Upper East Side elected officials, community leaders and restaurateurs gathered on Tuesday to celebrate the economic good fortunes that the Second Avenue subway will bring upon its New Year’s Day opening.
“It is the economic gift that will keep on giving and we’re just now beginning to see the benefits,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney at the corner of 70th Street and Second Avenue, where scaffolding once stood to accommodate subway work. “It’s all good news right now.”
The first phase of the Second Avenue line will bring three new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets. Many struggling business owners in the area have said that they’ve lost about half of their revenue during the years of disruptive tunnel construction.
For them, the holiday will finally bring a return to normalcy on the street grid and the expected surge of foot traffic in the already fairly developed neighborhood.
Dave Goodside, who has owned the 49-year-old Beach House Café since 2005, previously estimated that he had lost a quarter of his business due to the construction near the corner of his restaurant.
“It’s a great thing that this is ending,” Goodside said, welcoming the new station entrance opening just a few yards from his cafe.
“We survived the Second Avenue subway. I’m waiting for those t-shirts,” he joked.
Other businesses haven’t been as fortunate. Stores have shuttered despite community efforts to bring shoppers to the area, according to Maloney.
“There was a basically a barricade in front” of the businesses, Maloney said, referring to construction obstructions. “If you walk down this Second Avenue line you’ll notice a lot of closed stores that did not make it—that tried so hard. But when you are cut 40 percent or 50 percent of your clientele, it’s hard to keep your doors open.”
Come noon on Jan. 1, the Q train will be extended to run up Second Avenue, serving about 200,000 riders per day. Pierina Ana Sanchez, the director for the Regional Plan Association in New York, praised the opening of the line. The association has championed the project as a critical piece of infrastructure since the publication of the Third Regional Plan published in 1996.
Sanchez said a 40-minute commute from 86th street to Penn Station will now be reduced to 16 minutes.
“This is a critical part of the transportation system,” Sanchez said. “Without the Second Avenue subway, the rest wouldn’t work. Investments like East Side Access wouldn’t work and investments like the extension of the … 7 line, wouldn’t work.”
The next step for the community is ensuring that businesses and residents can afford what were described as rising rents along the line.
“It’s a huge challenge now,” Maloney said. “Some of the small businesses are telling me that their rents are jumping dramatically.”