Second Avenue subway construction: the price of progress

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Recently, PCAC staff decided to make an impromptu trip to Second Avenue in the 70s to see how the subway construction was impacting the neighborhood.  This construction has been going on for four years.  The ground breaking (historically, the fourth launch) took place in April 2007 with great fanfare.  First proposed in the 1920s, a new subway line on Second Avenue has been desperately needed since the East Side’s elevated train lines were demolished in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The current Lexington Avenue Line has long been the subway system’s most congested, and the M15 bus route, which operates along First and Second Avenues, is the busiest in the country, carrying 60,000 customers a day and operating every 90 seconds at the height of the morning and evening rush periods.  The first section of the Second Avenue project will use an existing six-block long tunnel segment (running from 99th St. to 105thSt.) in combination with new construction from 105th St. to 62nd St. with stations at 96th, 86th, 72nd, and 63rd Sts.

Unfortunately, the construction has proven to be a substantial challenge for the residents and businesses along this section of Second Avenue.  In addition to the noise, the barriers and scaffolding in front of the buildings discouraged shoppers and restaurant patrons to such a degree that MTA, in conjunction with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, launched a “Shop 2nd Ave.” campaign.  To complicate matters, the NYCT launched its SBS service on the M15 route along Second Avenue amidst the construction activities.

PCAC staff  found the east side of Second Avenue marked by heavy construction equipment, temporary buildings and trucks which made crossing streets more challenging than normal.  However, once on the sidewalk, staff could get to the businesses without difficulty.  They walked north from 70th Street to 73rd Street and observed that traffic was very backed up due to the construction.  They opted to forego the M15 SBS and returned to Lexington Avenue to catch the subway for the return trip to the office.

Since the staff’s visit, residents of this area have noticed an increase in dust and and noxious odors wafting from the construction site between 69th and 70th Streets.  MTA has responded that they have assigned additional supervision to see that the dust is thoroughly hosed down.  Muck conveyance systems are being built to minimize the dust.  The one at 72nd Street will be completed by August and the one at 69th Street will be completed by September.   Unfortunately, the beleagued residents and businesses will have to endure this disruption for several more years as the estimated completion date is now December 2016.

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