The 2nd Avenue Subway What it Could Mean for Properties on the UES

In movie industry parlance, New York City’s Second Avenue subway line was in ‘development hell’ for almost 100 years—as many Upper East Siders who ride the very crowded Lexington Avenue lines daily know first-hand. Plans for a new line were first proposed in 1929, but were interrupted by the country’s involvement in World War II. It wasn’t until the 1970s that federal funding arrived to build the line...only to be halted again due to the city’s fiscal crisis. After nearly three decades, ground finally broke at the 96th Street station in 2007 following the passage of the state’s Transportation Bond Act two years earlier.

Now what seemed like only a distant dream has become reality as the first phase of the Second Avenue line went into operation on January 1. Phase one—estimated by the New York Times to have cost a cool $4.4 billion—consists of the Q train running past 57th Street-Seventh Avenue through 96 Street-Second Avenue—with new subway stations 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street dotted along Second Avenue, as well as a renovated Lexington Avenue/63rd Street station. According to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the first phase of the line is expected to carry 200,000 riders daily; alleviate crowding on the current Lexington Avenue line by 13 percent, or 23,500 riders on an average weekday; and reduce travel time for Upper East Side riders by 10 minutes or more. The next phase of the project will include stations in Spanish Harlem, East Midtown, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. 

New Developments in the Neighborhood

But it’s not only residents and commuters of the East Side who are celebrating the Second Avenue line -- New York’s real estate market stands to benefit from this latest addition to the city’s mass transit system as well. Prior to the subway opening, the area has been teeming with development. According to Halstead Property Development Marketing and the New York Post, there are almost two dozen new projects under construction from 59th Street to 96th Street. Among the projects that are happening in the vicinity of the Second Avenue subway include luxury condo Citizen 360 at 360 East 89th Street; the Charles, a condo tower on 1355 First Avenue; the Kent at 200 East 95th Street; and rental-to- condo conversion Carnegie Park at 200 East 94th Street.

“I’ve seen what’s been going on, both good and bad,” says Beth Benalloul, a broker for the Corcoran Group and a resident of Second Avenue. “Already you’re seeing so much new development in the area, and I think even more slated to come, knowing that the transportation options are going to open up on Second Avenue. I think that’s been a big deterrent for purchasers and for renters, because the transportation option was limiting.”

Joel Burris, executive director of real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens and president of the Ruppert Yorkville Towers condo on Third Avenue, also sees the benefit of the new line. “I think most Upper East Side residents as well as people who work there are very excited. It will alleviate crowding on the Lexington Avenue line between 96th Street and 59th Street, which is always an incredibly crowded station in the mornings...I think it will make people who live on East End and 1st Avenue and York as well as Second and even Third Avenues have an option on how to get to work.” However, Burris offers a somewhat different point of view on whether the lack of easy transit access has given apartment seekers pause when considering the UES. “I think that people were used to the thought of having to commute over to Lexington Avenue,” he says. “I didn’t hear people say they wouldn’t live on Third Avenue or Second Avenue because it was too hard to get to the subway.”

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