Archive for Second Avenue Subway
It’s hard to believe — and most long-time New Yorkers still won’t believe it until the revenue service date — that the Second Ave. Subway is finally on the horizon, but it is. Today, the MTA reached a milestone as it awarded the final contract for Phase 1 of the project. For a cool $208,376,000, the 86th Street Constructors Joint Venture will complete the station finishes, mechanical, electrical and plumbing work, ancillary buildings and entrances for the 86th Street Station.
This award is in line with a similar one awarded for the 72nd St. station site earlier this year, and MTA officials are pleased as punch. “We’ve reached the final mile marker for this legendary project and can now see the finish line for Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway. This is a great milestone for the MTA and for all New Yorkers,” Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, said in a statement.
With the $4.45 billion project now approximately 42 months away, the only questions surrounding it involve the future of the entire Second Ave. Subway line. Phase 1 is priced out, awarded and well under way. When do we get started on Phase 2?
For over two years, multi-story structures along Second Ave. called muck houses have protected Upper East Side buildings and residents from exposure to substantial dirt and debris from subway construction. Now, with work moving ahead slowly but surely, the MTA has unveiled a timeline for the removal of these structures, according to today’s amNew York.
According to the article, the 72nd St. muckhouse will be dismantled by the end of August with the 69th St. structure to follow later this fall. The same structures at 86th St. will disappear next summer. Those are already two stories shorter as the MTA’s experiences at 72nd St. allowed them to build more efficiently at 86th. If anything, this institutional memory and learning process is another argument for continuing subway construction underneath Second Ave. long before SAS Phase 1 wraps in 2016.
While some Upper East Siders complain in the article about these structures’ effects on traffic, others have begrudgingly accepted them. “If a New Yorker cannot tolerate something as simple as this, they’re not a New Yorker,” James Kiss said. “We want progress, we expect progress.” Progress — in the form of a new subway line — cannot arrive soon enough.
AMC’s Mad Men is one of those distinctive New York City shows that’s captured the imagination of the nation. I haven’t been a regular viewer in a few seasons for a variety of reasons, but I’ll follow along now and then. During Sunday night’s episode, my Twitter mentions exploded during one season in particular as our favorite soon-to-be-existing subway line garnered a wink and a nod.
In the scene, which you can view here, Peggy Olson is checking out an apartment on York and 84th St., and she’s concerned that it’s too far away from the subway. Her broker tries to seal the hard sell: “Believe me, when they finish the Second Avenue subway, this apartment will quadruple in value.”
Get it? It’s 2013, and there’s still no Second Ave. Subway. Across the country, many viewers just moved on from the line, but New Yorkers nodding knowingly. Don’t get your hopes up, Peggy. You’ll be 77 before the Second Ave. Subway actually starts serving the Upper East Side.
To me, the scene struck a few chords. First, Peggy’s blight brings up a related issue I’ve touched upon in the past: When the Second Ave. Subway opens in approximately 43 months, it will bring up real estate prices from Second Ave. eastward. All of a sudden, York and East End Avenue residents will be a significantly shorter walk to the subway, and businesses will see increased pedestrian flow. Even those prickly residents at Yorkshire Towers might find the subway in their driveway to be a convenience, and the disruptions from construction will recede into the past.
Second, I wondered about its historical accuracies. Would people in April of 1968 been talking about the Second Ave. Subway and its construction? Already, the city had tried to build the subway and failed. It had been included in the 1930s-era Second System plans and an aborted construction effort in the 1950s left the city needing the line. In late 1967 and early 1968, political forces aligned behind an effort to kickstart construction, and a $2.9 billion transportation plan unveiled in February 1968 included the Second Ave. line. Funded hadn’t been identified, and work had yet to start. But a real estate agent could have used ongoing momentum to push the apartment.
Fast forward 45 years, and we’re still awaiting. That’s why the Mad Men joke worked. But what of the actual subway construction itself? Last week, the MTA announced that the giant muck houses at 72nd St. and 69th St. would be removed as blasting has been completed, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney celebrated the progress. “With the muck houses coming down and the final contract out for bid, the Second Avenue Subway is fast becoming a reality,” she said in a statement. “These milestones are major steps forward for a project that will bring relief to commuters who need a better way to reach their destinations.”
I’m sure Peggy, though, has long since given up that East Side apartment and hopes of a subway line coming to rescue her. As a long-time New Yorker, she’s probably adopted the attitude of many: They’ll believe in the Second Ave. Subway when it exists. The home stretch nears.
When the residents of Yorkshire Towers again filed suit against the MTA a few weeks ago, I cast a skeptical eye on their actions. The suit was remarkably similar to one that had been dismissed a few years ago. Only this time, the fact pattern hit upon subsequent meetings, and the provisions cited in the filing were from a different subparagraph of the law in question. The federal judge hearing the case is not amused by the similarities.
As Law360.com’s Richard Vanderford reported today (subscription only), U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman has threatened Joseph Ceccarelli, the residents’ attorney, with sanctions for potentially filing a “totally frivolous” lawsuit. Vanderford wrote:
Ceccarelli, who represents tenants, says the entrance has not gone through the proper environmental approval process. Another federal judge, U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa, threw out similar claims in late 2011. Ceccarelli sued again in March, checking off a box on the cover page that said that he had never filed a similar suit, which meant the new case went to a new judge. Judge Furman said similar cases are supposed to go to the same judge, to prevent judge shopping.
“I am seriously contemplating the imposition of sanctions here on the grounds that the answer to that question was just false,” Judge Furman said. “Can you look at me in the eye and say this is not similar to the case filed before Judge Griesa?”
Ceccarelli said the new suit differed because his claim was based on a different subparagraph of the environmental law at issue.
Wednesday’s hearing was supposed to be about whether the judge would issue a court order blocking construction from going forward, but Judge Furman said he would consider the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s request to throw out the suit before handling any injunction request. If Ceccarelli loses again and the case is dismissed, the sanctions process will start and Ceccarelli will have to explain why he does not deserve that penalty, the judge said. “We don’t have to get there yet,” the judge said. “I’m just warning you that’s coming down the pike if I grant the motion.”
Sanctions would be a fitting end for this saga as Yorkshire Towers has now twice tried to stop subway construction over concerns surrounding their curb-cut driveway that fronts East 86th Street. It’s a direct NIMBY attack on a transit benefit that will provide great benefits to the neighborhood, and the second suit, coming two years after the first was dismissed, should be found of no merit.
A little over two years ago, a group of Upper East Siders who live in the Yorkshire Towers building filed suit against the MTA over the location of the planned entrances for the Second Ave. Subway’s 86th St. subway station. The suit was eventually dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations had run out, but that has not deterred these residents. Last week — for the third time — the same building filed essentially the same lawsuit, and with a little over three years of construction remaining on the project, the suit is yet another obstacle.
At issue are two station entrances where one had been originally planned. At first, the Second Ave. Subway’s 86th St. station was to be at the northeast corner, but MTA engineers determined that the building that would have hosted the station could not do so safely. So the MTA proposed two entrances on 86th St. surrounding Yorkshire Towers’ driveway. The MTA produced a Supplemental Environmental Assessment that showed how relocating the entrances would have no adverse impact on the neighborhood, and the residents threw a fit.
Putting forward a bunch of safety arguments I believed were bogus two years ago, Yorkshire Towers claimed the two entrances would create safety hazards due to the driveway. It reeked of classic NIMBYism. Here is a building on the tony Upper East Side with a mid-block, U-shaped driveway arguing that two subway entrances — both of which point away from the active driveway — would be more dangerous than not. If they are that concerned with pedestrian safety, maybe we should just shutter their driveway entirely.
But that’s neither here nor there. How, you may be wondering, can the same plaintiff be filing the same suit requesting the same relief as they did two years ago when their suit was dismissed? If you’re tempted to say they can’t, well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but with the right lawyers and today’s pleadings standards, anything is possible. This time around, the complaint clocks in at 70 pages — lengthy and dull but shorter than the one from two years ago. It has few real answers.
Essentially, the building’s argument rests on the fact that at a few meetings the plaintiffs requested, the MTA wasn’t accepting of the Yorkshire Towers’ own engineering assessments. MTA Capital Construction officials dismissed their findings outright, and now it appears as though Yorkshire Towers is again claiming that the MTA’s own assessments were faulty while trying to reset the statute of limitations from the time of the building’s last meetings with the MTA. It’s a rather nifty legal sleight of hand, but it shouldn’t lead to a different outcome.
The biggest issue now — as it was two years ago — is that the MTA’s actions weren’t outside the bounds of the agency’s authority. When it decided to move the entrances, the agency performed the studies required of it by federal law. It filed the findings according to proper procedure and were granted the ability to change the design. Just because some people don’t like the conclusion doesn’t mean it’s wrong as a matter of law.
And so we’ll go through this again. The MTA’s answer to the complaint is due soon, and the agency is sure to deny the claims. Maybe the judge will dismiss, but if this case survives, the looming construction work may have to be delayed or revised. At that point, everyone in the city will pay the price, and not just some folks concerned with their mid-block driveway.
After the jump, read the complaint. Read More→
On Tuesday night, Joseph Barone found himself in a life threatening situation as he trapped in a pit of mud and freezing water in the Second Ave. Subway construction site, 100 feet below street level. For first responders and construction crews, danger similar to that Barone faced has been rare during this subway project as safety has increased over the past century. When the city first built the IRT, 16 workers died, but for the SAS extension, no one has lost a life yet. Tuesday was, in fact, the closest we’ve come to a fatality so far.
Today, The Times goes underground to profile the Barone rescue mission. The worker found himself stuck in mud and pinned beneath plywood as his co-workers struggled to improvise. Using a rig, they braced Barone; using a ConEd suction cup, they tried to clear the mud. Meanwhile, the hours ticked away.
After four hours, Barone was freed, but he suffered ligament damage and hypothermia. One firefighter involved got stuck in the same muck and broke an arm. Two others suffered minor injuries, but all four are expected to make a full recovery. The photos we see of the construction sites are breathtaking, but there’s a human element involved. These workers put themselves at risk every day, and on Tuesday, one narrowly escaped. [The New York Times]
A worker at 2nd Ave. and 95th St. is trapped in mud at the Second Ave. Subway construction site, according to multiple reports. As NBC New York reports, “The worker has been stuck in what firefighters at the scene described as ‘muck’ from the waist down inside a trench about 75 feet below street level at 95th Street and 2nd Avenue. The 911 call was placed at about 8:40 p.m.”
According to recent reports, crews are attempting to, according to PIX 11, use “hands, buckets and small tools to keep the man from slipping deeper into the muck.” While the worker’s condition is unknown, he has since been anchored by a series of ropes and will not be further trapped in the muck. As of 30 minutes ago, the vacuum truck was still on the way. I’ll update this post as more information comes in.
With approximately 45 months to go before Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway is ready for revenue service, the MTA has a status update for infrastructure watchers. A new photoset documents the station cavern excavation process at 86th St. With the lawsuit surrounding station entrances resolved, work has been steadily moving forward.
Meanwhile, for residents around the 72nd St. area — where giant structures loom over the avenue — a relief from blasting has arrived. The MTA officially proclaimed blasting in the area over as of last Thursday. The final charged was for an elevator entrance at the southeast corner of 72nd St. and 2nd Ave. As you may recall, an explosion went awry in the area last August.
Finally, in a piece of less optimistic Second Ave. Subway news, the federal government’s sequester could impact the project. As Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog DC wrote recently, the FTA’s New Starts program could lose around five percent of its funding, and some of that money has been earmarked for the Second Ave. Subway. It’s unclear what, if any, impact such a cut could have on this project, but by now, we’re at the point of no return. Phase 1 will happen, and it’s time to start thinking about Phase 2 and beyond.
As the Second Ave. Subway ambles ever onward to a late-2016 revenue service date, updates these days have become few and far between. Sandhogs are hard at work far below the city’s surface, but the headline-grabbing stuff — tunnel-boring machine breakthroughs, street-level explosions — aren’t nearly as frequent any longer. Life just goes on.
Recently, the MTA provided us a photo update of construction progress, and we can see a subway taking shape. As these images remind us of the scope of the project, every now and then, reality intervenes in the form of a price tag. Late last week, the MTA announced a contract award of $258 million for “station finishes, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, ancillary buildings and entrances” for only the 72nd Street state.
We’ve reached a point in the lifespan of sticker shock where I’m not even surprised such a contract cost so much. With the Bleecker St. renovations clocking in at over $125 million, perhaps a $258 million finishes contract is downright cheap. Still, until we as a city and the MTA as an organization gets a better handle on costs, subway construction will be slow and frustrating.
When you really stop to think about it, what’s happening on a day-to-day basis beneath Second Ave. is truly quite impressive. Despite the massively high costs, the slow pace of construction and the fact that all we’re getting is a two-track subway extension, we’re allowed to marvel at the sheer size of the caverns being dug out underneath the Upper East Side and the scope of the engineering work.
I haven’t been inside the work site at Second Ave. in a while, but the MTA’s own Patrick Cashin took a trip there recently. He shared his photos on Flickr, and while it’s tough to capture the enormity of the work in one photograph, his images allow us to see how things are progressing. We see the walls at 72nd Street coming into view and platform areas taking shape.
My favorite shots are those of the work in progress at 63rd St. So many subway riders used the F train at that station and had no idea that a semi-completed platform and set of active tracks were behind the false wall. We can see the tracks and third rail ready for further use. We can see parts of the platform already in revenue service. We can see new staircases and an idle F train.
So take a glimpse through the full set. It’s a great bit of infrastructure porn, and with no promise of funding for future phases any time soon, it may just be the last subway extension in progress for quite some time.