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Second Avenue Station: The Hub that Never Was

When it first opened in 1936, the Second Avenue station was supposed to become a hub for the subway system. Today, the station, located at Houston street and Second Avenue, though mammoth and meandering, feels almost unnecessary. It provides no subway transfers, and exists in close proximity to other stations along the same line. Notably, it is only a short walk from the next F train stop, Broadway Lafayette. What it represents is the never complete transit plans of the New York City Independent Subways (the IND) Second System. 

1929 Plan for IND Second System. Image Source: New York Times 1929

Announced in 1929, The IND Second System was supposed to provide miles of new tracks and stations around the city. This included an early plan of the now only recently partially complete Second Avenue subway line, and a never complete South 4th street line in Brooklyn. Both were to converge at the Second Avenue station. While the Second Avenue station was completed in 1936, neither of these lines were ever built, but remnants of them exist within the station. 

Close up of 1929 IND plan for Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Image Source: LINK

South 4th Street Line

The Second Avenue station has two island platforms, but is only served by the Local F train. The center tracks are not used in regular service, and have not been since the completion of the Chrystie street connection in the late 1960s. The Chrystie street connection rerouted the 6th avenue express trains, the modern B and D trains, towards a new station at Grand street and then over the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn.

Originally, these tracks were supposed to continue across the East River to Brooklyn, connecting to the proposed South 4th street line in Williamsburg. This train would have connected to the Crosstown line (today the G train), at the Broadway station in Brooklyn. Part of this connection was even completed, and sits empty above the Broadway G train station today. This shell of a station has four island platforms, with no tracks, electricity or tile work. With the expansion never completed, the tracks that were supposed to lead here come to a total stop shortly after the Second Avenue Station. 

Unused Center Track at Second Avenue Station

Second Avenue Line

As originally announced in 1929, the Second Avenue line would pass through this station, and continue to Downtown Manhattan. The 1931 plan for the Second Avenue line shows the train running to Brooklyn, and stopping at the Court Street station, the current location of the New York City Transit Museum. While part of the Second Avenue line has been built between 96th and 72nd Streets, its connection to its namesake Second Avenue station has not yet come into fruition. 

Although the line was never brought to the station, space for it has been left inside of it. The upper level of the station, or the mezzanine, is not continuous, and is divided into two parts, something not common in other IND train stations. Allegedly, this gap, which is visible from the Second Avenue side of the platform, was left empty so the future Second Avenue line could run through it. This aligns with the fact that early plans for the Second Avenue line show the train running above the Second avenue station. However, when complete, the current Second Avenue line is set to run below the current station and not use this space.

Space for Second Avenue Tracks in Ceiling of the station

Today the Second Avenue station lies in close proximity to other stations, and provides no transfers to other lines. What it presents is remnants of a bygone era of ambitious transportation planning. When the Second Avenue line is complete, part of these plans may finally be realized as the station will provide a crucial transfer point. For now, the Second Avenue station remains a sprawling but dingy reminder of our city’s once grand mass transit ambitions which never came to fruition.

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