefully inadequate to handle the hundreds of thousands of straphangers using it daily.
But now the end seems in sight. The voters approve a $2.5 billion Transportation Bond issue, with the SAS deemed top priority. And Tony, who never dreamed of helping to build the line like his dad but is a fledgling accountant, would now be able to take the new line to his downtown job.
Surprise, surprise. The struggling 1970s economy combined with bungled planning again grinds SAS construction to a screeching halt__with only three small sections completed.
Sorry for the delay. We should be moving shortly. It is now the 1990s, and after a decade of public meetings, delays, hot air and foot dragging, the MTA’s final environmental impact study is approved in April 2004.
Despite promises by the MTA that the SAS will soon be up and running, Tony’s dad is now skeptical that it will be completed in his lifetime. “Winners give results, losers give reasons,” he grumbles to Tony, successful enough to have moved down to the East 70s, purchasing a place on East 72nd off First Avenue.
Skip ahead, delay, skip ahead. The MTA announces another groundbreaking for the SAS in April 2007. One year later, the MTA pleads poverty and says the plan must be simplified before it can be restarted. Meanwhile Tony’s dad, who as a young man eagerly awaited working on the “Million Dollar” SAS line, dies of old age.
Skip ahead, delay, and here we are: 2011. Tony steps from his apartment and chokes on clouds of toxic dust caused by underground explosions from construction on the revised 72nd Street station. On November 22, work is temporarily halted after the Second Avenue Subway Task Force Committee is lambasted by hundreds of local residents going crazy from the noise and the newly incubated “Second Avenue Cough.”
Adjustments are made and work restarts on December 5th, with the MTA promising to have the SAS completed by—wait for it—2016.
Meanwhile, Tony still takes what locals call “the walk” to the Lexington Avenue line, but it won’t be for long. Tony is turning 65 next year and retiring.
As he stands on the teeming downtown platform, Tony reads a newspaper report about the MTA’s “full speed ahead” vow. He recalls his dad’s words: Winners give results. Losers give reasons. And it suddenly dawns on Tony—he too will probably be long gone before the Second Avenue Subway “million dollar line” is ever in operation.
Sorry for the delay. We should be moving shortly.