7 Line Extension

Man-lift. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin. The far West Side of Midtown Manhattan is a developer’s dream that has resisted developers and dreamers for decades. In 2005, a proposed stadium for the Jets collapsed and hopes for hosting the 2012 Olympics went with it. The hundreds of acres roughly bounded by West 42nd Street, Ninth Avenue, West 30th Street, and the Hudson River is a forlorn urban landscape of parking lots, warehouses, Lincoln Tunnel access roads, and the LIRR’s vast train yard. The Javits Convention Center, hulking behind dark glass along three blocks of Eleventh Avenue, has awaited company on Manhattan’s “last frontier” for a generation.

One hindrance to development has been isolation from the city’s mass transportation networks; it is a long walk to and from the nearest subway. The extension of the 7 line subway will end this.

In October 2006, the city and the MTA budgeted $2.1 billion to extend the 7 from its longtime terminus at Times Square near Eighth Avenue, west and south to Eleventh Avenue and 34th Street. The hope is that a more dynamic commercial, cultural and residential neighborhood will emerge along the route.

Construction crews are now digging two huge shafts through which TBMs will be lowered this year. The project is currently expected to be completed in 2013.

The Corona (7) Line, Queens. 1916. New York Transit Museum Collection.

The wide-open space seen here during construction of the original Corona line in Queens was quickly filled in the following decade with real estate development. The boom transformed Queens from rural to urban; the borough’s population more than doubled to over a million people. Nearly a century later, extending the western end of the 7 may provide a similar catalyst for development on the far west side of Manhattan.

Queensboro Corporation Advertisement, Jackson Heights. 1917. Vincent F. Seyfried Collection.

Subway construction in the 1910s – called the Dual Contracts System – added new subway lines in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and expanded transit options in Queens via the N/R and 7 lines.  A wildly successful example of a newly created community was the prestigious “garden suburb” of Jackson Heights, Queens, with ads for rental and co-operative apartments boasting a quick subway trip from Grand Central Terminal via the IRT Corona (now Flushing) line.

Aerial View of Hudson Yards Area. Courtesy of MTA Capital Construction Company.

The 7,000-foot, two-track extension of the 7 line was conceived to promote residential and commercial development in conjunction with the New York City Planning Commission’s 2005 re-zoning of the far West Side.

West Side Train Yards. 2006. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

Development of the area above the train yards will require a platform over the yard that does not interfere with the train operations below.

Man-lift. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

The man-lift – a construction elevator – is the only way in and out of the shaft through which tunnel boring machines eventually will be lowered.

Shotcreting Rock for Stabilization. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

Shotcrete is concrete sprayed through a hose at high speed. It can be applied onto any type or shape of surface, including vertical or overhead areas.

2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

Man-lift. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

A shaft constructed at 26th Street and 11th Avenue will become the access point for the TBM that will tunnel north.

Two Sandhogs. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

Sandhog. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

Despite the advent of tunnel-boring technology, much work is still done by the legendary urban miners known as sandhogs. Since the late 1800s, sandhogs have built the city’s entire underground infrastructure: tunnels for railroads, subways, cars, and water, foundations for bridges and skyscrapers. The sandhogs—officially members of the Laborers’ Local Union No. 147—are a tight-knit group, with sons often following fathers into the specialized world of construction deep underground.

A Dark and Muddy Workplace. 2008. Photograph by Patrick Cashin.

34th Street Station, Entrance and Plaza. Courtesy of MTA Capital Construction Company.

Upper Mezzanine. Courtesy of MTA Capital Construction Company.

Low Mezzanine Platform. Courtesy of MTA Capital Construction Company.

These three renderings represent early concepts for the 34th Street station.