About Roosevelt Island

2nd Avenue Subway, What It Means for Roosevelt Islanders

Updated 1 year ago Peter McCarthy
The MTA's Latest Subway Map, Including the 2nd Avenue Line
The MTA's Latest Subway Map, Including the 2nd Avenue Line

The countdown is on and now intensified by Governor Andrew Cuomo's push to open the Second Avenue Subway this month. This map shows the Q curling off 63rd Street, where it connects with the F, one stop from Roosevelt Island, running straight up 2nd Avenue to 96th. It may mean more for us than you realize.

What does it mean? More than you'd expect, and some of the news is not so good.

The transition is simple in practice. If all goes according to plan, Q Train images that covered the walls along the F's 63rd Street Station for months will be replaced by real cars rushing in and out of the transfer point. By the end of this year, all you'll need to do is walk across the platform to transfer.

Coming home with a stomach filled with dim sum in Chinatown, grab the Q Train north from Canal Street and dance across to the F just one stop from Roosevelt Island. In a hurry to get to Times Square for a show? Transfer to a Q in the other direction, skip the walk and land close to the hottest shows.

You can also more easily transfer to head up the East Side on the Q.

My wife and I will do that on our way to Beyoglu, our favorite Turkish restaurant on 3rd Avenue at 81st Street, or Quattro Gatti, across the street, where the Italian tradition feels like Rome.

Current options require either walking twenty-two blocks up 3rd Avenue or grabbing a 6 Train and covering additional blocks on foot.

Nope, when the Q begins running up the East Side, it will be good for us, and in the way it enhances the system in our favor, many of your neighbors will enjoy greater commuting convenience for work and school. But there are inevitable downsides to this historic system change.


Less Isolation, More Traffic

On the already crowded F Train, especially during rush hours, the surge of riders will increase as more commuters chose the convenience of the F's express status into Queens. The transfers will be so easy, the time saved, valuable.

And what about those people who now transfer from the F to the Lexington Line by climbing up to the street and schlepping to 59th Street for a free transfer? No longer necessary. Just transferring to the Q will do the trick for most people.

Another often overlooked factor in Roosevelt Island Station congestion is a small, but sure to grow contingent of drivers from Queens and farther out on Long Island who park in Motorgate, then head down to the F Train, reversing the circuit going home. That group's sure to grow as the F becomes even more felicitous for travel by loosening its bond with 6th Avenue.

Is the W a Solution For Roosevelt island?


When Steve Shane served as RIOC's President, among the many issues we discussed – or debated, as Shane was a bright guy who loved to kick around ideas – was persuading the MTA to run more trains through the Roosevelt Island Station. Just a train or two per hour at rush would make a big difference. But Shane had been convinced by the MTA that it wasn't possible.

But if you watch the ninety second headway the 7 Train gets, charging into and out of Grand Central, you begin thinking it might be possible with a little imagination, a trait the transportation agency has never been accused of harboring in excess.

But a look at the new map suggests other scenarios.

The W Train is being resurrected, but instead of using the 63rd Street Tunnel that carries only F traffic, it's being sent through the 59th Street Tunnel, joining the N and the R on the single tracks. This, the MTA explains, compensates for Astoria losing the Q to 2nd Avenue.


But Astoria already has an N Train. Why not send the W to Roosevelt Island and 21st Street Queensbridge instead? Or, why not route seldom full M Trains through the 63rd Street Tunnel, continuing on 6th Avenue after Rockefeller Center instead of abruptly branching east?


Let's be honest here. If Roosevelt Islanders had more political clout, if we made enough noise, the MTA would find a way to get more trains handling passengers through Roosevelt Island to relieve the miserable weekday crowding. Maybe one of the above, maybe something else.

Our situation will only worsen as new Southtown buildings open, and a calamity is waiting when Cornell Tech opens next year. Can you imagine New York City's drive to rival Silicon Valley stunted by the MTA's inability to figure out how to get a few more trains through the 63rd Street Tunnel?

Neither the Tram nor Motorgate, both of which already operate near capacity, can offer enough relief. The subway system needs to come through for us.

As economists see it, the bureaucrats will not be budged until it's inconvenient for them not to act. By inconvenience, I mean complaints, protests and political intervention. Relentless.

It's unreasonable to expect RIOC to carry the burden alone, although it is reasonable to expect them to carry more of it than they have so far. We have excellent, community-minded representatives in City Council Member Ben Kallos and State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. We need to let them know how serious we are about demanding better treatment from the MTA. 

Needless to say, one more chance is in front of Jeff Escobar and the Residents' Association Common Council to show their resourcefulness on behalf of the community.

Who will stand up to assure Roosevelt Island a better deal in the mass transit shuffle?

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