Home 7 Line Extension Waiting out the 7 line and Fulton St. while pondering 2nd Ave.

Waiting out the 7 line and Fulton St. while pondering 2nd Ave.

by Benjamin Kabak

As Monday dawns, the MTA Board Committees will gear up for a full day’s worth of meetings. Despite the fact that the fare is set to rise in March, we won’t hear hand-wringing over the fare hike amounts or even new proposals as, by a few accounts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting pressure on MTA leadership to delay public announcement of any fare hikes and toll increases until after Election Day. There’s nary a mention to be found of the looming rate increases in this month’s Board materials, and usually, the MTA announces the plan in mid-October.

What’s done is done — or better yet, what’s not done isn’t done — on that front, and for now, we’ll move on to other things such as what’s up with these never-opening capital projects? October will end this week, and the Fulton St. Transit Center, once expected to open in late June, will remain shrouded in construction. This week’s Board materials offer few clues to the project’s opening. A note in a presentation to the Transit Committee states only that “the Fulton Center Opening date is currently under review” while the opening date is projected to be some time in Q4. Work started, by the way, in December of 2004.

The presentation to the Capital Program Oversight Committee offers a little bit more information. The Transit Center building contract is expected to be completed before the end of December, and it seems that only a few items remain outstanding. But a few items are enough to delay the whole thing. As the materials say, “Substantial completion of this contract has been delayed due to extended testing and commissioning and subsequent punchlist items.”

Information regarding the 7 line is even harder to find this month. The MTA isn’t offering its Board any further information on the problematic elevators and escalators that have delayed the project, and although we’ve heard February 2015 as an opening date, the latest MTA docs give the agency some leeway. Currently, revenue service is projected to begin during the first quarter of 2015 — which runs through the end of March. The one-stop subway extension was once supposed to be open by the end of 2013, the first quarter of 2014, fall 2014 and then Q4 2014, but now it seems, one way or another, we’ll wait until late winter or even early spring.

All of which brings me to the Second Ave. Subway. Construction on the three-stop East Side extension of the Q train is continuing apace, and the MTA still believes they have approximately 26 months left on this project before revenue service begins. The Board materials confidently state a December 2016 ribbon-cutting, and although a few years ago, the feds disputed this projection, the MTA has vowed to open the subway on time. That said, the MTA has also vowed to open the Fulton St. Transit Center on time and the 7 line on time. Given the betting line, wouldn’t you take the “over” on December 2016? I know I would.

On a more immediate level, though, as the MTA wants political support for its $30 billion, five-year capital plan, the agency needs to show that they can deliver something somewhere on time or at least learning why they can’t. The aspect of the Fulton St. project that’s being delayed is a fancy headhouse while, seemingly, the complicated underground work has largely wrapped; the 7 line hasn’t opened because of vent fans, inclined elevators and long escalators — hardly technology unique to New York. We won’t know what happens with Second Ave. for another 18-24 months, but whatever remains of the MTA’s capital project credibility is riding on it.

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39 comments

Larry Littlefield October 27, 2014 - 7:43 am

“The agency needs to show that they can deliver something somewhere on time or at least learning why they can’t. ”

Anyone who has had work done at home knows the answer. Contractors. They take any job they can get, and then allocate the resources where they have to. You house can be “under construction” with no one there.

Once they get the deal, the MTA is the last priority. Against the common future, everyone has rights, including rights to bid the next job, and no one has obligations. Private sector contracts are voluntary. You screw up, and you might not even get a phone call next time.

Or they rush to completion, leaving part of the work unfinished. Once the MTA calls the job finished, good luck making them repair bad work or do things left out in court. In theory the court goes against the MTA as a matter of course. It’s a state legislature cabal thing. In practice, the MTA counsel caves before it gets that far.

Penalties in the contract? They walk off the job until these are waived. Take them to court? The JV folds, and you find it has no assets. Reputational risk? They aren’t going to lose private sector jobs due to screwing the MTA. Screwing the public is assumed in those circles.

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Ryan October 27, 2014 - 8:03 am

You’re blaming the contractors here, but isn’t at least part of the problem the absurd bidding process?

If I’m getting work done on my home and the contractor walks off the job, I fire his sorry ass and hire somebody else. Or I never let it get that far to begin with because I go with the reputable company, not the guys who managed to shuffle the numbers around enough to make their bid appear to be the lowest bid.

If I’m getting work done for the public sector, though, no matter how many alarms I raise about XYZ contractor, I’m powerless to do anything except accept their bid and then bend over a barrel for them.

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Larry Littlefield October 27, 2014 - 9:31 am

The problem is simple: in a simplified, open bidding process that is hard to corrupt you an vary the price (low bidder) and try to have equal quality through detailed specifications (a legal gamers paradise) with 10,000 page bid documents.

Or hold the price steady and vary the quality, based on qualifications and the bidders proposals.

If both vary they have to be weighted. That means judgment, and that can mean either corruption or years in court.

Which is why I say bid out a low price and what is called “preliminary design,” over and over again, and don’t do anything until someone takes it with an acceptable proposal (design-build).

For the SAS Phase I (actually second half of phase I) and Rutgers-DeKalb connection, I say $2.4 billion. Increase the number gradually for inflation, but otherwise just keep bidding it. And the state needs to exempt these improvements from environmental review and the resulting cost/litigation. It did so for school construction, and for an extra lane on the LIE.

And stop waiting around for federal $. Use the federal $ for something simple like buying cars and buses.

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Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:50 pm

The weighted option works fine for dozens of other agencies around the country. Largely because the judgment of the agency board is accepted by the courts; if contractors sue, they generally get kicked to the curb by the courts.

Is there corruption in bidding? Sometimes, but if the contractors don’t do a good job, the boards get kicked to the curb by the voters, who actually seem to care about getting results.

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Phantom October 27, 2014 - 8:42 am

Other cities in the US manage to get things done.

What do they do right that NYC / NYS does not?

When was the last time a mayor / governor / other major elected official addressed the problems, much less tried to solve them?

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Spendmor Wastemor October 27, 2014 - 10:15 pm

Corrupt culture.

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AG October 28, 2014 - 7:24 pm

Really? Which city has the complicated infrastructure projects as NYC? Building a light rail line that goes 10 miles in a place with the density of White Plains doesn’t really impress me.

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adirondacker12800 October 28, 2014 - 7:33 pm

The Census Bureau says the population density of White Plains is 5,820 per square mile. There aren’t a whole lot of places in the U.S. that densely populated.

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Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:52 pm

Los Angeles should impress you. They do very large, very complicated projects very well. (“Yes, we’ll be digging through flammable tar…”)

Then there’s Boston. Their projects tend to be extremely delayed, just like in NY, but — post-Big-Dig, anyway — they do get done and they do work. (Maybe it’s post-Big-Dig reaction.)

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AG November 5, 2014 - 11:21 pm

Why would I be impressed? They get delays and over budget too?

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David October 27, 2014 - 9:02 am

I’ve said it before. We need a modern day reincarnation of Robert Moses.

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Brandon October 27, 2014 - 9:32 am

I think he was the one who started all this, his projects were often stupendously expensive, but it was in an era of much higher public investment (notably, without the follow-through to arrange ongoing maintenance).

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lawhawk October 27, 2014 - 9:20 am

It’s mind boggling that the Fulton Center isn’t yet open, and that the reasons are claimed to be elevators and escalators. These aren’t even fancy or new-to-New York equipment. They’re not even new to the MTA equipment.

So, it’s really odd that they haven’t been able to open Fulton Center, unless there’s other issues behind the scenes that are delaying the opening. Is it possible that the MTA wants to open Fulton Center with tenants in place and they’re using the delay to give time to put that in place?

Futher, there’s no reason for the tarps and coverings to be in place hiding the oculus. Seems like that’s overkill and not necessary if we’re talking finishing work and waiting on permits.

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Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:53 pm

Is there some fundamental problem with the MTA’s elevator and escalator suppliers? I know elevators are tough everywhere, but they’re not THAT tough.

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James G. October 27, 2014 - 9:37 am

Doesn’t mean it will actually happen, but the minutes from the city DOT’s Lower Manhattan
Community Meeting on 10/16 say Fulton Center building will open on November 9. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot///.....-16-14.pdf

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James G, October 27, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Yep, that info was accurate: http://www.nydailynews.com/new.....-1.1988694. Barring any setbacks, Nov. 10 it is.

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Phantom October 27, 2014 - 10:17 am

If the problem is ” only ” escalators and elevators, then open it without them for now. Presumably the highly competent workers/contractors didn’t forget to install stairs.

Install the elevators and escalators when they arrive in a year or two, if anyone thinks of it.

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Larry Littlefield October 27, 2014 - 10:37 am

The handicapped would sue.

Besides, the station is open. I guess they just don’t want to take down the plywood partitions and then put them up again.

Broader issue: all of Lower Manhattan has been a wreck since 9/11. Streets have been repeatedly torn up and replaced. Hurricane Sandy didn’t help, but basically the place was under construction for a decade before that.

The commercial activity has atrophied. Nassau Street is a shadow of what it was in the 1980s, and so is the South Street seaport. And of course J&Rs, which led the downtown renaissance, is gone.

My wife works downtown, and has been in the same spot since 1985. Since 9/11 she basically doesn’t even like to go outside. And A/C train delays are becoming more frequent toward the end of rush hour, with the platform mobbed.

The whole thing is miserable and has been for a long time.

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lawhawk October 27, 2014 - 12:00 pm

The Fulton Center platform and underground portions are pretty much already open except for the Dey Street connector. There’s work elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, but the crowds are as thick as they ever were in and around Wall Street the 9/11 Memorial/Museum, and up towards City Hall.

Where things fall short is around the Seaport, which is undergoing a major renovation and Sandy didn’t help things either.

Losing J&R is a big hit along Park Row, but that was due to changes in the electronics business more than it was about local foot traffic. Century 21 has been expanding within its footprint, and other chains are looking at downtown locations, especially with Brookfield Place and the WTC mall looking to open within the next 2 years.

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Clarke October 27, 2014 - 12:43 pm

J&R closed for an 18 month (much-needed) renovation, not forever. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04......html?_r=0

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JE October 27, 2014 - 9:41 pm

It won’t be located on Park Row, however.

http://www.billboard.com/artic.....in-october

Clarke October 28, 2014 - 9:24 am

However I believe the end goal is for them to move back to Park Row in some capacity next year, depending on your interpretation of “redevelop” http://www.ny1.com/content/new.....velop-site

Eric F October 27, 2014 - 1:13 pm

It is very difficult to find a single block in lower Manhattan that does not have some sort of loud or disruptive work occurring on at least one side. There is the New York perma-scaffolding up on virtually every block, making the narrow sidewalks all the more narrow, the streets torn up, and internal renovation, demolition and construction activity making lower Manhattan something of a permanent obstacle course.

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Larry Littlefield October 27, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Everyone thought Downtown would be paradise by now, with all the work done and all the infrastructure new. Meanwhile, construction continues. Sandy just created another round, by destroying all of Verizon’s copper phone lines in the street.

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tacony October 27, 2014 - 10:44 am

Would that be a problem as far as ADA is concerned? I’d think they can’t open the station without accessibility in place from day 1. (So the escalators and elevators can break and be out of service on day 2- ZING!)

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Nathanael November 4, 2014 - 9:54 pm

Elevators have to be in service. Escalators do not.

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George October 27, 2014 - 12:40 pm

Every time I walk by the Second Avenue subway I ask the construction workers milling about “What is it like to be working on a subway station that will not be complete within your lifetime and maybe not even within your children’s lifetimes?”

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Quirk October 27, 2014 - 2:44 pm

I won’t be surprised if the second ave. subway won’t open “on time” again. Has anyone taken a look at the MTA photos on flickr? I actually thought they were making progress on the 86th street platform until I saw a photo from 2012 that looked exactly the same.

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Jerrold October 27, 2014 - 3:48 pm

TO BEN: Somebody who I have gotten to know on Facebook has said that the Fulton Center, the PATH Hall at the WTC, and the Dey St. Passageway linking them are scheduled to all open simultaneously in December.
Do you know anything about that?

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Observer October 27, 2014 - 5:14 pm

Jerrold, The Fulton Center and Dey St. passage are supposed to open on November 10: http://www.nydailynews.com/new.....-1.1988694. (but a slight delay past that wouldn’t be surprising)
-The new WTC PATH station isn’t supposed to open until December 2015.

I’d be wary of comments you read on the WTC Progress facebook page if the person doesn’t cite a credible source.

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Jerrold October 27, 2014 - 6:24 pm

What I meant was that(according to my Facebook friend), the underground “PATH Hall” is to open in December, NOT the above-ground “dinosaur” building.

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Jerrold October 27, 2014 - 6:27 pm

P.S. The Facebook page that I go to begins with “1 WTC”.
But it also talks about OTHER WTC matters.

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lawhawk October 27, 2014 - 8:32 pm

The big temporary wall between the new mezzanine and PATH Hall is starting to get deconstructed, so you can start to see the completed work, including the staircase and ceiling, and it seems to be consistent with a December open. They’re also shifting around the temporary ramps.

It will be interesting to see how and where they open an entrance into the station. I’m figuring it’ll be from where 2WTC is located, since they’re still working on the Grand Hall.

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Jerrold October 27, 2014 - 9:10 pm

Where is the “new mezzanine”?
I can’t seem to picture the place that you are talking about.

Jerrold October 27, 2014 - 9:14 pm

In other words, I thought that the PATH Hall WILL BE the mezzanine level for the permanent PATH station.

smartone1 October 27, 2014 - 5:40 pm

The question that should be asked is how did the R train Sandy afflicted tunnels open so quickly and under budget?

What was the process? why is it when something is mission critical for the subway system that they manage to complete the task early and under budget?

and most important what lessons and strategies can be transferred to SAS phase 2 and any other new MTA construction?

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al October 28, 2014 - 11:07 am

That was emergency work, like the WTC PATH and Cortlandt St rebuild. Contractor foot dragging would had brought the ire of business and the public – and thus politicians – on their heads.

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al October 28, 2014 - 11:11 am

**Original PATH rebuild***
The Nov 2003 reopening rebuild.

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smartone October 28, 2014 - 3:30 pm

well if that is the case
then the MTA needs to figure out how to get the same performance in non emergency work .

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