With subway construction come neighborhood gripes. As the Second Ave. Subway continues what one reporter recently termed its “unhurried pace” toward completion, residents along Second Ave. are learning that life with subway construction and life with an eventual subway line isn’t as rosy as it first sounds. Today, we will explore two stories about life on the East Side and the real estate problems presented by the Second Ave. Subway. Please note that for all images, click to enlarge.
We start at the corner of 2nd Ave. and 97th St. with a ventilation shaft pictured above. It’s big; it’s ugly; it’s windowless; it will lead to the eviction of some residents and businesses; and the people who live near it are not happy. Can you blame them? Look at the thing.
Of course, it serves a functional purpose as well. Around the city, various properties are mysteriously vacant. There’s an old building on 96th St. between West End and Broadway used by the MTA, and the Greenwich Village substation is an obvious. The Second Ave. Subway, though, will feature something new. A train line for the 21st Century, the SAS will no longer subject straphangers to hot and sticky platforms. Instead, glass walls will keep out the heat and allow for air conditioning to maintain a semblance of normalcy in underground temperatures.
Of course, with air conditioning comes the need for ventilation, and the MTA plans to build eight of these ventilation shafts of various shapes and sizes along the current 34-block stretch that makes up Phase I of this subway line. Yesterday, The Real Deal explored residents’ reactions to these neighborhood eyesores. Some of these buildings, reports Sarah Ryley, are going to be up to nine stories high, and while others fit into the neighborhood, most stick out like sore thumbs.
Stanford Eckstut, an architect who helped PATH design its ventilation shafts, called the MTA’s versions behemoths with facades resembling “an improved parking garage.” He said, “These are buildings that are going to last forever; they should be contributing to the street scene. They should not just be a wrapping to hide mechanical things.”
Thomas Nobel, a co-op owner at 69th St. which, according to Ryley, is next to the largest of the structures, bemoaned them too. “It’s going to be a real detriment to the neighborhood,” he said. The MTA has yet to release renderings of the planned nine-story ventilation shaft for the 69th St. spot.
Still, Ryley continues, most Upper East Siders are willing to pay the cost:
Some Upper East Side residents are wary of locking horns with the MTA, fearing that a protracted legal battle would delay or kill the subway project. Instead — through elected officials, civic groups and the law firm Herrick Feinstein — they have attempted, with some success, to negotiate behind the scenes.
“People in the Upper East Side want this subway. When it’s finished, all in all, it’s going to be a great boon to the neighborhood,” said Noble, who is also an architect. “I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to have the process grind to a halt yet again.”
The fact that the structures need to be built is nonnegotiable — they are needed to house utilities, smoke evacuation systems and emergency exits, said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, noting that sidewalk grates now violate the city’s building code.
And indeed, as Ryley reports, the MTA has been very willing to negotiate on height. Some groups have gotten 50 percent reductions in the heights of these ventilation shafts, and the MTA that the renderings which I present below are simply plans. Nothing is set in stone, and there is still plenty of time for the MTA and the Upper East Side to work together to build community-friendly structures that don’t overwhelm the sidewalks.
In the end, some residents are concerned about property values, and one real estate assessor says these people have reason to be. He claims the few properties directly abutting these structures could see a decrease in value, but that overall, property values on the Upper East Side should increase by 15 percent due to the added convenience of a nearby subway line. That’s a trade off most should be willing to make.
After the jump, more images of the planned ventilation shaft. All are courtesy of the MTA. Click to enlarge.
The northeast corner of 93rd St. and 2nd Ave.
The northwest corner of 86th St. and 2nd Ave. This is probably the least intrusive of the ventilation shafts.
The northwest corner of 83rd St. and 2nd Ave.