Home Second Avenue Subway What Rep. Maloney’s Second Ave. Subway report card doesn’t say

What Rep. Maloney’s Second Ave. Subway report card doesn’t say

by Benjamin Kabak

At the rate the grade inflation in her report cards are heading, Representative Carolyn Maloney will be primed to give the Second Ave. Subway an A+ just in time for it to open in late 2016 — if it indeed opens in late 2016. After giving the project a B- in 2009 and a B in 2010 and 2011, Maloney has now given the project a B+, its highest grade in four report cards.

Now that the Upper East Side has begrudgingly accepted the pace of construction and the MTA has made more than a token effort to alleviate some of the project’s hardships, the benefits are coming into view, and Maloney is paying more heed to the pluses. “The project’s merit, its economic benefits, the MTA’s outreach efforts and the pace at which construction is being completed all get high marks,” she said. “When the MTA broke ground for the Second Avenue Subway in April 2007, there were a lot of skeptics, but with the progress of the last six years, the skeptics are starting to have to eat their words. In fact, we have now crossed the halfway point for Second Avenue Subway construction. I encourage the MTA to continue its progress and to keep engaging the public, as the project continues.”

Over the years, the report card has gotten lengthier and lengthier. It now tops eight pages in printed or PDF form, but it covers familiar ground. The project’s merit and economic benefits again warrant A+ grades while the MTA has improved communication with the public. Maloney is happy that tunneling has been completed and sees reason to be hopeful that construction problems have been mitigated. The B+ grade in that category, she says, “signifies good progress in getting the job done, with room for improvement in hope that there will be no more accidents.”

As she shifts her attention to the more problematic aspects of the project, though, I found myself thinking more about the items missing from the report card than anything else. In giving the project planning a B, she devotes a few paragraphs to the Yorkshire Towers dispute. The MTA, she says, “has declined to satisfy community complaints about mid-block entrances for the 86th Street station despite broad condemnation by local residents.”

While Maloney has to protect her constituents (and her re-election chances), the Yorkshire Towers complaints are entirely without merit and are designed to protect a mid-block driveway on East 86th St. Seeing a politician sympathetic to this cause — which even some residents of the building do not support — is hardly comforting.

As she runs through the rest of the grades — better marks for budgetary management and projected on-time performance; C-range grade for construction impact mitigation and forward progress on station entrances and ancillary buildings — she’s notably silent on the Second Ave. Subway’s future, and now is the ideal time to start speaking up for future funding and future phases. For all intents and purposes, the MTA is through planning Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway; it’s through bidding out the contracts; and it’s through fighting for money. All that’s left is the actual work and some rolling stock delivers in mid-2016.

Maloney spills a lot of ink praising the project’s economic benefits and the current job creation numbers. She looks ahead to the ridership and notes the potential promise of a full line. In her press release, Sheldon Silver says that he “looks forward to the day when it reaches my Lower East Side community,” and in her report card, Maloney promises that the next edition — whenever that may be — “will also consider what the MTA is(or is not) doing to prepare for Phase II.”

But as a relatively powerful representative in Congress, Maloney is in a position to do more than just grade the MTA on its plans for the future. She can work to secure the next federal grand that could push the MTA to start the planning process for Phase 2 right now. The project needs a new champion, and Maloney could be it.

Cutting up the Second Ave. Subway project into phases was both its saving grace and a death knell. It made Phase 1 very easy to fund and complete but created a situation where Phases 2-4 are more theoretical than real. If Maloney and other East Side politicians want to see a full Second Ave. Subway line, the time to act is now. Otherwise, once Phase 1 opens, it will likely be, as Tom Prendergast said a few days ago, decades until the other phases are realized. If the subway riders of New York issue a report card, then, assessing our politicians’ overall commitment to the Second Ave. Subway, I’m not sure anyone would warrant even the B+ Maloney awarded yesterday.

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Howard July 30, 2013 - 12:12 am

A- for phase 1
F for phase 2,3,4 etc…

D in Bushwick July 30, 2013 - 12:54 am

That Phase 1 will essentially function on its own without the need for the other phases, there is a very good probability that it will be decades for the other phases to be finished. History would already indicate that.
This entire planned route was determined decades ago when Downtown was very different. Because most riders would not be going from 125th to Hanover Square, connections to other lines are very important, but there aren’t many connections.
As unthinkable as it is, perhaps a modified route will be determined a better option. The Lower East Side certainly needs a better plan.

Epson45 July 30, 2013 - 1:16 pm

yeah… The Archer Avenue Subway stop so short from Parsons Blvd to 168 St on the old Jamaica EL. When will that complete?

AG July 30, 2013 - 5:46 pm

“most riders would not be going from 125th to Hanover Square”?? what makes you say that? plus the original plan was to go up into the Bronx.

BruceNY July 30, 2013 - 1:40 am

I wonder if we could have a Phase 1.5 which would extend to 116th Street for the time being. The stretch from 96th to 116th already has much of the tunneling done (in the 1970’s). Couldn’t this segment be completed in a much shorter time span, and for considerably less money than Phase 1 or the entire Phase 2? I believe the most difficult part of Phase 2 is the turn on to 125th Street and the deep station cavern that will be needed under Lexington Avenue. If they could get 106th & 116th open in say five years, wouldn’t that be better than waiting 20 years for the entire Phase 2 to be funded and built?

Alon Levy July 30, 2013 - 11:29 am

No. The tunnels between the stations for Phase 2 are in place, but the stations still need to be dug. The stations are 3/4 of the cost of Phase 1. Tunnels between stations can be done with TBMs nowadays and aren’t all that expensive, to the point that in Barcelona they tried saving money by digging tunnels with large enough diameter to hold both tracks and the platforms.

BruceNY July 31, 2013 - 2:21 am

Point taken, but from photos I’ve seen of the existing tunnels, they would appear to be more similar to cut & cover tunnels, which makes me wonder if the trackbed is closer to the surface in this area (vs phase 1). If that were the case, could station construction be a bit simpler and therefore cheaper vs. phase 1 stations, which are somewhere deep in the Earth’s mantle? Would 106th & 116th St. stations need those enormous ventilation towers that phase 1 stations require?

AG July 30, 2013 - 5:49 pm

yeah – an meanwhile I just read in Bloomberg News and on the Wall Street Journal that Saudi Arabia is spending $22billion on a rail system in it’s major city because they want to get cars off the road. Look at the irony of that – a country whose main income is oil!!

John-2 July 30, 2013 - 1:44 am

The best thing the MTA could do for Phase II is to let people know most of the section’s already in place from the 1970s SAS project. Odds are 99 percent of those in the area to be served don’t even know about the tunnels, so if the MTA presented as a work that’s already begun (even though the most costly section — the Lex connection and underpinning — isn’t), as opposed to something that would have to start from scratch, they’ll probably have a better chance at getting funded (though even then the agency probably would be best served pitching it the closer Phase I gets to completion, when the benefits of the three new stations move away from the hypothetical and closer to reality).

Joseph July 30, 2013 - 8:25 am

This is an example of yet another politican tooting her own horn. She is utterly useless yet she keeps getting re-elected.

lawhawk July 30, 2013 - 8:59 am

The report card is a trifle in context of the larger need to see the 2d Ave line completed beyond Phase 1. Now is the time to line up the funding for phase 2, and make sure that the project gets underway. The report card is an easy way for Maloney to make the papers but doesn’t reflect any real work on her part to do more for getting the project advanced beyond what was already done.

On funding for Phase 2, I’d give her an F. On trying to claim some kind of credit for actions under Phase 1, including mitigation of construction mitigation, I’d give her an A.

Jerrold July 30, 2013 - 6:04 pm

“Mitigation of construction mitigation”?

Did you mean “construction NOISE”, or what?

Peter July 30, 2013 - 9:31 am

At least she didn’t mention “two sets of books”. Let’s be grateful for the small things.

Jerrold July 30, 2013 - 10:30 am

Ben, what about that “halfway point” matter?
By now, isn’t it well PAST the halfway point?

Time-wise (2007-2016), it seems to be at the two-thirds point.
So construction-wise, is it really only HALF done?

Benjamin Kabak July 30, 2013 - 10:32 am

The halfway point of construction is not necessarily the same as the halfway point on the timeline. The first half takes much longer to complete than the second half.

crescent July 30, 2013 - 4:41 pm

All we have is 3 holes in the ground and a tunnel. No stations. This will take a lot longer than 3 years to construct the stations, lay the tracks, test everything and clean it up.

Benjamin Kabak July 30, 2013 - 4:44 pm

And you know this because?

Look at where the one station along the 7 line was three years ago. It’s the same thing here. Crews can work in tandem at all three construction sites.

Larry Littlefield July 30, 2013 - 10:55 am

Doesn Maloney care what the damn thing costs? If we don’t get Phase II, III, IV then than’s the reason.

And “F” for turning half of what should have been Phase I into Phase II. If Sheldon Silver hadn’t stalled, we might be opening a whole phase up to 125th Street right now!

Howard July 30, 2013 - 12:45 pm

I think she would be the next ideal subway/mass transit champion/advocate. Maybe she could get money for the 7 ext. or that station that disappeared.

Bolwerk July 30, 2013 - 12:49 pm


Report cards are really, really useless. All they offer is a superficial and probably ill-informed opinion.

How about proposing legislation that actually fixes some of the problems with these projects? Oh, wait, that would require doing your job!


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