The Second Avenue subway, alligators and Babe Ruth

The MTA takes the media on a tour of the 86th Street cavern of the Second Avenue Subway on Thursday in Manhattan. (July 11, 2013).
The MTA takes the media on a tour of the 86th Street cavern of the Second Avenue Subway on Thursday in Manhattan. (July 11, 2013). Photo Credit: Getty Images

We have our fair share of urban legends in NYC. Alligators are thriving in our sewers. The Yankees wear pinstripes because Babe Ruth wanted to appear slimmer. The Second Avenue subway will run in our lifetimes.

The MTA recently said that if doesn’t get the funding it requested, the first thing to go will be construction on the next phase of the Second Avenue subway.

If you are reading this and are younger than 90, you may actually still believe the grand Second Avenue subway propositions and promises. But ask your grandparents and great-grandparents what they were told in 1929 and 1944. Yep, that the Second Avenue subway should be up and running any day.

The MTA and its predecessor have vowed for decades to end congestion on the East Side of Manhattan with this much needed project. And they start. And stop. And move forward. And pull back. For 86 years! Yes, Q train service may (or may not) soon be expanded to the Upper East Side’s 96th Street station. But sorry, that’s not the long promised Second Avenue subway.

In addition to possibly ditching this project, MTA chairman Tom Prendergast told Albany lawmakers that expansion of the popular countdown clocks to lettered subway lines would also be chopped if the agency doesn’t get the $15 billion it needs for its capital plan.

Perhaps the MTA is simply using the threat of abandoning the popular and necessary Second Avenue subway and clock projects as leverage to get funding it requested. But the MTA’s track record on keeping its promises, establishing priorities and satisfying the needs of riders is, to be kind, a bit lacking.

Meanwhile, MTA fares are going up an average of 4 percent on March 22. And that’s one promise you know the agency will keep.

So someday, when your grandkids sit on your knee and ask you whether they can take the first ride on the Second Avenue subway scheduled to be completed shortly, you can use the opportunity to disabuse them of other ageless myths, such as Santa Claus and trickle-down economics.

As far as the empty, abandoned Second Avenue subway tunnels? At least the alligators will have some place to live.

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