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New York Finally Unveils Its New Subway Line—And It's Full of Incredible Art

By Matt Villano

Jan 3, 2017

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The city first envisioned this subway line in 1929. Now, it’s finally open.

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It was a project nearly 90 years in the making, but New York City finally has extended its Second Avenue subway line.

The three new stations that opened this weekend provide expanded underground public transportation for Manhattan’s Upper East Side, extending the Q line about two miles to 96th Street from its former northern terminus at 63rd and Lexington. The 63rd Street station also got a makeover. 

Train service to the latest stops is included with the basic $2.75 subway fare. 

For New Yorkers, the new stations are a really big deal—the Upper East Side is one of the most densely populated areas of Manhattan, and residents in this part of the city previously had to take buses or walk to the Lexington Avenue line. According to the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the Q line now is expected to carry 200,000 riders a day.

But the new Q stops at 72nd, 86th, and 96th streets are a boon for travelers, too—opening up another part of the city for easy and efficient exploration. 

The idea of extending the Second Avenue subway certainly has been percolating for a while. According to an article in TIME, the city’s transportation board first envisioned a Second Avenue subway in 1929, but the stock market crash and the Great Depression “derailed” the plan.

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Decades later, the MTA finally worked through bureaucracy to start construction in 1972, but a fiscal crisis in the city foiled the project again. (For more about that, read this.) The most recent iteration began with tunneling in 2007 and was supposed to be completed by 2013; it ran into delays when local residents raised concerns about construction noise. 

The project finally wrapped up late last year and stations opened to the public Sunday. The price tag: $4.4 billion. 

In addition to being functional, the new stations are chock-full of contemporary art—an MTA press release actually calls the collection “the largest public art installation in New York State history.” One piece, at 96th Street, is designed to replicate blowing paper and is so lifelike you almost want to chase down the scraps. The 86th Street station features 12 different mosaic portraits from painter and photographer Chuck Close (two of the pieces are self-portraits). 

Artists Vik Muniz and Jean Shin also have contributed artwork—Muniz to the station at 72nd  Street and Shin to the stop at 63rd.

Eventually, the MTA hopes to continue to extend the Q line beyond 96th Street into East Harlem. Plans exist to continue the line to 125th Street, but the project likely would cost billions and take years. No timetable for that project has been set.

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Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.

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