As a leading expert on the New York City subway system, Clifton Hood, professor of history and the George E. Paulsen ’49 Professor of American History and Government, was interviewed on Bloomberg Radio for a segment on the ongoing construction of the Second Avenue subway line in New York City.
Offering a historic look at the project now entering its fourth year, Hood explained that the idea for building a subway on Manhattan’s East Side was first conceived in 1919 by New York City Mayor John Hylan, who served from 1918-1925.
A “key person in this is Hylan,” explained Hood. “He is a mayor who time has basically forgotten, but the one area where he left his stamp is on mass transit.”
Hylan’s proposal was to extend what was the Independent Subway System (that portion originaly owned and operated by the municipal government), but economics and war prevented the project from moving forward. Ground was symbolically broken in 1972, but it wasn’t until 2005 that New York passed the Transportation Bond Act that partially funded the current construction.
“The Second Avenue line had become a symbol of the futility and failure of the subway – it was first proposed in 1919, then a big push got underway in the late ’40s, a small part of it was built in the ’60s and…nothing,” Hood explains, noting why the Bloomberg story is significant. “The subway system as a whole disintegrated very badly in the ’50s through ’70s, so the fact that the Second Avenue subway is finally being built is a big deal.”
The Bloomberg piece also discusses the difficulty of the construction project – with a 450-ton machine slicing through bedrock daily under homes and businesses and dynamite going off under foot.
When completed, the new line is expected to carry more than 200,000 passengers a day. It is intended to reduce overcrowding on the existing four, five and six lines, between 63rd and 96th streets. The full audio of the story can be heard online.
Reporting for Bloomberg, Carole Zimmer noted the “new line is one of the world’s largest construction projects ever undertaken in the middle of the city.”
A member of the HWS faculty since 1992, Hood holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington University, as well as a master’s degree and doctorate from Columbia University. His main fields of study include elites, New York City, historical memory, and mass transit.
Hood is the author of “722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How they Transformed New York,” and is currently completing his second book, “In Pursuit of Privilege: New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of the City, since 1754.” Courses taught regularly by Hood focus on American urban history, elites in America, U.S. environmental history and U.S. ethnicity and immigration. Hood served as senior Fulbright Lecturer in Seoul National University in Korea.