UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan - And it's off! A project decades in the making, the Second Avenue subway is on the move for the first time.
New Yorkers' long wait to take a subway under Manhattan's far Upper East Side ended Sunday, when a stretch of the new Second Avenue line opened to the public.
The first train left the station at East 96th Street at noon after a speech by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed to meet a New Year's Day deadline for the long-delayed project.
"I hope when you go down there you really feel how much hard work and time and patience it's taken to get to this point," Cuomo said. "It's incredible. This is not your grandfather's station."
Cuomo and other state and city leaders were on the inaugural ride up to 96th Street on New Year's Eve.
The mood was festive on the first train, with many riders wearing hats that read Second Avenue Station, including Jessica Hauser and her boyfriend, Neil Smith, who both live on the Upper East Side.
"I can see my friends in Brooklyn much easier now," Hauser said. "It's really great to have another subway nearby. I think it's going to release a lot of pressure from the 4, 5 and 6 trains. Especially in the morning when I have to sometimes wait for a second or third train, since they're so packed."
It is hard to imagine that this is the culmination of a plan proposed first in the 1920s. However, the rails to get here wasn't a smooth ride for people who live in the area.
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"No one sees us, even people find us online, they say 'where are you located?' When we tell them, they say 'I live in the neighborhood, but where are you?'" says Shielia Xie.
Xie can only imagine what it will mean for her business now that customers can see them from the street.
The same goes for Trend Dimer a few doors down.
"They say it looks so different, so clean, and we are excited, too," says Manager Nicanor Gonzalez.
Ten years of construction along Second Avenue all for a shiny new subway stop - it's been tough.
"It was really slow, like 50 percent of the business," Gonzalez adds.
All the hazards of construction are almost forgotten at the sight of new pavement and better access to the subway.
"The nice change is right in front of my building, they put out trees, we had porta potties there for a few years, and the trees are much prettier," says resident Micki Avedon.
The area feels like a new neighborhood, giving business and people who live in the area plenty to celebrate.
The nearly 2-mile segment adds stations along Second Avenue at 96th, 86th and 72nd streets and a new connection to an existing subway line at 63rd Street.
Seen as crucial to alleviating congestion in the nation's biggest subway system, it is on a line expected to carry about 200,000 riders a day. The entire system transports about 5.6 million riders on an average weekday.
The city's transportation board first envisioned a Second Avenue subway in 1929, but the stock market crash and the Great Depression derailed the plan.
Ground was broken in 1972, but a fiscal crisis in the city slammed the brakes on the project again. The project finally got into high gear when major tunneling work began in 2007.
The $4.4 billion section opening Sunday was initially supposed to be completed in 2013. Delays stemmed partly from concerns about construction noise.
Next, the line is slated to expand north into East Harlem. No date has been set for starting that phase of construction.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)