Living in the Upper East Side’s blast zoneBy
Residents of 1873 Second Ave., shown here at left next to the now-vacant Century Lumber lot, will have to be relocated for a month to accommodate subway construction. (Photo courtesy of Ben Heckscher/The Launch Box)
Building a subway through densely-populated neighborhoods replete with old buildings and infrastructure is no small feat. Construction involves digging and blasting, detours and street closures, and New Yorkers will still be waiting at least six and a half more years before just Phase I of the Second Ave. Subway is open for revenue service.
Over the last few months, as crews have nearly finished readying the tunnel boring machine’s launch box, we’ve heard a lot about life in the blasting zone. Just last week, Upper East Siders started to bemoan the late, loud blasts, and while the MTA maintained that all blasting was to wrap before 8 p.m., subsequent trips to the launch box site by Ben Heckscher of The Launch Box revealed otherwise. It’s loud; it’s dirty; it’s disruptive; it’s the slow march of transit progress as it tears up and then repairs a neighborhood.
Yet, for millions of New Yorkers, Second Ave. Subway constructive remains just an idea. We live and work far from the construction zones and do not see businesses struggling to compete with construction. Two recent bits of writing — one a news story and the other a narrative — help to shed some light on life in the blast zone.
We start with a report from The Real Deal. The MTA has informed the residents of 1873 Second Ave., a property on the west side of the avenue between 96th and 97th Sts., that they will have to be temporarily relocated for one month as the agency works to shore up the building. Next door, at the former site of the Century Lumber Co. building, the MTA will soon start work on a ventilation shaft.
The MTA in a letter says that it will pay the full cost of relocation and will attempt to do so with “as little disruption as possible.” Still, for Upper East Side residents, this is no small move. “This is devastating,” one anonymous tenant said to The Real Deal. “I don’t want to move. If I move it would have to be for good and I can’t afford that. I have been in this apartment for 10 years and have always paid my rent and I just can’t believe something like this could happen. I heard about things like this happening in Brooklyn, but never thought it could happen to me.” Not everyone, it seems, understands the costs of living on a subway construction site or the fact that the MTA will foot the entire bill.
For those who aren’t moving, though, the blasting — loud, disruptive, scary — has altered life along Second Ave. In a narrative about raising a family in a construction zone set to last for 10 years, Lisa Lawrence of the Upper East Side Moms blog writes about her young son’s reaction to the blasting. On a night of particularly loud blasting as the MTA started horizontal blasting that readies the launch box for the TBM, she writes, “my little guy came running out of his bed into our bed, scared out of his mind! My older two were very nervous and uneasy. After-all, we had begun to get used to the blasting and now this extraordinary boom?!?! My poor little ones. I am almost 31 years old, and I was scared out of my noodle! Imagine what they felt like!”
Buildings shake; businesses close; dust rises and settles; life goes on, stranger than it did for this out-of-the-way corner of the Upper East Side five years ago. One person summed it up best to Heather Haddon. Said Mike Borak, “The neighborhood would be great if it wasn’t for this.”
After the jump, video of a recent blast, recorded at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, March 19. It too comes to us via The Launch Box.