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"I really feel that the 'Horse and Buggy' stage applies to the Second Avenue 'L.'" In another letter to the mayor, a Second Avenue property owner called the el an "antiquated structure." Mayor La Guardia agreed with these sentiments. He said in his 1934 speech:

"I'll go along with obstruction removal ... all over the city. At least, it may be said in defense of the structure at the time it was built, that they were the last thought in ingenuity and skill. Electrically operated trains [i.e. subways] had not been thought of."

To La Guardia, an el was not merely old and obsolete, it was an "obstruction" to automobile traffic flow on the street. La Guardia thus considered els to be worse than useless.

LaGuardia's View, and Moses'
La Guardia's opinion reflected changing trends in transportation policy in the 1930's. Although the city was building its new IND subway system, Commissioner Robert Moses meanwhile took advantage of Depression-era public works money to build numerous roads and bridges, which he envisioned as the beginnings of an extensive metropolitan highway system. In the 1930s, Moses organized the construction of countless road projects, including his great Triborough Bridge, as well as parkways in the outer boroughs and Long Island. More and more resources went into impressive bridges and roads, not rail transit. Historian Clifton Hood writes, in his history of New York's subways, that La Guardia found transit "old and thus uninteresting."

"The First Avenue Association is petitioning the Board of Estimate to remove the Second Avenue Elevated. ... When a so-called civic organization sees fit to disregard the vested traveling rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals, then it becomes time for the people to protest in self-defense. ... Until the city provides us with that Second Avenue subway we are entitled to be protected in the semblance of convenience which this much-maligned elevated line affords us."

The First Avenue Association did not represent the interests of those residents who relied on the el for transportation.

The Members of
The First Avenue Association
The First Avenue Association letterhead from 1940 listed the group's Directors. Of the thirty-two directors, a few were simply elite professionals -- lawyers, judges, business managers -- with no obvious vested interest in the demolition of the el. Twelve of the directors, however, clearly held high positions at real estate firms. Seven others held positions at private firms, whose business was not listed, that may also have been involved in real estate. One director, an architect, also would be involved in real estate development. Two directors were bankers, and three, treasurers of major institutions -- representing, therefore, large investors.

Realtors, investors, and architects all would profit from the property development that would accompany the transformation of Second Avenue into a higher-class neighborhood. One director, the Chairman of the Board of Bloomingdales, also would benefit from the gentrification of the neighborhood near his expensive East Side department store. The director with the most vested interest in the el demolition, however, was the Secretary-Treasurer of the East Side Omnibus Corp. With the el demolished, and no subway along the route to replace it, many passengers would rely on buses along Second Avenue for transportation -- buses that the East Side Omnibus Corp. could operate. There is no other indication that the First Avenue Association was party to an anti-rail transit conspiracy, however. The vast majority of the association's directors were involved in real estate. They simply hoped to increase in property values along the corridor.
     The association believed that demolishing the el would boost property values. This might seem counter-intuitive, because good access to transportation usually makes property more valuable, not less. There was a growing perception in the city, however, that subways and automobiles had made the els obsolete. For example, Clyde Place, member of the First Avenue Association, wrote to La Guardia saying:

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Updated Sunday, February 16, 2003

©2001 Alexander Nobler Cohen. ©2001 The Composing Stack Inc. All rights reserved