Letter: Before the Second Avenue subway
To the Editor:
As the Yorkville/Kleindeutschland Historian, (ykhs-ny.org) I can say that the Second Avenue subway is a welcome asset to the U.E.S! Born and raised here, I have seen my “village” disappear. My exhibit/lectures depict the times long gone by, including the traveling by trolley, and train. I vaguely remember the 2nd Ave. El with its potbelly stove at the turnstiles and my father rushing up the stairs, me clutched in his arms, to catch the oncoming train with its warming stove and soft fabric upholstered seats. After it was torn down there was this vast emptiness on the two way avenue. I also remember hearing Barry Gray’s outrage in the 1940s, on WMCA radio about the halt of the designated building of the started Second Avenue Subway, (no TV or computers then).
I also remember riding the Third Avenue El up to 77th Street, where it eventually was halted in the late 50s, after the upper stations were torn down. I could see the end of the tracks on 77th Street, and remember sitting in the hard yellow woven metallic seating with its heating beneath, warming my legs. I loved those old trains, and the mom and pop shops below, vehicles jockeying roads below around the posts, and peaking into the windows of the offended residences whose buildings lined the path.
But alas, progress looms and I was delighted to visit on New Year’s Day the long last delivered Second Avenue subway. What a treat. I did not believe that I was in NYC, but in some modern underground in a European city. My only fears now are the field day the graffiti artists will have using the white walls as their canvas, and painting mustaches on the women depicted in the art work. But many tell me that will not happen. I also, although enjoying the lack of belly to belly crowds on the Lexington Avenue Line, am afraid of the cutback in its service.
But now that the Second Avenue “train” is back, we have come full circle. Even though it is in a different time yet in the same place, it has moved underground. Regardless, is still the Second Avenue subway.
President, East 83/84th Street Block Association
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