Second Avenue Subway Satisfies Upper East Side Catholics

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Much to the pleasure of many of Manhattan’s Upper East Side Catholic passengers, the Second Avenue subway was up and rolling for the general public on Jan. 1.

After nearly a century in the making, the extension of the Q Train, which also provides service from 96th Street to 63rd Street, was well received.

“Lots of people are buzzing about it, of course,” said Father Donald Baker, pastor of St. Monica, St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Stephen of Hungary parish, located at 413 E. 79th St.

“Many of my parishioners were there the very first day. There’s been a lot of excitement about it, and a lot of talk about it.”

The pastor said he has posted directions on the parish’s Facebook page “on how to get to the church using ‘the Q.’”

But not all the buzz is positive, he conceded. “One of the reasons why Yorkville is the way it is, is because it has traditionally been so far from mass transit,” Father Baker explained.

“It is the longest walk, most people say, from anywhere to a subway station, here in Yorkville.”

That, the pastor said, has kept down rental prices and housing prices in the neighborhood, “making it more likely that families would settle here, which they did and they have.”

“As a result, we have a booming parish school (St. Stephen of Hungary School, at 408 E. 82nd St.), and there are lots and lots and lots of families here.”

He cited some estimates in the local press that claim the opening of the subway will very quickly contribute to a “skyrocketing of rental prices.”

“So a lot of my parishioners, while they’re really thrilled about the subway, are also frightened about what it’s going to mean for them and their ability to continue living here,” especially older people, he said.

“That is a concern, and a big concern of mine, of course, because our parish lives from its parishioners,” Father Baker said.

“One of the wonderful things about our parish is, precisely, its large number of families and its very populous Catholic school.

“We would hate to see our families have to move away because of rental prices.”

Their concern, however, has not quelled their joy. “People love the stations,” Father Baker said. “These are subway stations almost unlike anything we’ve ever had.”

Even a few weeks after the debut, passengers continue to take pictures of the new surroundings.

“The most wonderful thing about it, is it has really connected Yorkville to the larger city in a way that it hadn’t been before,” Father Baker said.

In the past, the primary way people in the area could get to the subway lines was by walking or by taking the crosstown buses, he explained. “Many people are commenting on how their commute has been shortened so tremendously by this subway.”

That has been the pastor’s experience as well. “It’s great. You get on the subway and you just travel. At any rate, that’s a major plus. I personally wouldn’t think twice now about getting on the subway and going downtown, where it would have to be a bit of a plan or an issue to go before.”

Previously, a person had to get to the Lexington Avenue line and board the 6 train, and ride from there, he said.

The way in which “the Q” works, “it zigzags through the city. You can go over to the West Side, you can go over to the East Side. The convenience of it has been fantastic for many people.”

Starting on the steps of St. Monica’s Church, Father Baker said, it previously took an average of about 12 minutes to walk to the 77th Avenue Station to arrive at Lexington Avenue for the 6 train. (He could walk it in about nine minutes.)

“The walk from the steps right now is five (minutes), if that,” Father Baker said of the commute from the church at 79th Street and First Avenue to the Second Avenue Subway stop at 86th Street, thanks to an entrance at 83rd Street.

“It’s really very, very close.”

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