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Last SubwayThe Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City$
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Philip Mark Plotch

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453663

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453663.001.0001

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An Empty Promise

An Empty Promise

(p.27) 2 An Empty Promise
Last Subway

Philip Mark Plotch

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how parks commissioner Robert Moses had been a powerful player in Fiorello La Guardia's administration and a dominant force under William O'Dwyer. Moses simultaneously held multiple public-sector positions that gave him enormous power over public works projects in the New York metropolitan area. During the four years and eight months of the O'Dwyer administration, O'Dwyer and Moses convinced New Yorkers, the media, and even state legislators that the city would soon begin building a Second Avenue subway. However, New York City was in a precarious financial situation. Not only was New York City getting less federal aid, but it was also reaching the maximum amount of money it could borrow, a level defined in the New York State constitution. To generate support for raising fares and building the new subway, O'Dwyer's team lied, claiming the Second Avenue subway would be self-sufficient and that the fare increase would create a financially sustainable and growing subway system. In 1950 and 1951, the state legislature authorized a constitutional amendment that would allow the city to borrow an additional $500 million over and beyond its constitutional debt limit. After the amendment passed, city officials knew that the city could not afford to proceed with the Second Avenue subway. By 1953, the city's business leaders and their allies in the state capital had lost faith in the city's ability to manage the transit system.

Keywords:   Robert Moses, William O'Dwyer, New York City, O'Dwyer administration, Second Avenue subway, federal aid, fare increase, subway system, transit system

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