Home Brooklyn Another delay mars Smith-9th rehab project

Another delay mars Smith-9th rehab project

by Benjamin Kabak

The Smith/9th Sts. station features new windscreens but no passengers quite yet. (Photo via the Second Ave. Sagas Instagram account)

Soaring above the Gowanus Canal, nearly 90 feet above the ground, the Culver Viaduct offers sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and, for years, a glimpse into the city’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. Sheathed in black wrapping to protect against failing waterproofing and crumbling concrete, the Viaduct is currently undergoing massive renovations that have left a significant portion of Red Hook without nearby subway service.

When the MTA first announced the Culver Viaduct rehab in 2007, plans called for a completion by the end of 2012. Well, here we are at the end of 2012, and the end is nowhere in sight. Over the course of the project, various pieces came and went. At one point, money for a full rehab for the 4th Ave. station disappeared, but local politicians were able to rescue most aspects of that plan. It was seemingly business as usual for an MTA capital project.

After various delays too tedious to chart here, the MTA shuttered Smith-9th Sts. in June of 2011 with a promise to reopen it in March of 2012. Nine months later, the MTA can say only that the station will open sometime during the first quarter of 2013, placing the station rehabilitation project one year overdue. Some reports in local Brooklyn media indicated that the station may not open until April. Those reports, however, have confused the project completion date with the station reopening. The two are not the same as the station can reopen before the entire project at Smith/9th is complete.

Meanwhile, the Culver Viaduct rehab witnessed another bump in cost by around $8 million. The MTA Board approved a retroactive modification to one of the project’s contracts for work on the 10th St. wall between 4th and 5th Avenues. The tale told in the modification plan is a warning for the rest of our infrastructure. It reads:

During a pre-award survey, some deterioration due to water leaks was observed, but the condition of the wall was determiend to be safe, and due to budget constraints, was not included in the contract scope. However, after contract award, during regular maintenance inspections, Subways observed further deterioration and by concrete core testing determined that the wall was in severely deteriorated condition and required extensive repair.

If that’s not a warning, I don’t know what is. A visual inspection can yield only so many details, and the MTA’s subsequent determination speak to the state of much of our outdoor subway system. We simply cannot afford to defer maintenance and repair stations, tunnels and supporting walls on the cheap.

Meanwhile, work will go on and on and on. Some of the delay at Smith/9th is attributable to the diversion of resources after Superstorm Sandy, but some of it isn’t. One day soon, Red Hook will have its subway stop back, and we’ll be left wondering what took so long. It’s the age-old MTA capital program question.

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54 comments

Anon December 21, 2012 - 9:52 am

I hope those Petco ads pay well, because they sure are annoying.

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Benjamin Kabak December 21, 2012 - 9:58 am

…what PETCO ads?

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 11:34 am

Maybe Anon meant Petco (the animal supply company).

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 12:06 pm

If the MTA finished the viaduct project before it finished its CBTC installation, the work would go so much faster. As it is, it looks like the project won’t be finished until 2015…

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 12:08 pm

Oops, looks like I was supposed to post this in an entirely new thread. My mistake…

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Anon December 21, 2012 - 10:12 am

The floating survey boxes that pop up in front of your articles. I like your content, it’s just hard to read it when I can’t see it.

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Benjamin Kabak December 21, 2012 - 10:15 am

I haven’t seen those. I’ll have to address that with my ad server.

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 12:46 pm

It doesn’t happen to me either

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Jerrold December 21, 2012 - 7:02 pm

Sometimes, weird things happen on this site with ads.
I used to get ads for private jets, as if somebody in that business thinks I’m rich.

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 8:48 pm

The browser extension Adblock solves the problem.

Benjamin Kabak December 22, 2012 - 12:46 am

And kills the meager revenue I get from the advertising.

Someone December 22, 2012 - 2:19 am

Well, at least I don’t use it yet…

Alex C December 22, 2012 - 3:09 pm

Got it disabled on this site since there’s no annoying ads.

Nathanael December 30, 2012 - 3:58 pm

Sorry ’bout the ad revenue, Ben, I use noscript. (I spend too much time visiting fishy sites to turn it off. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m weird.)

I allow scripts from your site, but that doesn’t activate the ads. It’s too bad all the ad programs use offsite scripting; if there were something more plain-html, I’d leave the ads running.

LLQBTT December 23, 2012 - 9:07 am

I’ve seen targeted ads, but not those that float over the page and get in the way.

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Alex C December 21, 2012 - 10:17 am

The lack of progress with the 4 Ave station exterior renovations isn’t inspiring either. That arch is never getting finished. This may be partially because every time crews clean up the tower rooms above the northbound platform, vandal scum immediately cover them in ugly squiggly nonsense within a few days.

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SEAN December 21, 2012 - 10:25 am

I get The Sims, Katy plays any way she wants as my ad.

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Larry Littlefield December 21, 2012 - 10:32 am

“We simply cannot afford to defer maintenance and repair stations, tunnels and supporting walls on the cheap.”

That “we” doesn’t include people who drive everywhere and are planning to retire to Florida soon and leave the city indebted and in ruins again. Which includes most of the political class.

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Frank B December 23, 2012 - 3:22 am

Get real. That isn’t happening again. You should worry more about ‘No New York Left For New Yorkers,’ a book I’m writing about the ugly side of gentrification and increasing black flight.

I don’t think we have to worry about running out of people; I think we just have to worry about running out of the individuals that make New York the New York we all know and love.

If one more person says “No Worries” to me, I’ll scream…

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AG December 23, 2012 - 6:51 pm

Frank B. – it’s not just NY… African-Americans have been increasingly leaving Chicago – Los Angeles – Philadelphia etc. and moving to the southeast for about 2 decades now…. Really it’s moving “back” as it’s the “great migration” in reverse.
Everything goes in cycles in cities. Once upon a time Hunts Point in the Bronx was full of estates for the rich… and now it’s the poorest area on one half – and industrial on the other.

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Nathanael December 27, 2012 - 2:00 am

The political class is actually ancient. I think Larry may be right. Even though nobody under the age of 60 is driving everywhere or planning to retire to Florida, have you seen how archaic most of our fossilized politicos are?

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AG December 23, 2012 - 6:56 pm

Yeah – and even in NJ – after Christie’s pension reforms – the fund may still go broke. Many ppl don’t realize how big a deal those coming obligations are.

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MF December 21, 2012 - 10:53 am

Why wouldn’t they focus first on the station, platform, and escalators in order to get the station reopened and then all the rest? I know this is “to be expected” but the perpetuating extensions and screw ups are so frustrating. Lame

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John-2 December 21, 2012 - 11:02 am

The ‘metal only’ elevated sections of the system seem to have less hidden maintenance problems than the concrete-encased sections, based on the fun over the years with the Culver viaduct and the Queens Blvd. viaduct on the 7. Pop a rivet on an elevated section where the metal is exposed to the world and it’s absence is visible to inspectors — in contrast, the concrete, while making for a more elegant and quieter above-ground line, also serves to hide potential flaws.

It’s not a fatal problem as long as preventive maintenance inspections and funding is maintained, but once you start cutting back, the hidden flaws are easier to ignore until the critical failure point is reached. Fixing those and finding others you weren’t expecting may be why it seems like the concrete section rehabs take so long to get completed.

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Frank B December 21, 2012 - 10:59 pm

Excellent point.

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Nathanael December 30, 2012 - 3:59 pm

Hidden seems to be the key point here. I don’t think the concrete is actually less reliable, but the maintenance problems get hidden. This is certainly a problem.

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D in B December 21, 2012 - 11:48 am

Corruption, corruption, and more corruption…

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David Brown December 21, 2012 - 12:34 pm

We can call Smith & 9th St, the Broadway Lafayette Project Part Deaux. When it was not finished in early December, it became a logical assumption to figure that this project would not be finished until the Spring (Or MORE than a year after it was promised). Why? Because this is the single highest point on the Subway System, and winter is coming. Thus issues like high winds, snow, cold & safety must be taken into account. I suspect they will add a few extra goodies (Such as making the arch look better), to molify the MTA critics and community activists, and when the Viaduct is finally finished, Smith & 9th St will reopen.

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DGR December 21, 2012 - 12:59 pm

Why do you call it the “Culver” viaduct? The Culver portion of the current F line is after Ditmas Ave.

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Benjamin Kabak December 21, 2012 - 1:04 pm

Because the actual name of the structure that passes above ground from just south of Carroll St. to just east of 4th Ave. is called the Culver Viaduct. See here or here.

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Alex C December 21, 2012 - 6:35 pm

It is rather odd they call it that. Also, are you able to ask the MTA PR folks about the 4 Ave station arch renovations? Those seem to be at a standstill for a year now.

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 10:05 pm

Then, every time the MTA cleans the arch up, the bloody vandalism will keep on appearing.

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DGR December 22, 2012 - 2:46 pm

Well, I guess we have lost the battle to preserve the BMT legacy. “Culver” was of course a prominant promoter of the original Culver surface line along McDonald Ave., this was the route of the BMT Culver line from Dual Contracts. The IND portion was never called Culver. “Gowanus Viaduct” is geographically and historically correct.

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Frank B December 23, 2012 - 3:25 am

Yes, but now the IND Brooklyn Line has been connected, and has absorbed the name of the BMT Culver Line for over 55 Years. Let’s not make a Triborough out of this.

IND Culver Line it always shall be!

(And BMT Culver South of Church Ave.)

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 1:49 pm

That’s the name of the viaduct. It isn’t going to be called the “Crosstown viaduct” or “6 Avenue viaduct”, right?

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Alex C December 21, 2012 - 6:39 pm

I’d call it the Gowanus viaduct.

This actually brings up a slight issue. For future express service, the MTA would need to figure this out if they have trains run express south or north of Church Ave or both. Showing CULVER EXP but running express Jay to Church only would be rather inaccurate. Technically, that would be a CROSSTOWN EXP…but that would just be confusing as Crosstown is accepted as only being the G’s solo route. So I propose: “GOWANUS EXP” signage for a Jay-Church express service.

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 8:51 pm

The MTA says that they’re going to install CBTC on one of the Culver line express tracks. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be the southbound express track, so all peak direction express service, northbound or southbound, would have to be on the northbound express track.

Even if the viaduct was officially known as Gowanus Viaduct, there aren’t going to be any rollsigns showing up for “GOWANUS EXP” anytime soon.

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Alex C December 22, 2012 - 12:39 am

I remember looking over the powerpoint presentation and I’m pretty sure it was the northbound express track between Church and 4 Ave that’s getting CBTC installed. As for GOWANUS EXP, I only suggest that to make it more clear on where an F (or V) train would be running express in Brooklyn.

Someone December 22, 2012 - 2:21 am

The MTA says the installation will be on the B3 (southbound) express track. Which pretty much kills any chance of express service in the near future.

Justin Samuels December 22, 2012 - 4:14 pm

The entire F line in Brooklyn, where BMT or IND is now referred to as Culver Line. That’s just how it is.

Nathanael December 27, 2012 - 2:02 am

The MTA doesn’t seem to understand how to install CBTC. Hire some signal engineers, guys.

Someone December 21, 2012 - 1:48 pm

Is this being done in conjunction with the modernization of the 4th Avenue interlocking? If it is, then that’s probably why this project is delayed so far back.

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Epson45 December 21, 2012 - 6:28 pm

No, it is the contractor’s fault that is being held the delay on reopen the station. MTA was under the rock after they did not meet the dates.

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Epson45 December 21, 2012 - 6:35 pm

Um, MTA CPOC report, page 59. They are projecting April, not March. But I really dont even trust MTA’s completion dates.

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Someone December 21, 2012 - 10:11 pm

There’s a lot of CPOC reports on the website.

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Epson45 December 22, 2012 - 11:03 am

The latest report, December 2012.

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Weekend work impacting just one subway line :: Second Ave. Sagas December 22, 2012 - 12:45 am

[…] « Another delay mars Smith-9th rehab project Dec […]

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LLQBTT December 23, 2012 - 9:09 am

After reading something this like this, I’m always left to wonder what part of our infrastructure is just going to break and kill people along the way. Can you say West Side Highway?

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Peter December 23, 2012 - 4:19 pm

When they originally closed the station they were going to reopen it Spring 2012 with service only to Manhattan, the platform to go further into Brooklyn was going to be closed for another six months or so. Any idea if they will reopen it with service in both directions, or is it still going to be only partly finished?

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Someone December 31, 2012 - 6:47 am

No, I believe that both sides will reopen at the same time.

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paulb December 24, 2012 - 12:40 am

I’ve recently finished an interesting (believe it or not) book called “Concrete Planet.” It explains not only the disappointingly short life span of reinforced concrete structures, but problems with “high-strength concrete cements” that came into use in the ’30s. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Culver Viaduct and other subway structures are examples of this vulnerability. I hope NYT is climbing this learning curve.

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Nathanael December 30, 2012 - 4:00 pm

I would like to know more about this, but I’m feeling too cheap to buy the book right now….

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MF March 21, 2013 - 10:07 am

I wonder when they are going to announce that it’s been pushed again. Though the station construction is moving along (turnstiles are there, signs are up, elevator bank sides are going up) I just can’t see how it will be complete by end of April.

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Transit finally announces late April opening for Smith-9th Streets :: Second Ave. Sagas March 21, 2013 - 11:04 pm

[…] not quite the first quarter of 2013, but it will have to do. Barring an earthquake, alien invasion, Godzilla or some other act of God, […]

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