August 1, 1904 – It’s time to admit that New York City should never have embarked on the folly of Subway construction.
Here we sit, four years after the work of excavating the city’s streets began, and while the taxpayer has taken on enormous debt to build the Subway, he has not taken a single ride on this fantastical underground train. The Tammany-appointed bureaucrats, whose mania for rail below-the-streets verges on psychosis, assure us that the tunnel and stations are nearing completion, but we have not seen them, and we are far past the point of taking the backers of this project at their word.
Yes, London has had its underground trains for 40 years, and Boston has operated a subway for seven, but those cities are not New York. New York already has our elevated trains rumbling by and rattling tenement windows. We do not need the Subway, and we should have known a long time ago that New York could not build it.
When the city granted a franchise to Commodore Vanderbilt in 1872 to build a below-ground railroad, and he proceeded not to lift a finger, we should have known that the Subway is not for New York.
When property owners rebelled against the Rapid Transit Commission’s 1891 plan to build a subway underneath Broadway, which also failed to attract a single credible construction bid, we should have recognized inevitable defeat when it was staring us in the face.
When the courts ruled that raising the necessary funds to build the Subway would exceed the city’s constitutional debt limit, that should have been the final warning sign.
When the winning bidder on the current Subway, John B. McDonald, was found to lack sufficient capital and had to be rescued by August Belmont, the city should not have proceeded to sign a contract.
When, on January 27, 1902, a dynamite explosion killed five workers and injured scores of other people, we should have abandoned the project, filled in the tunnels, and paved the streets back over right then and there.
It’s not too late to give up. It’s time for Mayor McClellan to abandon this boondoggle and admit that New York will never be a Subway city.
Meanwhile, back in the present…
It’s taking longer than expected to get Citi Bike software up to snuff. No public funds are at risk, and as far as I can tell, the worst-case scenario is that we’ll all have to wait a few months. I’m as disappointed as anyone that the public bikes aren’t available yet, but the phrase that comes to mind is: “Big deal.”