Take Two: Second Avenue Subway, New York City

Second Avenue is a first-class street once again. Emerging from its long wait in the shadow of scaffolding and construction, the avenue now boasts new subway stations adorned with museum-quality art, a booming residential development scene, and hip dining establishments. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Art on the Move

Second Avenue, New York City
Chuck Close’s portrait of Lou Reed at the 86th subway station

Plans for a Second Avenue subway began in 1920—and took roughly 100 years to become a reality, with phase one completed in 2017. Today, each of the stations along Second Avenue has stunning, nine-foot-tall walls of sparkling glass and ceramic mosaic portraits. The 86th Street station hosts a Chuck Close “Subway Portraits”collection with larger-than-life mosaics of Philip Glass, Lou Reed, and other icons.

At 72nd Street, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz installed Perfect Strangers, a work incorporating 36 life-size mosaic portraits of a diverse group of New Yorkers.

At 96th Street, artist Sarah Sze’s Blueprint for a Landscape is a 14,000-square-foot collage with scaffolding, birds, and leaves. And, inspired by the archives of the New York Transit Museum and the New York Historical Society, artist Jean Shin depicted riders of the elevated subway of the ’20s through the ’40s at 63rd Street.

Life in Style

Second Avenue, New York City
The entrance to Beckford House, an upscale newcomer to Second Avenue

Icon Realty Management is developing two adjacent properties along Second Avenue: Beckford House, between 80th and 81st Streets, and Beckford Tower, between 81st and 82nd Streets. Both were designed by Studio Sofield.

At 19 stories, Beckford House comprises 32 twoto- five-bedroom condos, with one to three per floor. Six full-floor residences crown the building, topped by a duplex penthouse. A canopied entrance on East 81st Street welcomes residents. Amenities include a residents’ lounge with fireplace and dining room, a fitness center, a yoga studio, and a roof terrace with an outdoor kitchen and grill.

Beckford Tower, a block north, will rise 29 stories and offer 72 one-to-sixbedroom condominium residences crowned by three full-floor penthouses. Amenities include a fitness center with yoga and private training studios, a lap pool and hot tub, a basketball court, steam rooms, a children’s playroom, a piano bar, a residents’ lounge, a party room with a catering kitchen, and a game room. beckfordresidences.com

Savoir Fare

Heidelberg Restaurant is among the last survivors of Yorkville, as the area was christened in the early 1900s when it was an enclave of German immigrants. The 100-year-old stalwart serves authentic Old World fare like schnitzel and wursts. 1648 Second Ave., 212.628.2332

A neighborhood staple frequented by the mayor, San Matteo Pizzeria e Cucina has one of the last grandfathered wood-burning brick ovens in Manhattan. The pizza and espresso bar serves 15 varieties of Neapolitan pizza. 1559 Second Ave., 212.861.2434

Second Avenue Subway, New York City
A book-lined wall adds to the clubby atmosphere of The Writing Room, in the space once occupied by Elaine’s.

In the space once occupied by Elaine’s, The Writing Room pays homage to that icon’s history with entertainment, good food, curated cocktails, and an ambience as appealing as the classic American fare. 1703 Second Ave., 212.335.0075

Second Street Subway, New York City
Up Thai, elevated Thai street food

Up Thai, a neighborhood favorite, features wood-paneled décor and fresh twists on Thai classics like Massaman curry and chicken satay. 1411 Second Ave., 212.256.1188

Second Avenue Subway, New York City
Banana Brownie ice cream from Scoop Shop

Scoop Shop is an ice cream parlor that doubles as a speakeasy. Enter the brightly colored shop and say the code word “storage” to access a hip Prohibition-style bar. Scoop Shop’s dual personality is a perfect analogy for the metamorphosis of Second Avenue: It blends old, new, and indisputable cool—and it offers something for everyone. 1707 Second Ave., 646.559.5889

—by Michelle Sinclair Colman

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