Second Avenue Subway: Route 132-C

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The following is an excerpt from a report published by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. The text below is in the public domain.


Whitehall Street to 34th Street, Manhattan
March, 1973

Urban Mass Transportation Administration
Washington, D.C., 20590


This Draft Environmental Statement relates to an application by the City of New York, acting by the New York City Transit Authority for a grant of two-thirds of the cost of constructing and equipping an underground rapid transit railroad route (The Project) in the City of New York. This Project extends generally under Water Street, Pearl Street, St. James Place, Chrystie Street and Second Avenue from Whitehall Street to East 34th Street in the Borough of Manbattan (Route 132-C). The estimated cost of the project is $393,000,000.00. The application is for a grant of two-thirds of the cost or $262,000,000.00. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Wednesday March 21, 1973 at 7:30 P.M. at Stuyvesant High School, located at 345 East 15th Street, between First and Second Avenue, Manhattan.

The need for additional rapid transit service to serve lower Manhattan and the east side has been recognized for many years. The facility was not previously provided because of a lack of funds.

Present construction of the line has been approved by the Governor and State Legislature, by the Mayor, the New York City Board of Estimate and the New York City Council.

The Urban Mass Transportation Administration has approved a project for construction of the Second Avenue Subway Line from East 34th Street to East 126th Street. (Project No. NY UTG-44). An initial grant of $25 million has been made available for this project. Construction is currently under way on sections of this Project between East 99th Street and East 105th Street.

The Project, which is the subject of this statement, would extend the approved Project from East 34th Street and Second Avenue Southward along Second Avenue and other streets to Whitehall Street at tbe Southern tip of Manhattan.

This statement is divided into two sections, specific and general. The specific covers areas that relate specially to this Project. The general covers areas that are common not only to this Project but to the majority of subway construction in New York City.


Route 132-C is the southerly extension of the Second Avenue Subway, from mid-Manhattan to the southerly tip of Manhattan Island. The northern portion of the Second Avenue Subway (Route 132-A) extends northward under Second Avenue from 34th Street to 126th Street near the Harlem River, at the northerly end of Manhattan Island. This Route in turn is planned to connect to a new route in the Borough of The Bronx, via a tunnel under the Harlem River.

The southern limit of this Project is at the junction of Whitehall, Water and State Streets, it then procedes north under Water Street to and under Pearl Street, to and under St. James Place, under Chatham Square, under the Manhattan Bridge approach, and under Chrystie Street. The Project continues northerly under Chrystie Street, crossing East Houston Street to Second Avenue and thence northerly under Second Avenue to East 34th Street where it interfaces with Route 132-A, the northern portion of the Second Avenue Line, Route 132-A has been approved by the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. An initial $25 million grant has been received for this route. Construction on this route was begun in October 1972.

Route 132-C is planned generally as a two-track system. Between the Whitehall Street Station its southern terminus and the Pine/Wall Street Station it will contain 2 tracks on each of two levels. The East 14th Street Station will contain 3 tracks on one level. The 4-track arrangement at the southern terminus of the project is necessary because 1) the large passenger volume anticipated to use the two stations can best be served by separating the two different train services (Bronx bound and Queens bound) and 2) it is the most reliable way to turn around up to 40 trains per hour, the maximum design capacity of the line.

The Project provides for the implementation of a key link in the overall plan of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide subway service to areas of the City that do not now have such service and to provide additional trunk line capacity to reduce present overcrowding and improve passenger distribution in Manhattan.

This Project includes the equipping of the new route included in this description with all the necessary apparatus and appurtenances necessary to provide a complete rapid transit railroad, ready to carry passengers including rapid transit cars. The equipping of the route includes such elements as running rails, contact rails, substations, signal and communication systems, station finishing, lighting, drainage, ventilation and cooling systems, and similar work necessary to convert a bare tunnel structure into a finished rapid transit railroad.

Seven stations are proposed for this project.

Following are the locations of the seven stations that are proposed for this Project:

  • Whitehall Station: on Water Street, from Whitehall Street to Coenties Slip (with free transfer to existing station).
  • Pine/Wall Station: on Water Street, from Wall Street to John Street.
  • Chatham Square Station: On Chatham Square at the intersection of St. James Place, Park Row, the Bowery and East Broadway.
  • Grand St. Station: on Chrystie Street at Grand Street (this is an existing station which will be enlarged).
  • East Houston Street Station: on Second Avenue at its confluence with Chrystie Street at East Houston Street (with free transfer to existing station).
  • 14th St. Station: On Second Avenue, from East 13th Street to East 15th Street (with free transfer to existing station).
  • 23rd St. Station: on Second Avenue from East 23rd Street to East 27th Street.


The continuing increase in the development of lower Manhattan and of the east side of Manhattan makes a new rapid transit line a necessity.

The only rapid transit service presently available on the east side of Manhattan is the Lexington Avenue Line. This a 4-tracked facility which offers express and local service for the full length of Manhattan, and has connections to The Bronx and to Brooklyn.

The line is currently overcrowded. Additional residential and office development increase this congestion.

Needed relief will be provided by the Second Avenue Line, of which this Project forms a part. In addition to relieving the Lexington Avenue Line, the Second Avenue Line will have direct train connections to the East 63rd Street Line. This will allow passengers from Queens as well as from The Bronx and upper Manhattan to travel directly down the east side of Manhattan to the Wall Street area. The Second Avenue Line will have connections to existing lines in The Bronx, and free passenger transfers to lines from Brooklyn.

This Project will accomodate two train services, one originating in Queens and the other in The Bronx.

The current estimated work force south of Canal Street is 460,000. It is anticipated that by 1980 this will increase to 610,000, and by the year 2000 to 780,000.

The current residential population is 33,000. This is projected to be in excess of 90,000 by 1980, and 130,000 by the year 2000.


Route 132-C will pass through three quite distinct areas of Manhattan: the lower Manhattan financial district: the Lower East Side, mixed residential/industrial/retail district; and the Bellevue residential/institutional district, with scattered retail establishments.

At the south end of the Project, at Whitehall Street, the area is dominated by high rise office buildings. This area is adjacent to the Water Street Development District which will encompass extensive development along the East River on landfill. Ten thousand units of housing are projected for this area by 1980.

Heading north, the Project passes along the edge of the intensely developed Wall Street financial district of Manhattan: one of the most concentrated complex of high rise office buildings in the world.

Further north are City Hall, high rise office and residential buildings and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Next comes the Chatham Square-Chinatown area. This residential-commercial area is a focal point for a great deal of pedestrian and surface vehicle activity.

North of Chatham Square, the Project will pass under the Chinatown Housing Development, known as Confucious Square, a combined educational/residential development of the Educational Construction Fund.

Continuing north, the Project passes under Manhattan Bridge Plaza, through which traffic is channelled to and from the Manhattan Bridge. North of Canal Street, along Chrystie Street, the west side of the street contains tenements with retail establishments on the ground level. These tenements are badly dilapidated. On the east side of the street is Sara D. Roosevelt Park which is in very poor condition. Sara D. Roosevelt Park extends from Canal Street north to East Houston Street.

The area north of East Houston Street on Second Avenue is residential in character, of medium density, with commercial uses at street level.

Continuing north, nearing the 14th Street Station, the New York Telephone Building (East 13th Street), the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (East 14th Street) St. Mary's Catholic Church (East 15th Street), the twin parks of Stuyvesant Square (East 15th-East 17th Streets), in addition to the Beth Israel Hospital facing Stuyvesant Square on First Avenue, give this area an institutional character.

Between the East 14th Street station and the East 23rd Street Station, the neigbborhood is predominately residential in character. However, north and east of East 23rd Street and Second Avenue are the Veterans' Administration Hospital (East 23rd - East 25th Streets on First Avenue) and the Bellevue Hospital Complex (East 25th - 30th Streets), on the east side of First Avenue.

The Bellevue Hospital Master Plan calls for a pedestrian mall along East 27th Street, from Second Avenue to the FDR Drive. This pedestrian spine has been incorporated into the design of all future institutional buildings and into the Bellevue South Urban Renewal Plan.

The area north of East 27th Street to the interface with Route 132-A in the vicinity of East 34th Street is undergoing residential development, and can be expected to increase in density.


Water Street, Chrystie Street, and St. James Place (from Pearl Street to Madison Street) are two-way north-south Streets. They are striped for four lanes of traffic, but actually accommodate two lanes of moving traffic and one parking lane in each direction.

Pearl Street from Fulton Street to the Brooklyn Bridge is two-way north-south. It accommodates two lanes of moving traffic and one parking lane in each direction.

St. James Place from the Brooklyn Bridge to Chatham Square is also a two-way north-south street; however, it can only accommodate one lane of moving traffic and one parking lane in each direction as the street width is only 42 feet.

Second Avenue, north of Houston Street is a one-way southbound Avenue. It is the most heavily traveled one-way Avenue in Manhattan. Between Houston Street and 23rd Street, Second Avenue is striped for five lanes and, between 23rd Street and 34th Street, for six lanes.

Water Street, Pearl Street and St. James Place provide a direct north-south route between Battery Park and Chatham Square. The above streets, together with the Bowery, Chrystie Street, and Second Avenue, provide a fairly direct southbound route from upper Manhattan to lower Manhattan. The FDR Drive serves as the main north-south artery on the east side, and will continue to do so.


The Project originated in response to the needs for Rapid Transit improvements for the Borough of Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx.

Historically, Second Avenue has been one of New Yorks busier streets. Serving the densely populated east side, it has always carried a large volume of traffic.

In 1881, an elevated st~am railroad was constructed along Second Avenue, traversing the length of Manhattan.

Early this century, the first New York subway was constructed, running northward from the City Hall area. Ridership increased and additional rapid transit lines were built in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx. By 1920, ridership saturated the existing lines. Relief was needed to accommodate the increasing numbers of subway riders.

In 1924, with the creation of the Board of Transportation, plans were approved and construction was begun on a new city owned Independent System (IND), which was planned as a two phase system. Phase I, was planned around the Sixth and Eighth Avenue trunk lines. Phase II, was planned to be built around a Second Avenue line.

Phase I construction of the IND began in l925. In designing and constructing the lines, provisions were made for future connections to the Phase II lines. Provision for the Second Avenue line at the Second Avenue Station at East Houston Street on the Sixth Avenue Line, was one of the major considerations.

At a public hearing held in February of 1930, the public endorsed the decision to begin Phase II construction as soon as possible.

In September, 1932, the Board of Transportation submitted to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, estimates for the new routes of Phase II. In October the recommendations were approved by the Board of Estimate. They then came to a standstill, as the City's financial difficulties due to the depression precluded any construction.

The Second Avenue Line was proposed in the City's 1939, 1940 and 1941 Capital Budgets. However, with the completion of the Sixth Avenue Line in 1940, all subway construction stopped due to World War II. By 1942, the Second Avenue Elevated which was badly deteriorated and obsolete was demolished. This led to severe overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Subway Line and the Third Avenue Elevated, and greatly increased the need for a new subway.

In August 1944 the Board of Estimate authorized the preparation of new studies for the construction of the Second Avenue Line. The 4-track trunk link was to serve lower Manhattan, with two tracks going over the Manhattan Bridge and two tracks going over the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn. A connection was proposed to the Sixth Avenue Line and to lines in The Bronx. However, the estimated construction costs continued to rise and the funding became a problem. In order to finance construction, the City requested that the State Legislature authorize the City to incur debt for transit purposes outside the debt limit. This was approved by the State Legislature, subject to a referendum. The matter was put to a vote and the public showed itself overwhelming in favor of the issue.

A bond issue was authorized for transit purposes. Continuing rising costs soon made it impossible to finance new trunk lines out of this money.

In 1953 the Board decided to postpone the project indefinitely. Eventually, most of the bond money was alloted to various projects such as the Chrystie Street connection in Lower Manhattan, the Dekalb Avenue improvement in Brooklyn, the Rockaway Line and other projects to rehabilitate and reinforce the existing system.

Part of the original Second Avenue proposal (the Chrystie Street connection) was built. This line increased the capacity of the Sixth Avenue Line, reduced overcrowding on the Broadway BMT Line, and provided Brooklyn riders direct access to midtown Manhattan. Along Chrystie Street, provision was made to allow for the construction of a future Second Avenue Line. The Grand Street Station was built as a two track station with side platforms, but was designed for eventual expansion to a four track, two island platform station.

Other provisions were built into the structure, and it was located in anticipation of future construction of a Second Avenue Line.

In 1955, the Third Avenue Elevated was demolished from lower Manhattan to 149th Street in The Bronx. This had a tremendously beneficial effect on the environment opening the street to light and air for the full length of Manhattan. However it led to increased demands on the Lexington Avenue Subway.

By the 1960's the east side of Manhattan was experiencing a building boom. New businesses and apartments were going up and congestion on the Lexington Avenue Line was increasing. Relief was badly needed. In May of 1963, the City Planning Commission published a report entitled "Better Rapid Transit for the City of New York". This plan recommended an East Side Line to be built under Second Avenue, however, the report admitted the City's lack of capital. funds for this construction. Various Civic groups were constantly requesting that a Second Avenue Subway be constructed.

In July, 1964, Congress passed the Urban Mass Transit Act. This gave the promise of Federal funding for urban transit construction projects.

In 1966, the Tri-State Transportation Commission, in its "Interim Report", recommended that a Second Avenue Subway be built.

In 1967, the basic problem preventing construction of the Second Avenue Line, money, was overcome. Governor Rockefeller sponsored a $2.5 billion dollar transportation bond issue, the largest transportation financing program that had ever been proposed. The Bond issue was approved by state-wide referendum in November 1967.

On April 15, 1968, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) assumed control of the Transit Authority. On May 10, 1968, the Transit Authority submitted to the Board of Estimate, for their approval, eight new routes. In this communication, the Transit Authority proposed a 4-track subway line under Second Avenue from 34th Street to 125th Street.

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