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Second Avenue Subway Greeted With Cheers and Tears After Century-Long Wait

By Alexandra Leon | January 2, 2017 10:50am | Updated on January 2, 2017 2:49pm
 The long-awaited subway line debuted to the public on New Year's Day.
Second Avenue Subway Opens
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UPPER EAST SIDE — While the Second Avenue Subway opened to the public on a holiday weekend, locals, tourists and transit aficionados alike spent their days off Monday riding the train and snapping photos of the long-awaited line — with some even shedding tears of joy over its arrival.

Q trains began pulling into the new stations — at 63rd, 72nd, 86th and 96th streets — starting at noon on New Year's Day after nearly a century of planning

The subway opening drew visitors from as far away as Long Island, including self-proclaimed subway buff Wayne Whitehorn, 62, who took a "field trip" from Babylon to see each of the new stations. 

Whitehorn, who likened the new stations to Washington, D.C.'s metro system, said he was impressed by their sleek look, but had one complaint about the platform design. 

"The lack of color is very disappointing," he said of the walls at the 86th Street station. "They got all this white tile. They could’ve taken one row, maybe two rows above the [street] numbers and given it a color like the other stations."

Straphangers were impressed by the stations' modern design and cleanliness compared to older stations in the transit system. 

"It’s very new, which is different, considering most of the subway stations are pretty old," said 16-year-old Upper East Side resident Emma Seitz on Monday.

Most visitors were drawn to the artwork on the stations' upper mezzanine levels. Four permanent art installations by Chuck Close, Jean Shin, Vik Muniz and Sarah Sze decorate each of the four stations

The installation by Muniz at the 72nd Street station, which shows more than three-dozen mosaic characters representing different New Yorkers, brought one former resident to tears as she visited with her family on Monday.

"This one’s really touching, I’m really impressed with them, just seeing these New Yorkers," said Tila Duhaime, 41. "This is making me miss it, it’s very lovely."

Duhaime, who lived on the Upper West Side for 17 years, said her 5-year-old son especially connected with the installation. 

"We’re going to museums and art galleries and we’re telling him, 'Don’t touch, don’t touch,' and these he gets right in, he sticks his nose on it, he marvels at it," she said. "Just the accessibility is wonderful."

And even though it's only been open for two days, straphangers said they're looking forward to the next phase of expansion, which would take the line north to 125th Street in Harlem.

"It would really benefit that neighborhood in so many ways," said Joel Forman, 53. "I actually think just the completion of this piece is going to push gentrification in Harlem. That’s always a challenge when this happens, but in the end public transit is always a good thing."

Forman, a pediatrician who commutes from Jamaica Estates in Queens to Mount Sinai Hospital, said he's glad to get away from the crowded 6 line.

"I've been commuting on the 6 for a long time," Forman said. "I'm happy to be off it."

Governor Andrew Cuomo and MTA chairman Tom Prendergast were on hand to fete the subway's arrival on Sunday.

"It's a great way to start the new year in New York," Cuomo told passengers over the subway loudspeaker. "We deserve it. We need it, and I believe we're going to have it in 2017."