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Updates on NYC’s Biggest Subway Projects: Second Avenue and East Side Access

Above-ground construction in New York is a way of life, but we rarely stop to consider what’s happening underground — quite a lot it turns out. The MTA is undertaking two massive public transportation extensions: the Second Avenue subway project and the East Side Access project. Both will dramatically change how people commute through the city and affect the surrounding above-ground real estate. That is, if these projects ever finish.


Second Avenue Subway

Second Avenue Subway construction continues (Photo: MTA Capital Construction/ Rehema Trimiew via Flickr/CC)

The Second Avenue subway plan includes a two-track line along Second Avenue from 125th Street to the Financial District. The plan consists of four phases — with the first phase expected to wrap in 2016. Work now consists of building tunnels from 105th Street and Second Avenue to 63rd Street and Third Avenue, with new subway stations added along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets. The MTA will also add new entrances to the existing Lexington Ave/63 Street Station at 63rd Street and Third Avenue. You should, however, take that ETA with a grain of salt — the city has worked on and off on this project since 1929.

Speaking of which, the East Side Access project just received a major setback thanks to a review by the Federal Transit Administration, which concluded it was years behind schedule and over budget. The project, designed to extend the Long Island Rail Road from Queens into Grand Central Terminal, will shorten the ride for LIRR commuters who previously had to travel to the west side of Manhattan into Penn Station. Though it was slated for completion in 2019, the New York Daily News reported this week that the project may not be completed until 2023. That ETA is 14 years late, and the costs are projected to be $6.5 billion more than planned. This is the fourth time the MTA has pushed back the completion date.

Once these projects actually wrap, how will they change the surrounding areas? The East Side Access project will bring 160,000 more commuters into Grand Central Terminal, freeing up space on the 7 train and at Penn Station. The Second Avenue subway will have a larger impact on New York City as a whole. Real estate numbers expert Jonathan Miller talked to Bloomberg TV  this week on the topic. He predicts that the first phase, once finished, will “elevate the price structure of housing” since it will enable easier commutes for those in the Upper East Side and East Harlem who work in Midtown. While new development is already creeping into those areas, Miller says that rental and housing prices won’t necessarily spike, but he predicts that prices will rise once the project is done.

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