Home MTA Politics ‘Pay no attention to the bad Second Ave. subway news’

‘Pay no attention to the bad Second Ave. subway news’

by Benjamin Kabak

Any politician worth his or her weight in savviness knows that the best way to counter bad news is with great news. So taking a page from the “Oops, an attorney general scandal; let’s raise the terror alert level” playback, that’s just what the MTA did today.

The bad news was swirling on Tuesday. A few days after Dan Doctoroff expressed his concerns with the SAS funding and just a few hours after The Times reported on the rising real estate costs of buildings along the Second Ave. corridor, the MTA announced that, oh wait, we have some good news! Look at us!

You see, that contract that was set to be signed next week was signed today, the MTA announced in an effort to capture the headlines. The MTA has more:

The first contract will provide for construction of a launch box between 92nd and 95th streets from which a tunnel boring machine (TBM) will excavate the tunnels from 92nd to 63rd streets. Also included in the first contract is the construction of two shafts at 69th Street and 72nd Street for the construction of the 72nd Street Station. The contract was awarded to S3 Tunnel Constructors, a Joint Venture composed of Skanska USA Civil Northeast, Schiavone Construction and J.F. Shea, in the amount of $337,025,000. Funding for this project consists of a combination of Federal Transit Administration grants and local funds provided by the New York State Transportation Bond Act of 2004 and the MTA Capital Program.

Mysore Nagaraja (pictured above), the head of capital construction for the MTA, seems pretty excited about the deal. “This contract paves the way for the first expansion of the subway system in more than fifty years. While the Second Avenue Subway has been talked about for years, it is now a reality, and you will soon see our construction teams hard at work on and under Second Avenue.” I don’t know how we’ll actually see the folks working under Second Ave., but hey, at least they’ll be there.

According to the MTA, a groundbreaking ceremony — the third of its kind for the Second Ave. subway — will be held in April. We’ll know when next week.

Amusingly enough, this announcement was totally timed to push the real estate news off the pages of the newspaper. The MTA”s PR machine went into overdrive after two straight weekdays of bad news. So they rushed the contract announcement by nine days. Why not? All the pieces were in place anyway.

The MTA is making real physical progress now on a subway line that should have been built during the La Guardia administration. And even more so than in the past, as SUBWAYBlogger noted, once they start, they won’t stop this time, real estate troubles and cost overruns be damned. It’s about time.

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peter knox March 21, 2007 - 9:14 am

There is nothing amusing about it. Did you find it amusing to read in the Times about the retired person who is going to lose her apartment? Lots of laughs.

Benjamin Kabak March 21, 2007 - 11:48 am

Peter: Did I say it’s amusing that people are being evicted? No.

It’s amusing the way the MTA conveniently announced this deal a week early to push bad news off the pages and airwaves.

Meanwhile, to respond to your eviction comment, as a famous Vulcan once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And even that is too callous. We’re not living in the age of Moses. The MTA will help these people find places to live. And millions of New Yorkers will enjoy the benefits of this new subway line. It won’t just be the folks on the Upper East Side and East Harlem. Commuters going to and from the Bronx will now be on trains that are much less crowded. Folks in Alphabet City and the LES will have better access to rapid transit.

Yes, it’s too bad that people will be kicked out of their homes, and yes, it’s too bad that some of them are elderly and don’t want to resettle. But the city needs the subway line. We can’t keep relying on outdated infrastructure and surface streets that are already overcrowded.

peter knox March 21, 2007 - 4:05 pm

Just remember some people’s lives are ruined by this project. It is wrong of you to gloat and crow when it moves forward. Your triumphant attitude is sickening.

Benjamin Kabak March 21, 2007 - 4:09 pm

Shall we build another road then? A people mover? How do you propose we solve our transportation and infrastructure problems?

This isn’t, as I said, a Robert Moses powerplay. The MTA will deal with relocation and proper buyouts. I think people will be inconvenienced; I think people will have to change their lifestyles a bit; but I think “ruined” is hyperbolic. I’m not gloating in the faces of the people who face eviction, but we can’t have it both ways in the city. We can’t complain that people can’t get around and then complain when people propose solutions.

peter knox March 22, 2007 - 2:24 pm

The MTA hasn’t been honest about one aspect of this project, and yet you shrug these lies off as business as usual. Already we can see how distorted its estimates for the cost of the subway are going to be. The MTA is already around 70M over budget, and it hasn’t even destroyed one inch of 2nd Avenue yet. From now on have the integrity not to print the MTA’s lies without at least making an attempt to expose them.

2nd ave resident March 28, 2007 - 8:29 am

I think more mass transit in a city of 8+million is a good thing. Of course at the same time, no one wants to be Arthur Dent, and wake up to being bulldozed to make way for the ‘greater good’. Just doesn’t smell right – to have dirt, debris, grime, grease, diesel and other toxic fumes be IMPOSED on you for the better part of your children’s formative years, or your elderly aunt or uncle’s sunset years.

Ruined? If you are on a 3rd floor apartment and have to deal with a crane operating from 7am to 10pm everyday of the week, and 10am to 7pm on Saturdays, and two trucks arriving at approximately 10 minute intervals, all through the day (statistics that the contractor shared with me) I’d say you are more than ruined. You are devastated. But that Bronx person will have their less crowded air-conditioned subway car available to them in, say, 7 years time.

Can we expect ‘honesty’ from the MTA – too naive to expect that from an agency that is riddled with allegations of corruption in contracts, losing money (lets just make it up in volume), and failing to provide customer service. Londoners complain about their services – they just don’t know how good they have it.

We could arguably expect professionalism, good large project planning and some discipline and method in community outreach. The community board 8 meetings are one good example of an outreach. However, this is the ONLY venue, other than adhoc meetings with specific buildings that the MTA is interested in getting into.

Also, the Community Board 8 meetings have other serious structural issues: a) an obviously biased fan of the SAS runs the show – she could almost be a paid spokesperson for the MTA or the contractor; b) a small proportion of the affected populace are even aware of such meetings and the scope of these meetings, or can make it to these meetings; c) a limited number of the audience are picked to ask questions of 2 minute duration or less, and the responses in many instances are, well, non-responsive.

But this is the glorious MTA that is even better that Robert Moses and will give us shelter and protection, and lead us into a brilliant future. If requiring ‘honesty’ is naive, believing that the MTA and the SAS project is well run seems akin to swallowing a whopper.


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