Bronx New Deal - Photo #435 - IND Subway B and D Trains

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Bronx NY: The D and B Train stop on Grand Concourse at Bedford Park Boulevard. Jill Jonnes, in her book South Bronx Rising (p.80-81), says "While these WPA works [parks, playgrounds, etc] made life more pleasant for the populace, four major work relief projects significantly changed the Bronx: the new Bronx County Building at 161st Street and Grand Concourse; the Triborough Bridge; the huge Federal Post Office at 149th and the Grand Concourse; and the completion of the Eighth Avenue IND subway up through the West Bronx" (which is the B and D line). So far I haven't been able to confirm or disprove this. (Anyway, the Grand Concourse is in the East Bronx, not the West Bronx... the dividing line is Jerome Avenue.)

In their book New York for Sale (MIT 2008), Tom Angotti and Peter Marcuse say, "The New Deal came to the rescue by financing extensive public works, including yet another set of subway lines, the Independent Subway (IND)..."

The New York Transit Museum, in its book The City Beneath Us: Building the New York Subways, W. W. Norton (2004), says “Thanks to LaGuardia's rapport with FDR, New York received more Work Projects Administration funds than any other city in the United States. 'Red, whiite, and blue WPA signs showed up everywhere,' one Brooklynite recalled, 'and men with shovels were never far behind.' The subway received $23,000,000 from the WPA for the building of the IND.”

Mason Williams (author of City of Ambition) says:

In December, 1933, not long after he was elected mayor, Fiorello La Guardia went to Washington to meet with Franklin Roosevelt. Shortly, he emerged with a presidential promise of federal support for the completion of the 8th Avenue IND line. Federal funding for the project had seemed dead only days earlier, and the episode was an early indication of La Guardia's lobbying capabilities.

The IND (or Independent) system was the municipal transport system built in the 1920s to compete with the publicly-owned, privately-operated IRT and BMT lines. (Today the old IND lines bear letters; the IRT and BMT lines, numbers). The 8th Avenue line was the core of the system, reaching from Inwood to Downtown Brooklyn. The grant-and-loan La Guardia helped secure advanced the line farther into Brooklyn. Pending completion of the Second Avenue Subway, these sections are the only parts of the New York City subway system originally constructed with federal support.

I've held off from tagging this subway project on the maps primarily because I've found it very difficult to identify exactly which sections of the project received federal financing. I still don't know ...

In any case we do know that IND service to 205th Street was inaugurated on July 1, 1933. And we also know that federal funding was obtained for IND expansion (same source). We also know that the Queens IND branch (E and F trains) was extended with the aid of a PWA loan and grant. And that six IND stations were built in Manhattan with PWA funds. It seems as if the PWA funds didn't come until after the Bronx extension was open, but even if that is the case it's still undeniable that the B and D subway routes were largely funded by the New Deal.

Also see: Middleton, William D., Metropolitan Railways: Rapid Transit in America, Indiana University Press (2003).

The New Deal in NYC 1932-1943 | Frank da Cruz | fdc@columbia.edu