Sunday, October 25, 2009

October 25, 2009

92nd, SE corner - looking N
(approx. 60' above the street level)

This is a view of the Second Avenue subway work site, in the east 90s, from the roof of the six story building at 1762 Second Avenue. (I owe a big thank you to the owner of Delizia 92 Ristorante & Pizza, who very kindly let me take a few pictures from the roof of his building.)

Two observations:
- It's interesting, from this high angle, to see how relatively "neat and tidy" the contractors are keeping this job site. This is not that usual based on my experience observing construction sites over the years.
- You may notice, from the shadows, that the sun was directly aligned with Second Avenue when I took the roof shots. I did this on purpose because at this time of the year, with the sun low in the southern sky, there is only a period of about 30 minutes when the sun fully illuminates Second Avenue (i.e. without shadows.)

Note that there is no work taking place on the site in these images because it was a Sunday.

92nd, SE corner - looking S

This large hole (which has been officially referred to as a glory hole by the contractors) is used to remove soil and rock from the surface below the decking of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) Launch Box.

It is also sometimes used when the contractors need to lower equipment and material down into the launch box.

Another view of the same hole.

And here is a close up view of the surface at the bottom of the hole, again from the roof.

The left wall in this image is solid bedrock.

93rd - looking S, through a crack in the fence

btw. 93rd & 94th - looking E
(This is a stitched image)

A closer view of the large Liebherr crane that is currently being used (on weekdays) to lift soil from the surface below.

96th - looking S (in the middle of the avenue)
The heavy construction equipment on top of the TBM Launch Box can be seen in the distance.

btw. 95th & 96th

This poster was recently put up on the fence near the project office at this location.

What's interesting to see is that, according to the poster, this project is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Until now I wasn't aware that ARRA funds were being used to fund major portions of the Second Avenue subway.

An Update - 11/10/09
I asked the MTA for further details regarding the use of ARRA funds to build the new SAS 96th Street station, and here's what they told me in an e-mail reply:
The MTA will use funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) - in combination with other federal and local funds - to construct the SAS 96th Street Station. The grant for this work has not yet been executed and therefore is not included on the list for ARRA grants for New York County at this time. The sign stating that the project is funded through ARRA is posted at the work site because the MTA is using a federal provision called "pre-award authority." This provision allows the MTA to use local funds to advance the project in anticipation of receipt of the federal grant.

- - -

Tom Namako reported the other day, in this New York Post article, that the MTA is spending upwards of $500,000 to shore up the 6 story building at 1776-1778 Second Avenue, on the NE corner of 92nd and Second. (This is the building that the NYC Department of Buildings evacuated back in late June because it was in danger of collapse.)

According to the article, the MTA agreed to pay for the work to stabilize the building rather than run the risk of having the subway project delayed any further. (the controlled blasting in the southern end of the launch box has been delayed because of the stability of this, and one other building, on Second Avenue.)

The MTA's contractor, S3 Tunnel Constructors, has been working hard to quickly set up a network of bracing, on portions of the outside and inside of this building, over the past few weeks. I can only imagine what it must look like inside, since the MTA has said that their only objective is to stabilize building so they can move forward with the blasting in the launch box.

btw. 92nd and 93rd - looking SE

A view of the building in question, partially covered with scaffolding. The portable crane shown is being used to lift sections of the steel bracing up to the workers on the scaffolding.

- - -

92nd, NE corner - on the SAS project Bulletin Board

This notice announces that Controlled Blasting is scheduled to begin during the week of November 2, 2009.

Oddly, I was unable to find any other copies posted in the neighborhood, as of today. I would have thought that a notice like this would be posted through out the area, so that as many people as possible would know what is going in.

But I did though find a copy on the MTA's Second Avenue Subway Construction Look Ahead web page -- and here's what it says:

The Second Avenue Subway project will be using a well established excavation technique called controlled blasting to facilitate the excavation of the Tunnel Boring Machine Launch Box. We have used this technique at many of our projects in Manhattan.

Controlled blasting activities are scheduled to begin
the week of November 2, 2009.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has approved a controlled blasting plan for the area of Second Avenue between 91st and 93rd Street which will be carried out in coordination with the MTA and S3 Tunnel Constructors. All blasting will be conducted under the direction and regulations of the FDNY. Blasting is permitted to take place during the approved Second Ave Subway working hours of 7 AM to 10 PM, although, every effort will be made to limit blasting to daylight hours.

Blasting Procedures

* All pedestrian and vehicle traffic will be temporarily stopped during each blast occurrence. Blasting will occur approximately 4 to 5 times daily, with each blast lasting no more than one minute.

* There will be a warning whistle before each blast
1 whistle as a warning sound
2 whistles indicate the blast is imminent
3 whistles indicate the blast is complete and all is clear.

* Flagging personnel will be positioned at the north, south, east and west corners of the blast zone to inform and direct pedestrians.

* Signs will be posted around the work site that will state:


As required by New York State regulations, and monitored by FDNY, all explosive materials are delivered to and from the work site daily.

Vibration and noise limits have been established by the MTA and the project designer. The vibration and noise readings will be monitored by the construction management team.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Marcus Book, Assistant Director, MTA NYC Transit Government and Community Relations at 646-252-2675 or Claudia Wilson at the work site at 212-792-9716.

Two notes about the blasting:
I saw members of the FDNY Explosives Unit at the work site last week -- so clearly they are getting ready to start blasting soon.

A FDNY Blasting Permit has not yet been posted on the SAS project bulletin board at 93rd & 2nd, as of Sunday 10/25/09.

An Update -- 11/10/2009:
I have been told by the MTA that the contractors have not posted the FDNY blasting permit at the site because there is no requirement to do so.

- - -

In other news, the MTA recently announced on their web site that the following two Second Avenue subway contracts will be advertised (to potential bidders) in December 2009.

Contract 4A [C-26014]
72nd Street Station
Demolition of Existing Building and Relocation of Utilities

Contract 4B [C-26007]
72nd Street Station
Station Cavern Mining/Lining & Heavy Civil Work

- - -

And lastly, here are a few pictures that I took of the work site using an Optrixx prism lens that I purchased over the weekend at Sam Flax on 3rd Avenue.

Under the scaffolding near 92nd and Second

Near the Bagel Express deli

The rear end of a Liebherr crane

A side view of the same machine


Phil S. said...

Thanks for the update, I really enjoy your blog.

mdh said...

Another great update. Excellent photos from the rooftop also. Thanks!

jmp said...

Interestingly, while the sign says that ARRA funds are being used for the Second Avenue Subway, the project does not seem to appear on's list of ARRA recipients.

Perhaps it's wishful thinking?

Ben said...


Thanks. I think you're right.

I also just looked at the U.S. DOT's web site and there is no indication that ARRA funding has been approved for the Second Avenue subway.

I've asked the MTA, via e-mail, for a comment on this.


Anonymous said...

A month or so ago, in front of roughly the Subway/Nail Salon's southern most end and before the bar, there is a metal container behind the fence; it's red. It's labeled explosives. They taped cardboard on the fence side of it and eventually covered it in a blue tarp because of the weather.

I only know it said explosives because one day they had the doors open; one door said explos and the other ives.

Funny guys.

jmp said...

That's standard operating procedure for a blasting site.

That red metal container is highly reinforced, and designed for holding explosives. On blasting days, the explosives will be brought to the site at the beginning of the work day and placed in that container. As the explosives are needed, they're transported to the actual blast zone, and documented very carefully. (That is, they always know exactly how many sticks they unloaded from the truck at the beginning of the day, and exactly how many they bring into the hole.)

At the end of the day, they do a count to make sure that any remaining dynamite matches the inventory numbers, then any excess is transported away from the site.

You'll know when they're getting into the blasting phase, as that container will always be either locked or carefully guarded...

Ben said...

The red container in question (btw. 92nd & 93rd), as jmp pointed out in his comment, is for storing explosives. The proper term for this container is "explosives storage magazine" I believe.

When I walked by this evening I noticed that the magazine has now been covered completely with sandbags. The front doors were open which clearly would suggest that the magazine is empty at this time.

All of this is just one more indication that they are planning to start the blasting soon.