• Isobel Margaret Cully
4. term, Urban Design, Master (Master Programme)
Since 1920, local, city and state governments have been promising Manhattan’s East Side residents a subway along Second Avenue. In 2017, nearly 100 years after the subway line was initially proposed, the first three stations of the Second Avenue subway were finally opened to the public, on the Upper East Side. The second phase is set to create three additional stations in East Harlem, a historically working-class neighborhood with a predominantly Latinx and Black population. Unlike their affluent southern neighbors on the Upper East Side, many East Harlem residents fear that the subway will gentrify their neighborhood, pricing them out of their community.

This thesis attempts to explain how the plan for the Second Avenue subway is producing gentrification and changing the built environment of East Harlem, even decades before its completion. It also explores the symbiotic relationship between the Second Avenue subway and real estate interests that enables both to thrive.

The Second Avenue subway project has attracted real estate interests to East Harlem, a neighborhood that has typically been overlooked by “affordable luxury” developers. The developers are betting that the completion of the subway will make their investments valuable. Moreover, the real estate developments in the area are supporting the transit projects in three ways. First, the developments are increasing the population density, therefore making new transit options even more necessary than they already were. Second, they are attracting a wealthier and whiter demographic that has more resources to advocate for their transit needs. Third, New York City’s real estate interests are represented by the Real Estate Board of New York, a powerful lobby that is connected to the Governor of New York and many of the city and state elected officials. The emergence of new real estate developments in East Harlem increases the likelihood of the second phase of the subway being completed, but the changes brought on by the developments largely come at the expense of the neighborhood’s long-term residents.
Publication date2 Jun 2020
Number of pages49
ID: 333509315