The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #10
August Belmont, Jr. (1853 – 1924)
One of the most important and integral ingredients of a great city’s infrastructure is a good public transit system. Cities are made more walkable by public transportation and the reduction of individual cars. New York has the largest subway train system in the world. And for that, we must thank August Belmont, Jr., banker, financier, sportsman, and native Manhattanite. Belmont, who also built the famous racetrack that now bears his name, was the founder and chief financier of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. Incorporated in 1902, the IRT was in charge of the first subway trains to provide service in New York City when the system opened on October 27, 1904 (112 years ago today). Proud of his achievement, Belmont became the only person ever to have his own purpose-built private subway car. He named it the Mineola, decorated it like an Orient Express parlor car, hitched it to the back of subway trains and used it to give tours of the IRT. Eventually, the city took over subway operations and consolidated the IRT with its chief competitor, the BMT (Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit) and later the IND (Independent Subway). Today, the system Belmont pioneered over a century ago has a ridership of nearly 6-million per week.
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