The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System

The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City's Unbuilt Subway System

by Joseph B Raskin
     
 

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Delves deep into the underbelly of the NYC subway system to reveal the tunnels and stations that might have been. Robert A. Van Wyck, mayor of the greater city of New York, broke ground for the first subway line by City Hall on March 24, 1900. It took four years, six months, and twenty-three days to build the line from City Hall to West 145th Street in Harlem.

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Overview

Delves deep into the underbelly of the NYC subway system to reveal the tunnels and stations that might have been. Robert A. Van Wyck, mayor of the greater city of New York, broke ground for the first subway line by City Hall on March 24, 1900. It took four years, six months, and twenty-three days to build the line from City Hall to West 145th Street in Harlem. Things rarely went that quickly ever again. The Routes Not Taken explores the often dramatic stories behind the unbuilt or unfinished subway lines, shedding light on a significant part of New York Citys history that has been almost completely ignored until now. Home to one of the worlds largest subway systems, New York City made constant efforts to expand its underground labyrinth, efforts that were often met with unexpected obstacles: financial shortfalls, clashing agendas of mayors and borough presidents, battles with local community groups, and much more. After discovering a copy of the 1929 subway expansion map, author Joseph Raskin began his own investigation into the citys underbelly. Using research from libraries, historical societies, and transit agencies throughout the New York metropolitan area, Raskin provides a fascinating history of the Big Apples unfinished business that until now has been only tantalizing stories retold by public-transit experts. The Routes Not Taken sheds light on the tunnels and stations that were completed for lines that were never fulfilled: the efforts to expand the Hudson tubes into a fullfledged subway; the Flushing line, and why it never made it past Flushing; a platform underneath Brooklyns Nevins Street station that has remained unused for more than a century; and the 2nd Avenue line long the symbol of dashed dreams deferred countless times since the original plans were presented in 1929. Raskin also reveals the figures and personalities involved, including why Fiorello LaGuardia could not grasp the importance of subway lines and why Robert Moses found them to be old and boring. By focusing on the unbuilt lines, Raskin illustrates how the existing subway system is actually a Herculean feat of countless political compromises. Filled with illustrations of the extravagant expansion plans, The Routes Not Taken provides an enduring contribution to the transportation history of New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is an extraordinary and magisterial book, the product of years of diligent research on a topic that has been almost completely ignored, but one central to the understanding of the evolution of New York City in the twentieth century."—Peter Eisenstadt

"The New York subway is a source of basic mobility in the world's greatest city, but there remains much to be learned about why it came to be and how it functions. Raskin has given us a book that places all of our factual and historical narratives in a much larger context what might have been, what could have been, and, perhaps, what should have been." —Brian J. Cudahy, author of A Century of Subways: Celebrating 100 Years of New York's Underground Railways

"The Routes Not Taken is a fascinating look at what did not happen with the New York City subway system and why. Joseph Raskin provides detailed accounts of why several subway lines that have been long needed and desired such as one in the northeast Bronx and one across Queens and Brooklyn never got built. The stories are full of twists and turns as politicians, business interests, civic groups, transit advisors and engineers all argue over which line is needed, what the specifics of its route should be, and even if it should be done ahead of another line. The Routes Not Taken is engrossing but ultimately dispiriting. One comes away from reading Mr. Raskin's book with a sense of awe that New York City has a subway system of any kind and extent given the numerous competing forces that have cancelled each other out in the past." —Paul Shaw, author of Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story

"Provide[s] an insightful look at the what-might-have-beens of urban mass transit. The first subway, the IRT from City Hall to West 145th Street, was built in four and a half years. That pace has rarely been equaled in the century since. Consider that the Second Avenue subway, the first segment of which is to open in 2016, was envisioned in 1929. Why were certain lines elevated—and later demolished—instead of buried? Mr. Raskin, the assistant director of government and community relations for New York City Transit, dusts off old blueprints of lines that were never built or never completed, explaining how the system shaped urban development and how political and economic forces conspired to create today's subway lines covering all five boroughs and provided for a city with a population even bigger than today's." —Sam Roberts, The New York Times

"Joseph Raskin has opened a big can of worms with this book. He brings to light the massive number of subway lines that were planned throughout the area but stayed just that; plans and nothing more." —Ink New York

"Using research from libraries, historical societies, and transit agencies throughout the New York metropolitan area, Raskin provides a fascinating history of the Big Apple's unfinished business that until now has been only tantalizing stories retold by public-transit experts." —Western Queens Gazette, Jason D. Antos

"In presenting lively...case studies of what he regards as the most important unbuilt lines, Mr. Raskin encourages his readers to think about the adaptable nature of the city."—WSJ Book Review

""Apart from sheer enjoyment, this book underscores how radically decisions about transit shape property values, commerce, neighborhoods, and people."—Highly Recommended— Choice Magzine

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780823253746
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
Publication date:
12/01/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
685,946
File size:
13 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Joseph B. Raskin is an independent scholar. He is widely regarded as an authority on unbuilt subway systems, on which he has been interviewed by the New York Times. He is Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations for MTA New York City Transit.

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