A Fascinating View of New York, From 80 Feet Below

In an article and dramatic photographs and video, <em>The New York Times</em> documents the construction of the city's Second Avenue subway, which has been delayed for more than 80 years and is due to be completed in December 2016.
August 3, 2012, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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First announced in 1929, the subway is planned to eventually run from the Financial District, at Manhattan's southern tip, up to 125th street, along Second Avenue.  

Working 24 hours a day since 2008, in a process that works much differently now than it did when the first subway was built in 1900, "about 475 laborers are now removing 15 million cubic feet of rock and 6 million cubic feet of soil - more than half an Empire State Building by volume - out from under two miles of metropolisr," writes Kim Tingley. For all the modern technology, however, "There is still no way to mine a tunnel without sending men into it."

"Underground, they breathe chemical fumes and dust, no matter how well filtered the air. Water and mud splash up and rain down. They yell themselves hoarse over the rumbling of machines and don't always wear earplugs against the din. 'I think the biggest thing I'm sacrificing is my health,' [sandhog Ryan] McGinty said. 'But for me to do something I love and be proud of what I do - If I made it to 60, I'd be happy.'"

"The president of M.T.A. Capital Construction Company, Michael Horodniceanu, has taken East Siders on Saturday cavern tours, in part to make up for the blasting. 'They're all kind of in awe of what they're seeing,' he said, 'because they understand that it's been created by men. The question that I always get: ‘What was here before?' The answer is, ‘Solid rock.' " 

To get a sense of the awe-inspiring environment, check out the accompanying video and image gallery

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Published on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 in The New York Times
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