Home Second Avenue Subway Again, 86th St. residents file suit over entrances, again

Again, 86th St. residents file suit over entrances, again

by Benjamin Kabak

These proposed entrances for the Second Ave. Subway on 86th St. are again the subject of another federal lawsuit.

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.

The staircases at Entrance 2 have been designed to minimize passenger flow in front Yorkshire Towers by siphoning riders away from the active driveway.

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.

Yorkshire Towers v. US DOT by Benjamin Kabak

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D.R. Graham April 1, 2013 - 12:57 am

No matter what this is going to cost everyone in the city money because the MTA has to pay it’s lawyers to work another case. This one being even more of a waste of time and a waste of money because we already went down this path two years ago.

John-2 April 1, 2013 - 1:46 am

Be nice if they could get a summary judgment on this, based on the lack of any new facts by the plaintiffs to warrant a drawn-out court case.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 8:08 am

It would be nice if there were more than just four entrances to the station, including ancillaries and elevators. It would also be nice if people entering/exiting the subway don’t have to look out for moving cars on the driveway.

VLM April 1, 2013 - 8:15 am

You realize comments like this are why everyone around here hates you, right? If you took a few seconds to look at the diagrams and schematics, you’d see that there is no reason for anyone using these staircases to be in the path of any oncoming cars. the entrances flank the driveway and point away from the driveway. It’s pretty simple really.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 8:49 am

No. I meant that people who make a U-turn into the path of the driveway have to watch out. The people who go straight on are fine.

Nathanael April 3, 2013 - 6:52 pm

You know what? I have an odd little proposal. How about making these two stairways meet in a passage underneath this damn driveway, and locating fare control further in beyond that passage, so that people can just walk through between the two stairways instead of crossing the driveway.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 9:26 am

I agree with Someone on this one. It’s kind of crappy to have an active driveway near subway entrances one way or another, but I don’t suppose it’s unheard of either.

SEAN April 1, 2013 - 9:57 am

I agree as well. Lets not forget there will come a time when one of the staircases will need to be closed for repairs causing some riders to reverse course when exiting the station. This may cause some conflicts with Yorkshire Towers driveway. Now I’m assuming that those riders needed to be on that side of 86th, as there will be other access points across the street.

John-2 April 1, 2013 - 11:33 am

I think the deep cavern nature of the SAS makes your standard New York City exits-on-all-corners subway design impractical, if the MTA plans to put fare control close to track level and not close to street level.

Other than the ADA elevator, if you are planning to have a long stairs/escalator to the fare control area, you want to have as few of those as possible, due to construction cost and maintenance concerns. Since most of the SAS traffic at 86th figures to be coming from the east, since those to the west still have the 4/5/6 option at Lex, the MTA’s limited to either entrances outside Yorkshire Towers or ones on the other side of 86th east of Second Avenue.

Matthias April 1, 2013 - 12:08 pm

Still, I would think that there should be stairways on each corner with a mezzanine under the intersection, from which escalators could lead down to the lower mezzanine. Not sure how they’re doing it here, but it looks inconvenient for folks who have to cross Second Ave.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 12:52 pm

I’m not so sure about this. You may be able to get away with a single accessible entrance. Also, despite the depth, they will cut and cover the station, so there will probably be a mezzanine relatively near the surface.

It’s kind of silly to have an exit in only one part of such a long station, as 1st Avenue on the L teaches us. Still, to be clear, I’m not so sure I agree with Someone about exits. Just the driveway thing.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 3:45 pm

Speaking of 1st Avenue exits, it would be nice if the station had an exit to Avenue A. That would reduce the need to walk 480 feet from the front of the train, exit, and then reverse direction and walk the same length.
And while we’re at it, the MTA should consider adding more exits to Third Avenue just down the street. It’s pretty crazy to have a single entrance/exit in each direction in such a busy neighborhood. Though at the same time, Union Square is just two blocks away…

John-2 April 1, 2013 - 7:28 pm

If there’s a shallow mezzanine, they could have multiple street portals, and then a single bank of stairs/escalators down to the lower mezz, above the island platform. But it may go back to how much of the access area does the MTA want outside fare control, and where is fare control going to be?

Even in deep cavern stations, the NYC system tends to keep fare control close to the street, and most of the pedestrian infrastructure within MTA-controlled territory. But the WMATA style usually puts fare control near the platform and the long access areas are open to anyone. If that’s how the SAS stops are set up, every additional entrance is costly to build and needs its own mechanical infrastructure to maintain.

Ryan April 1, 2013 - 8:06 pm

The WMATA stations are generally closer to street level than the SAS stations are. Hence, the fare control is located above the platforms and tracks.

As for SAS, there could be two mezzanines, one for fare collection (above the tracks), and another one close to street level, with multiple entrances.

John-2 April 1, 2013 - 9:13 pm

But even at stops like DuPont Circle, which is as deep as SAS, the deep cavern fare control rule holds (though leaving long escalators exposed to the weather and with no stairway alternative was a stunningly brain-dead design move by WMATA. Surely the MTA isn’t going to follow that part of the model, even if they do lower mezz fare control).

Bolwerk April 2, 2013 - 12:57 am

Admittedly I’m going by their construction techniques brochure, which may not be at scale and could be outdated, but it doesn’t look to me like any of this applies. The space above the tunnels appears to leave room for about one mezzanine.

If that’s so, the major question is probably whether they’ll opt for a single fare control zone or more than one – which probably means one manned, and one unmanned. Given the projected traffic, not to mention the sheer likelihood of more in the next century, it would seem perplexing to do it any other way, I would think.

Chris C April 1, 2013 - 9:22 am

Well ‘Someone’ how many entrances would YOU have? – 6? 8? 10?

And where would YOU put them?

And how would YOU pay for them?

Yes some people will end up crossing the drive way because they exited the station from the ‘wrong’ direction but that happens everywhere.

Oh and if you look at this


And this


you will see that people already walk across the sidewalk and they don’t appear to be having any difficulty in looking out for cars – it’s a drive way in intermittent use not a freeway!

Someone April 1, 2013 - 9:49 am

At least, don’t localise the subway entrances to one intersection!

Ron April 1, 2013 - 10:23 am

There’s also an entrance at 83rd St.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 10:25 am

Okay, two intersections!

Ron April 1, 2013 - 11:47 am

WTF more do you want? An entrance on every block? Real estate acquisition has cost enough as it is. While we’re at it, we’ll just make 2nd Ave one giant station that stretches from 63rd to 96th St.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Um… yes? That’s what the IND was supposed to do?

paulb April 1, 2013 - 8:32 am

What B.S. (The lawsuit, I mean.)

Woody April 1, 2013 - 8:51 am

The entrances should be on Second Ave anyway, not off to the side on 86th St.

So take a lane from the wide avenue and use the space for subway entrances.

Oh, well, a little late now.

Ron April 1, 2013 - 11:51 am

Then everyone coming from the east will have to cross over this driveway. It makes the “problem” worse.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 9:38 am

If it’s what is creating grounds for federal suits in cases like this, sometimes I wonder if it would be just cheaper to keep federal funding out of these projects.

SEAN April 1, 2013 - 9:45 am

I understand your sentiment, but quite often federal matching funds are needed to get a project completed. The problem here is Yorkshire Towers plane & simple.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 10:52 am

Well, could be, but it could be the strings attached to federal funding are so expensive that it’s not worth the matching funds – federal funds only make sense if they don’t increase the local contribution over what it would be with no federal funds, afterall.

As is, local agencies seem to overbuild to get the most money they can in one lump sum – knowing they won’t get more cash later (in part because the feds don’t support operating budgets).

Someone April 1, 2013 - 9:51 am

What do you suggest? Taxpayer funding?

Larry Littlefield April 1, 2013 - 11:33 am

The purpose of federal transit funding is to reward interest groups. The net effect on the project is zero.

What would have happened if the MTA just went ahead and built the full Stubway proposal, instead of waiting several years and spending $hundeds of millions on documents? Or couse Sheldon Silver held it up a couple of years, and there the lawsuits as well.

Bolwerk April 1, 2013 - 1:14 pm

Sure, but what I wonder if the net effect on the project is negative savings, from a local standpoint. I would guess there is no getting around the ADA, which is fine for new construction I think, but the process to even see whether a project is a good idea is already millions of dollars in, never you mind living up to what appear to be onerous construction rules.

SEAN April 1, 2013 - 9:38 am

Anyone else think that the MTA lawyers should take legal action against Yorkshire Towers once this case gets thrown out?

BoerumBum April 1, 2013 - 9:46 am

I’m on this block all the time, and this driveway is hardly ever in use. Plus, there are constantly slow-moving pedestrians crossing it because of the Food Emporium around the corner.

The lawsuit is total bunk. They should counter-suit to eminent domain the driveway out of existence.

IsaacB April 1, 2013 - 12:58 pm

…and the swimming pool below it.

Someone April 1, 2013 - 4:05 pm

Well, you gotta get rid of the swimming pool anyway if it’s directly below the street.

Chet April 1, 2013 - 9:48 am

Whatever the costs of this lawsuit is to the MTA, no matter what the outcome is, it should be borne by those who brought it- the residents of the Yorkshire Towers.

SEAN April 1, 2013 - 10:18 am

Yes, exactly.

Ryan April 1, 2013 - 10:23 am

The Yorkshire Towers residents haven’t anything to worry about; if anything, the MTA should be countersuing the Yorkshire Towers.

Ryan April 1, 2013 - 10:43 am

The Yorkshire Towers residents are fools, and not just April fools.

Patrick April 1, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Yorkshire Towers’ residents should just STFU and enjoy the fact that they are getting an overdue subway line, unlike where I live
-Patrick W/O A Blog

Someone April 1, 2013 - 2:01 pm

They really should. Because near where I live, people are advocating for an abandoned potential subway line to become a freaking linear park. (The QueensWay.)

IsaacB April 1, 2013 - 1:07 pm

Yorkshire Towers was planned and built in the era after the demolition of the old el and in a time when it was reasonably assumed that a subway would be built. They’ve been obstructing the project from day 1 and spinning it to their advantage.

Proposed entrance via the Food Emporium…vetoed. A few moths ago, the papers ran a sob story about dangerous “tunnel” conditions at 86th & 2nd and homeless people living under the sidewalk shed. The article conveniently missed the fact that the entire perimeter of Yorkshire Tower was surrounded by a sidewalk shed because of exterior work on the building, not due to the subway.

When the station finally opens, people who live, work or visit Yorkshire should be permanently barred from using it.

BruceNY April 1, 2013 - 7:32 pm

Well they were probably envious of the residents of East 69th Street near Lex. who are trying to block a new entrance being built for the station on the 6 Train.

pragya April 4, 2013 - 2:41 am

It would be fastidious if there were statesman than rightful quartet entrances to the position, including ancillaries and elevators. It would also be good if group entering/exiting the tube don’t somebody to perception out for ahorse cars on the drive.

Nyland8 April 20, 2013 - 11:22 am

It’s interesting that the artists rendering on top differs so much from the plan view below it.

The plan view shows the entrances tightly flanking the circular drive. The conceptual view depicts the western staircase near the corner, with no room for a tree, and the eastern one is equally distant. I wonder which depiction is closer to the real proposal.

Not that it would make a difference to the NIMBYs, but the devil is in the details, and the details shown in the elevation rendering are less objectionable than the ones in the plan view

Adam April 20, 2013 - 10:12 pm

Is it true that MTA purchased the lease on the Food Emporium? They have just announced that they will be closing the store on May 31st. Any idea on who will be replacing them? Thanks


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