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Second Avenue Subway gets its historic inaugural ride on New Year’s Eve

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Governor Cuomo rang in 2017 at the city’s newest subway

Inside the 72nd Street station on the new Second Avenue subway
Amy Plitt

It’s a new day in New York City: the Second Avenue subway is, as of this writing, officially up and running. Who’d’ve thought?

To celebrate, Governor Andrew Cuomo and a whole host of other city, state, and federal officials turned the brand new 72nd Street subway station into what was (briefly) the city’s most exclusive New Year’s Eve party. (No, seriously—a line to get in stretched down the block, and prior to it, requests for extra tickets were apparently being thrown around like gangbusters.)

Though the event was basically a self-congratulatory cocktail party for Governor Cuomo, intended to celebrate the “on time” completion of the subway line, there were some exciting moments—namely the inaugural ride itself, which was commandeered by MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast and traveled to the three new stations on the Second Avenue line. Brief pit-stops at each station allowed the nattily-attired guests (and those in the press pool, which included this editor) to see the admittedly beautiful artwork in each station, including Chuck Close’s portraits at 86th Street, and Sarah Sze’s enormous station-wide murals at 96th Street.

Hundreds of people gathered to ring in the New Year underground, including Upper East Siders, engineers and sandhogs who built the subway itself, and MTA employees. There were also plenty of politicos in attendance, including former mayor David Dinkins, public advocate Letitia James, U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, and former MTA chairman Joe Lhota. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray also popped by before heading to Times Square for the New Year’s Eve ball drop.

And the mood was generally jovial. “This is a dream come true,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, whose district includes parts of the new line. She also expressed optimism about the line’s second phase, which doesn’t have a timeline in place as of right now (but does have an anticipated cost of $6 billion.) “We’ll work very hard to be under budget and on time—we’re going to make it happen,” she said. “It’s not going to be a stubway.”

In remarks given after the inaugural ride was over (but before the countdown to midnight), Cuomo noted that “this isn’t your grandfather’s subway,” name checking the design—which features expansive, column-free mezzanines and wide platforms—and the public art found throughout, which is indeed much nicer than what you’ll find at most of the century-old stations in the system.

He also explained the meaning behind two phrases found throughout the station: “Excelsior” (the motto of New York State) and “E Plurbis Unum,” threw some shade at the incoming Presidential administration, and gave what sounded like a stump speech, which you can watch below.

“This is New York, and there’s nothing we can’t do when we put our mind to it,” he said. (It just might take 100 years.)

The subway is open now, with rides happening until 10 p.m. for the first few days; full service begins January 9.