Home Second Avenue Subway IEC: ‘Aggressive and unprecedented’ effort needed to open 2nd Ave Subway on time

IEC: ‘Aggressive and unprecedented’ effort needed to open 2nd Ave Subway on time

by Benjamin Kabak

The 63rd St. Station, since here in May, could see Q train service as early as December. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

If the MTA still plans to open the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway by the end of December, as the agency continues to insist it will, completion of the work will require an “aggressive and unprecedented” effort, an independent engineering consultant warned the MTA Board on Monday. For their part, MTA officials continue to say that December is not only feasible but realistic, and after years of delay, the agency has yet to push back the opening date for the project.

Word of delay isn’t exactly new. Setting aside the fact that this project was supposed to be completed three or four years ago, delays have been the theme in December, January, February, March, and April — essentially every month during which the Board has received regular updates. In May, the IEC raised a skeptical eyebrow but didn’t have additional words of warning. This month’s report lands with a bang.

As the MTA Board materials indicate, the same hot-button items are the culprits. Elevators and escalators won’t be ready for testing, and fire safety systems are lagging behind. If this sounds familiar, well, it’s why the 7 line extension opened nearly 20 months behind schedule, and it’s an issue on the Upper East Side as well. The IEC put it bluntly in its latest update:

“Initial testing activities have not kept pace with the schedule for test completion. 67% of scheduled tests were completed by the end of May. Another 1104 tests need to be completed by the end of October 2016. Should the Project experience delays in testing at the three new stations similar to that which occurred at the Lexington Ave/63rd St. Station, the December Revenue Service Date would be impacted.

The time available for testing of station equipment and rail systems requires a very aggressive and unprecedented performance of the combined MTACC and NYCT test teams.”

That last sentence is key. The MTA’s agencies are not known for cooperating with each other. Due to political inter-agency turf battles and the issues with handing over the keys from one agency to the other, MTACC is very territorial, and joint testing between Transit — the folks ultimately responsible for operating the Second Ave. Subway — and MTACC — those tasked with building it — is complicated in part by design and in part by stubbornness.

Meanwhile, both the IEC and MTA officials have thrown up red flags. The MTA keeps implementing change orders, and the IEC notes that the contractor installing communications equipment is going to miss every single upcoming deadline, putting the project’s completion at risk. Meanwhile, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu found no one working at project sites over the weekend.

None of this sounds particularly promising as June ticks to a close, but MTA officials are hewing to the party line. “There is no reason at this time to believe the project won’t open by the end of the year,” newly installed MTA communications head Beth De Falco said to the Daily News — no reason, that is, except many of them, if you believe the IEC, and a history of failing to finish projects on time.

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Nowhereman June 21, 2016 - 12:01 am

“2nd Ave Subway on time”

News at 11…

Eric June 21, 2016 - 4:14 am

Every time you think you were too cynical about the MTA’s construction progress – it eventually turns out you weren’t cynical enough.

Eric June 21, 2016 - 4:16 am

“There is no reason at this time to believe the project won’t open by the end of the year”

Yeah, except for that “unprecedented effort” bit.

Nick June 21, 2016 - 2:37 pm

“There’s no reason to believe that past or present performance is any indication of future performance”

Jeff June 21, 2016 - 6:30 am

Low voltage electrical stuff like fire alarm, communication, etc. always are the lowest priority yet always end up being the culprit for delays. Part of the reason is that generally there are more important infrastructure that need to be installed before/above them, such as ductwork

Larry Littlefield June 21, 2016 - 7:56 am

I’d rather have it open in June, with massive fines for the contractors, than have it open in December, with even more money for the contractors.

Enough is enough.

Chris June 21, 2016 - 9:55 am

Leadership at MTACC should be held accountable as well. Their projects are routinely late and well over budget.

Jeff June 21, 2016 - 10:11 am

Only if it were that easy.

Generally in cases like this both sides have plenty of skeletons in the closet. It’ll just be a giant lawsuit that the contractors will have on MTACC and vice versa, and the MTACC will probably lose out.

The issue is that so many of the qualified contractors these days play the game since it’s not profitable enough to be the lowest bidder. So they purposely do a bad job managing the project, pin the blame on the failings of the agency, and hope to win a ton of money in court for all the extra overhead they pay out as a result of the delays.

Either way riders and taxpayers lose out.

James Scully June 21, 2016 - 2:46 pm

Good point, and I concur, but your point also brings up a good reason why it just might open in December with continued work.

Eric F June 21, 2016 - 9:07 am

If the MTA is undertaking to get the escalators and elevators done, I really don’t see why the line can’t open with staircases only while the finishing work is being completed. The people the ADA is supposed to benefit won’t be incrementally hurt by the able bodied being allowed to use the line early, and the disabled could see a bit of benefit from a less crowded Lex line.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 9:27 am

The ADA doesn’t allow for such provisions. It either complies or it doesn’t.

Eric F June 21, 2016 - 9:45 am

I understand that, I’m just observing that it results in an idiotic policy.

eo June 21, 2016 - 9:45 am

One more reason why the current ADA implementation and interpretation is no good: let’s punish everyone because we cannot provide quickly enough for the few. ADA has turned from a great concept into an excuse why we cannot have anything accomplished and why it costs too much. Closed staircase entrances I am talking about you here amongst others … Lower level of Bergen stop you are in that list too …

Realistically though, on a new infrastructure build it is unlikely that they can finish everything else on time and only wait for the elevators to be delivered in a few months. There are lots of other things that they probably cannot finish on time. Delivery and installation of elevators and escalators is not the major culprit here. Most likely it is the fire protection system and then the testing and approval by the fire department.

Eric F June 21, 2016 - 10:04 am

If we were dealing with a private company, I could possibly see why you’d demand an all or nothing approach to prevent the company dragging its feet in serving loss-making customers. But this is the MTA. There is no profit motive, and they’ll be under all kinds of pressure to get the ADA finishing stuff done.

JEG June 21, 2016 - 10:20 am

Are you saying this based on your knowledge as a lawyer working on ADA matters, or directly from a lawyer knowledgeable on the requirements under the ADA for a mass transit project? And are sure that no variances or waivers can be granted by relevant federal agencies?

Roger June 21, 2016 - 11:03 pm

That is why laws are unfit to regulate today’s society.

Rob June 21, 2016 - 9:46 am

Would be interesting to know what some of those change orders are, so important that they must be made at this late date.

John-2 June 21, 2016 - 9:58 am

The Daily News also posted a story late Monday night alleging that Schiavone Construction was dragging its heels on completing the SAS project on time, including quotes from the MTA’s construction chief, Michael Horodniceanu that, specifically, no work is being done at the 86th Street station.

You can debate whether or not that’s the real problem, or if Horodniceanu knows the SAS isn’t going to meet its deadline and is planning ahead for someone to blame when the opening is pushed back to 2017. But Horodniceanu did go on record here about Schiavone so the claims aren’t from ‘anonymous sources’ as with many other cases where the accuser doesn’t want to have to stand by his or her statements. That tends to give a little more validity to his accusation that the company is willfully delaying completion of the project (though — based on past MTA actions — Schaivone will probably still end up with the contract to rehab the 14th Street tunnel in a few years…..)

Tower18 June 21, 2016 - 10:50 am

Schiavone probably has, like all contractors large and small, overbooked themselves, and in all likelihood, the private work they’re doing has substantial consequences for failure to complete on schedule, but the work with the MTA does not. It’s not hard to figure out why they’re absent from the site.

Larry Littlefield June 21, 2016 - 2:38 pm


mfs June 22, 2016 - 11:10 am


JEG June 21, 2016 - 10:25 am

I walked by the 86th Street stop on Sunday and saw nothing going on…

I walk by the new 72nd Street station daily, and while progress is visible, the ventilation towers at 69th and 72nd Streets are far from complete, and the entrances are still raw concrete, so its hard to imagine that they are only six months from completion.

John Doe June 21, 2016 - 11:01 am

Why are we being punished for the needs of the few!!?? Majority rules, I’m sorry for the crippled but we’re being held hostage by the ADA. It should be amended or repealed.

Eric F June 21, 2016 - 11:17 am

I appreciate the sarcasm, but not every good idea has to be enshrined in a federal mandate, and it’s eminently possible for regulatory compliance to lead to counterproductive results.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 12:18 pm

Why are we being punished for the needs of the few!!?? Majority rules, I’m sorry for the crippled but we’re being held hostage by the ADA.

You maybe one of those who are crippled some day & will need what the ADA offers. And if the majority rules as you state, “the 1% wouldn’t be running roughshot the way they are currently right now & you know it.

The ADA has been altered in a few ways – most notably when it comes to employment. The supreme court ruled a few years ago on a case regarding a pilot who had 20/200 vision who applied to UAL. Durring this application process, UAL implemented a vision requirement of 20/100 causing an automatic denial of employment. The ruling allows employers to put in artificial employment barriers if they so choose.

Eric F June 21, 2016 - 2:01 pm

If I was crippled and needed the ADA, why would I want the MTA to delay the opening of the second avenue subway while it proceeded to install elevators? So long as the MTA was doing the elevator work on a pace otherwise unchanged, how would leaving the line empty and unopened help me as a cripple?

Good point on hiring blind pilots, we need more of those pronto.

AMM June 21, 2016 - 4:26 pm

Was the 20/200 corrected or uncorrected?

My vision has been 20/400 uncorrected for most of my life, but I still can safely drive.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 4:53 pm

As I remember the 20/200 was corrected. Also the 20/100 provision didn’t exist prior to this job applicant & it held up under the supreme court on the basis that an employer can make ANY decisions they want on hiring & in this case, the application of vision was at it’s least impacted state.

The outcome of this decision gave employers an out in hiring those with disabilities. As long as a person with a disability is interviewed & the disability is NOT the stated reason for passing on that applicant, the employer is clear from discrimination liability.

Firing applies in a similar manner.

Nick June 21, 2016 - 3:26 pm

Most people with disabilities don’t appreciate able-bodied people using the word ‘crippled’ like that.

I don’t know if you’re trying to disrespect people with disabilities out of frustrations with the ADA, but its possible to criticize a law without disrespecting anyone or disregarding the people it was intended to help.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 4:32 pm

Thank you.

As someone who has low vision I have a real problem with those who show contempt for people with disabilities. Oddly enough some of the worst offenders are the social workers & other so called professionals who are trained to assist those who have such needs. The realities on the job never match what is taught in textbooks & some just aren’t able to rap there heads around such an easy concept.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 8:38 pm

I should add that there are some really good organizations out there serving the disabled community. One of these organizations is Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center in Madison CT. They serve a wide range of needs, but do have a focus on those with autism.

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 8:46 pm
AMM June 21, 2016 - 4:35 pm

Most of us are “the few” in some respect or other.

My concern about the elevators put in for ADA compliance is that there is no redundancy and they are without exception too unreliable for anyone to depend upon if they can’t get by (in a pinch) without them.

At several points in my recent life, I’ve had enough trouble walking (and especially using stairs) that I’ve needed to use the elevators. I’d say in something like one in ten trips at least one elevator has been non-functional. Fortunately, I _was_ able to negotiate stairs, though only slowly and with considerable pain. If I had been wheelchair-bound, I would have been just plain stuck as surely as if there’d been a cave-in.

A question: what does the MTA do if they have a wheelchair-bound passenger trying to leave a station where the elevator doesn’t work? Do they just have to ride around looking for one where it does? Or does the MTA send someone out to lug them and their wheelchair up/down stairs?

SEAN June 21, 2016 - 5:01 pm

Good question. I really cant give a satisfactory answer.

John June 21, 2016 - 3:27 pm

How is Horodniceanu suddenly surprised no work is being done? At this point, he should have been on site in the under construction stations monitoring the work full time. Clearly getting the SAS done is his first, second and third priority at this point. He can’t actually monitor the work sitting at his desk in MTA HQ. Having someone of his stature there on site would also help speed resolution of inter-agency squabbles and subcontractor issues without having to wait for it to wind it’s way up the chain of command.

John June 21, 2016 - 3:36 pm


I also wonder whether the MTA was paying for hours worked while nobody was there on that Saturday. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

I’m not someone to say everything is better in the private sector, but having worked on some rushes to complete major projects, there’s no way a senior manager wouldn’t be around all the time monitoring things, if only just to shorten the time to make decisions. When Apple is rushing to finish the latest iPhone in time for Christmas, the manager in charge doesn’t pop in to check on the engineers once every few weeks.

John-2 June 21, 2016 - 6:54 pm

Horodniceanu could have been devoting his time to East Side Access, which in terms of delays makes the SAS look like it’s running on a precession time schedule. That’s doesn’t excuse the work not being done, but he might have assumed Schaivone was going to be staffing all three stations and got sandbagged when they tried to sneak taking Saturday off at 86th Street past him.

smotri June 23, 2016 - 8:53 am

The photo of the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station says it all: already falling apart, and the 2nd Avenue subway isn’t even running yet. Pathetic.


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