By Keith Powers
Starting on January 1, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to ride the brand new Second Avenue Subway – a project over one hundred years in the making and once considered out of reach. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we have reached a major milestone and New Yorkers are right to celebrate. We should all make a New Year’s resolution to see this project through to the end and complete the entire Second Avenue Subway.
The new line is expected to carry 200,000 riders each day, easing congestion on the Lexington Avenue line, which carries over 1.3 million riders daily and is the most heavily trafficked subway line in the city. Easing congestion means faster running and less crowded trains. It means that we get to work faster and return home to our families sooner. Even better, it means that East Siders will feel more comfortable during their ride.
The Second Avenue subway will be an economic engine for the East Side: our local businesses will receive increased foot traffic, residents will have an easier route to work, and more businesses will seek to be located along the Second Avenue corridor. The Regional Plan Association estimated that the subway would result in 70,000 new construction jobs, increase job capacity by 86,000 jobs, and net $14.4 billion dollars in goods and services for the city. In other words, the subway is a major economic boom for the city.
Therefore, the city must remain steadfast in our commitment to the goal of a fully completed subway from 125th Street to Hanover Square. The next phase of the subway will extend the line north to 125th Street. Once completed, the next steps will be getting the subway built to bring service to our neighborhood and downtown Manhattan.
As the first phase of the subway becomes a reality, there are steps we should take now to ensure that we will be able to hop on that train ourselves in the future:
Make the Second Avenue Subway a priority project for any new federal infrastructure and transportation spending: Our federal elected officials, led by Congress Member Carolyn Maloney, have brought more than $1 billion to fund the first two phases of the subway.
The new administration – one that I agree with on few issues – has prioritized infrastructure and transportation spending. We should support Congress Member Maloney, Senator Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand to ensure that the Second Avenue Subway is a priority project for new federal transportation spending.
Create a new task force of community leaders, elected officials, business leaders, and transportation advocates: We should convene a task force of elected officials, business leaders, community leaders and transportation advocates to put together a plan for funding, planning, and building the subway to completion. The task of funding the future phases of the subway requires deft advocacy and lobbying by all of us. We should coordinate our resources and talent to make sure that no stone is unturned and no dollar uncommitted.
Create a Second Avenue Small Business Program: During the first phase of construction, I witnessed first hand the need for a long-term plan to support those businesses that are adjacent to the construction zone.
While working with Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, we created the ‘Shop Second Avenue’ campaign to support small businesses impacted by construction, passed legislation to create a small business grant program for affected businesses, and created a business task force address construction issues. I know that these measures can take years to implement and we should start our efforts far ahead of construction starting in our neighborhood.
The Second Avenue Subway presents a major opportunity for our neighborhood and I resolve to be committed in the coming years to making sure it reaches the entire East Side. The track has quite literally been laid, and the train is about to leave the station. Let’s make sure everybody stays on board and we make it to the last stop.
Keith Powers is a candidate for City Council living in Peter Cooper Village. He is also chair of the Business Affairs and Street Activities Committee of Community Board 6 and a board member of the ST-PCV Tenants Association.