In Queue for the Q

All right, this has nothing to do with law, evidence, or statistics, but what a great day for New York and the Upper Eastside. Today, the “Second Avenue Line,” an extension of the Q subway line opened for business.

The local radio stations announced that the MTA would give away free subway day passes at 11 a.m., at the new 86th street station. Even before the hour, a queue formed of locals eager for a free first ride on the Second Avenue line. At 11:15 a.m., Congresswoman Carolyn Mahoney arrived. She did not greet anyone in the queue; rather, she planted herself in front of TV cameras to which she made kissy faces and self-congratulatory noises. Of course, the MTA has little or nothing to do with the federal government, and the rationale for her presence was curiously absent. Mayor DeBlasio, who lives but four blocks away in Gracie Mansion, however could not be bothered to show up. No doubt he was still in bed, and nursing a hang over.

Not only did Mahoney did speak to anyone in the queue, going to the Q, her remarks for the TV and radio media were whispered into microphones. Standing about four feet away from her, I could barely hear a word she said. Surely no one behind me heard her, and she clearly did not care. Mahoney had greater audiences in mind, and no apparent interest in actually interacting with her constituents. Perhaps she was hung over from New Year’s Eve festivities.

With Congresswoman Mahoney were her minions, who started to hand out the coveted free passes, but not to the people who had peacefully assembled and patiently waited in line. Because the TV cameras set up around Mahoney, her minions had to hand out cards close to her and to the cameras so that the TV audiences would see the handouts as Mahoney’s largesse. There was a visually impaired woman at the front of the line, with her guide dog, Kudo, but they were ignored by Mahoney and her aides, as well as by the media. Finally, in a Bonfire of the Vanities moment, as Mahoney started to drift away, a boisterous woman pushed her way in front of the cameras, while exclaiming that she wasn’t being pushy, because, after all, she had bona fide press credentials. So the TV cameras shifted to her, and she, a media person, was then interviewed by the media. Where was Tom Wolfe to capture this wonderful New York moment?

Guide Dog Kudo Leads the Way as First Dog Rides the Second Avenue Line on New Year’s Day, 2017

Finally, at noon, the police tape was unceremoniously pulled away, and the Second Avenue line was opened to the hoi polloi. The subway cars were not new, but were appropriately clean for the occasion. The first downtown train today on the new Second Avenue line left from 86th Street, amid great fanfare and cheering. When the subway reached 72nd Street, the conductor held the train for almost 15 minutes due to traffic on the line. Huh? I suspect that the conductor wanted the passengers to have that real MTA experience.

The subway stations at 96th, 86th, 72nd, and 63rd streets all had that wonderful new subway station smell, almost as good as a new BMW. And each of these four stations has become a wonderful museum of public art, each worth an MTA card for the price of admission. See Muoio, “New York’s long-awaited Second Avenue subway features some incredible artwork” (Dec. 30, 2016). I will leave the exhibits for the art critics to describe, except to say that the 86th, 72nd, and 63rd street stations have become outstanding artistic tributes to New York City and its residents. Thankfully, there was no sign of any likeness of Donald Trump.

A hundred years late, the Second Avenue subway has arrived. It does not go as far as it should, but perhaps Governor Cuomo will take a page out the Robert Moses playbook and use the stub as leverage to get the whole thing done. The Governor seems to have the right stuff to get infrastructure programs completed. If infrastructure were up to Mayor DeBlasio, we would still be waiting for the Second Avenue line along with the resurrection of Robert Moses himself.

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