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     Somehow the committee in charge of invitations to the event overlooked Hizzoner who, by the time the oversight was discovered, was unable to appear due to a prior engagement.

     With the familiar hisses of air, power surged into the hefty motors and the train nosed gently out of the station toward the Manhattan Bridge. Crossing the span the riders were treated to a view, now familiar to millions, of the East River harbor and the Statue of Liberty flickering between the webbing of Brooklyn Bridge. Back under ground they entered DeKalb Avenue, the "Heart of the BMT" it was called by the road when, in the near future, five lines providing seven services, would run through it. From DeKalb the train dipped into the Fourth Avenue subway—the prize itself. The tiles at Pacific Street station were glowing white, the mosaics sparkled under incandescent bulbs, the platform had an unreal cleanliness.

     The train ran down the local track, past 9th Street where a municipal rapid transit line would run overhead decades later, and 36th Street, where the West End Line would enter the subway a year later. Running past 59th Street the train swept around a curve to emerge south of Fourth Avenue near 65th Street, onto the new Sea Beach right-of-way.

     Paid for out of the BRT's own pocket, the new Sea Beach was called "a marvel of engineering", 4.4 miles of walled cut, with a stationless express track and local stations with mission-style concrete pillars and ornamental staircases. When the train pulled into the old West End terminal, which would soon be replaced by the massive eight-track Stillwell Avenue (Coney Island) elevated structure, all were delighted by this first, glittering off-spring of the Dual Contracts.

The Steinway Tunnels

On June 22nd, the same day that the multiple BRT services were opened for the public, it was the IRT's turn to inaugurate a service. The celebration had little of the triumphant, proud and festive atmosphere of the BRT's party three days earlier. The road to the opening of the Steinway Tunnels, from Long Island City, Queens, to midtown Manhattan, was paved with frustration, disappointment and tragedy.

     Thirty years earlier the East River Railroad was formed to build the Manhattan-Queens underground link. Like many such enterprises, it met with swift failure. In 1890, the New York and Long Island Railroad was organized in the hope of reviving the plan. Several changes were made in routing and the venture enjoyed the support of William Steinway, the piano magnate for whom the tunnels were ultimately to he named. However, the NY& LI RR venture, too, was doomed to failure. Stymied by a dynamite explosion in 1892, the company was ruined in the Panic of 1893. Steinway never lost his enthusiasm for the tunnel, but his efforts were to no avail and, when he died in 1896, no progress had been made.

     In 1902 the tunnels were given renewed impetus by August Belmont, who was largely responsible for guiding New York City toward the construction of the first rapid transit subway. The Steinways were originally envisioned as trolley tunnels and, when the tunnels were opened in 1907, the first of a fleet of fifty trolleys built for the service was rolled into the tunnel to inaugurate service. However, before any of the forty-nine other Brill-built vehicles could be placed in service, the legality of the franchise was questioned and the line closed.

hen the Dual Subway Contracts were signed in 1913 they represented the most sweeping and embattled transit plan in history. Ever since work had begun on a subway tunnel under Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn in 1908, the Interborough Rapid Transit Co. (IRT) and Brooklyn Rapid Transit Co. (BRT) had been at war.

     The IRT, established as a subway operator, wanted the Fourth Avenue subway, and others the City might want to build, for itself. The BRT didn't quite see it that way. Proud of its record (and discreetly quiet about its past), the BRT heralded its accomplishments and steamrolled its plans until, when the Dual Contracts were ready for signature, the IRT was left with so much less than they expected that they walked out. When reminded that, under the terms of the Contracts, all the newly built lines would go to the BRT, the IRT elected to affix their signature to the pact, and so construction began.

June 19. 1915
The New Sea Beach Line

It was a grand Saturday for Col. T. S. Williams of the BRT and his company. The compressors of the beautiful new 67' subway cars, painted glossy brown with black roofs, were singing in their throaty warble. The gleaming subway station echoed the sound that would become a daily sound in the lives of two generations of New Yorkers. As dignitaries piled into the station under the Municipal Building, at Chambers Street in Manhattan, there was a mock somber note -- the Mayor of the City was missing.

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Updated Saturday, February 15, 2003

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