Three Hills

Last Subway at #RNY19

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In anticipation of Researching New York 2019: A Conference on New York State , we asked author Philip Mark Plotch three questions about his upcoming book Last Subway: The Long Wait for the Next Train in New York City.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

After completing my book, Politics Across the Hudson: The Tappan Zee Megaproject, about why it takes more than three decades to finalize a transportation plan in the Hudson Valley, I decided to find out why it takes a century to build one-quarter of a subway line.

2. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

While I was going through Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s papers in Westchester, I came across his version of a meeting that he had with Richard Nixon in 1972.  I was skeptical that he was accurately portraying Richard Nixon’s enthusiasm for funding the Second Avenue Subway.  My suspicions were confirmed when I listened to the Oval Office tapes stored at Nixon’s presidential library.

3. What do you think attendees at #RNY19 will get out of, or enjoy the most, about your book?

Every city has its own fanciful project. A London architect proposed building a 94-story pyramid to accommodate more than 5 million dead bodies. Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled plans for a mile-high Chicago skyscraper with parking for 15,000 cars. The Soviet Union began erecting steel for Moscow’s version of the Statue of Liberty standing on top of the Empire State Building resting above Madison Square Garden. One of the cynical lessons learned from the past century is that New York’s politicians benefit when they tell people that they are studying, planning, designing, and preparing for the Second Avenue subway. They do not have to actually start building it to reap rewards.

For more information about #RNY19, follow @UAlbanyHistory on Twitter, and meet @michaelmcgandy at our #CornellPress booth!

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