Cover image for Tunneling to the future : the story of the great subway expansion that saved New York
Tunneling to the future : the story of the great subway expansion that saved New York
Derrick, Peter, 1944-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 442 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"History of New York City Project"--T.p. verso.
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
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HE4491.N7 D47 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In 1910, New York City was bursting at the seams as more and more people crowded into a limited supply of housing in the tenement districts of Manhattan and the older areas of Brooklyn. With no outlet for its exploding population, and the burgeoning social problems created by the overwhelming congestion, New York faced a serious crisis which city and state leaders addressed with dramatic measures. In March 1913, public officials and officers of the two existing rapid transit networks shook hands to seal a deal for a greatly expanded subway system which would more than double the size of the two existing transit networks.

At the time the largest and most expensive single municipal project ever attempted, the Dual System of Rapid Transit set the pattern of growth in New York City for decades to come, helped provide millions of families a better quality of life, and, in the words of Manhattan borough president George McAneny (1910-1913), "proved the city's physical salvation." It stands as that rare success story, an enormously complicated project undertaken against great odds which proved successful beyond all measure.

Published in conjunction with the History of the City of New York Project.

Author Notes

Peter Derrick is Archivist for the Bronx County Historical Society.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1913, more than two-thirds of New York City's residents lived in tenements and the Lower East Side had the highest population density in the world, housing approximately 600,000 people in less then two square miles. Contagious diseases such as TB were rampant, and the infant mortality rate in the Italian community had grown to 71%. In response to these dangerous conditions, city officials decided to double the mileage of New York's subway lines (which first opened in 1904) and triple their capacity, to encourage people to move uptown and into the outer boroughs. Derrick, the archivist for the Bronx County Historical Society, has produced a rousing history of the myriad struggles to build these lifesaving additions to the city's rapid transit system. Charting the fights between the city and privately owned transit companies (the two were sharing the cost of the subway system's expansion), he shows how the popular Hearst press and other media attacked the private companies for greed, while the companies themselves discovered that the new subway lines would not be as immediately profitable as they had planned. Derrick carefully explicates the impact of these rapid transit extensions on the city's economy, housing, jobs, neighborhood development and human interactions. Writing in a clear, compelling style, he constructs his history within the framework of several disciplines. Though the level of detail may overwhelm general readers, those already knowledgeable about New York political and social history will welcome this excellent addition to the literature of the city's planning, development and economics. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Set in America's centum transportare, the century that saw the ascendancy of a national highway system and commercial flight, this is an exceptional history of the development of the unglamorous underground transportation system critical to the expansion of New York City. Bronx County Historical Society Archivist Derrick complements Clifton Hood's 722 Miles (S. & S., 1993) with a precise recounting of this little-known story, exploring the political and economic indecision that preceded the subway's building at a time when the very survival of the nation's largest city its teeming tenements a catalyst for poverty, disease, and crime seemed threatened. He depicts ego-driven decision makers unable to meet the most crucial needs of New Yorkers, until finally someone who understood the purpose of government emerged from the faceless crowd to guide the project. Derrick's well-written narrative is packed with thoroughly researched facts and reasoning. Occasional digressions into details of proposed tunnel locations slow down the narrative, but in the end, Derrick boldly describes this extraordinarily complex project as "the most important decision made by New York's government in the twentieth century." An excellent addition to any large collection of American history. John E. Hodgkins, Yarmouth, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This is the story behind the subway system that made New York what it is today. By the late 19th century, Manhattan was literally bursting at the seams with one of the highest population densities in the world. Choked with congestion and confronted with the social problems that accompany serious overcrowding, city leaders proposed to expand the existing subway network and construct new extensions to the city's sparsely populated outskirts in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. These extensions would disperse the population by allowing workers to commute quickly and cheaply to jobs in Manhattan, as well as stimulate new housing developments in the outer boroughs. This largest municipal project up to that time, a joint venture of the city and two private subway companies, involved the simultaneous expansion of several subway lines, which doubled the city's total subway mileage. Drawn from a wealth of public records, this scholarly study reveals not only the details of the subway movement's slow progress in the political arena, but the process of coming to terms with the private subway companies and their financial backers in 1913, so that construction could start. All collections. M. J. Butler emeritus, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Tablesp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Never Enough: The Beginnings of Rapid Transit in New Yorkp. 9
2 The Deadlock over More Subways, 1902-1909p. 47
3 Rapid Transit to Save New Yorkp. 90
4 Stumbling toward a Solutionp. 123
5 The Dual System of Rapid Transitp. 153
6 The Battle over Financing the Dual Systemp. 186
7 Impact of the Dual Systemp. 231
Conclusionp. 263
Appendix 1 Summary of the Dual System Contracts and Related Certificatesp. 269
Appendix 2 Opening Dates of the Dual System Linesp. 284
Notesp. 287
Bibliographyp. 401
Indexp. 423
About the Authorp. 442