Sunday, October 4, 2009

October 4, 2009

Here are a set of images that I captured during a walk that I took on Sunday afternoon, October 4th. I started my journey at 101st Street and walked south on Second Avenue to 68th Street.

As many people are aware, there are now 4 active subway construction zones on the Upper East Side:

95th to 100th Streets,

91st to 96th Streets,

82nd to 87th Streets, and

69th to 73rd Streets.

100th Street - in the middle of the avenue - looking S

The contractors have now setup a protected walkway (for pedestrians) in the middle of Second Avenue between 96th and 100th Street.

This will allow them to close both the sidewalk and the roadway, on the eastern half of 2nd Avenue (at this location), so they can prepare the surface area for excavation work.

96th - the middle of the avenue - looking N

just S of 96th - looking W
(this is a stitched panoramic image of this location.)

btw. 92nd and 93rd - looking W

This red clam shell bucket appeared on the work site about ten days ago.

I assume that they must now use a bucket, attached to a very large crane, to lift the soil from the bottom of the pit because the excavating machines on the surface can no longer reach the bottom.

93rd - looking S

The contractor recently covered the signs [in this area] that warn passersby about blasting operations in the TBM launch box work area.

The signs have been covered since no blasting is currently scheduled, at least until the FDNY issues a blasting permit.

btw. 83rd and 84th - looking E

This notice, behind the orange protective fence, is an announcement that the bus stop at this location has been discontinued.

A number of M15 local and express stops on Second Avenue have recently been temporarily moved or discontinued by the MTA due to the subway construction.

A complete list of the effected M15 bus stops can be found on this link.

btw. 84th and 85th - looking W

Here the contractor is just starting to erect protective fencing for the work zone in this area.

One could assume that these trees will be saved - since they have had wooden protective boxes setup around them.

84th - SW corner - looking S

The contractor has established a work zone here (on the left of the orange barrier) with a 7' walkway remaining. (on the right of the barrier in this picture)

Unfortunately it is not clear to some people that they should not walk through the work zone.

83rd - NW corner - looking N

A better example of people walking through the work area. (on the right of the orange netting.)

btw. 83rd and 84th

A goofy image of the work zone, as reflected by a mirror that was setup outside a shop in this block.

69th - looking N

Here the the entire east side of the avenue is closed off as they work to relocate utility lines and pipes in this area.

- - -

1766-1768 Second Avenue / 301 92nd Street
(posted on the front door)

And now we come back to the story of the building that was evacuated back on June 29th because it was in danger of collapse.

The fragile condition of this building has, so far, prevented the MTA's contractors from obtaining the necessary FDNY permit for blasting work in the south end of the TBM launch box. (See this earlier posting for further details.)

This Department of Buildings (DOB) permit says that the contractor intends to "install steel channels on the north, east and west exteriors, connection channels to the joists through the walls, and connecting the joist to the intermediate wall." In other words, they are securing the exterior walls to the floor joists in the building.

The obvious goal of this work is to secure the building's structure so that:

(a) the DOB can remove the Full Vacate order on this building, thus allowing the residential and commercial tenants to move back in, and

(b) the DOB gives the okay to the FDNY so that they issue the necessary permit so blasting can begin in the TBM launch box.

What is very interesting to see is that the work permit to S3 Tunnel Constructors - the joint venture company that was hired by the MTA to build the Second Avenue subway TBM launch box.

Apparently S3 Tunnel Constructors is also acting as the general contractor for this work. (A copy of the work permit application, from the DOB web site, can be found on this link.)

Ever since this building was evacuated back in late June the MTA has maintained that the structural problems [with the building] at this address pre-date the start of the construction of the Second Avenue subway -- and the violations that the DOB issued to the building's owner, 1766-68 Associated LP, prior to the start of construction support this claim, to some degree.

The MTA also has said that the vibrations caused by the subway construction work met building standards.

But to be fair, one must not overlook the reports from residential tenants who live(d) in this building. One report, which was left as a comment on this blog, said that during the subway construction work caused cracks in the walls to get got longer, door frames to stick, and the commenter went on to say that, "... the vibrations from construction have been unrelenting and overwhelming."

So this leads me back to a simple question? Why is the MTA's contractor, S3 Tunnel Constructors, acting as the general contractor for the work to repair this building -- when normally it would be the responsibility of the buildings owner to make any necessary repairs.

- - -

Here's a listing of the recent additions
to the right-hand column of The Launch Box

"Use Your Words!"
Life on Second - 10/2/09
drawings and commentary by the artist Dominick Santise

- - -

A Footnote:

Some people have asked me why I don't have any pictures of the work that is taking place underneath the road decking over the launch box work area.

The simple answer is that I don't have permission to enter any part of the work zone.

I did send a written request to the MTA about ten days ago, requesting a "very limited amount of escorted access" to the launch box work area for the purpose of taking photographs for this blog.

After due consideration, I was told that that my request had been denied by the MTA.

Instead they offered to invite me, along with other members of the news media, to the next Second Avenue subway related "press event."


jmp said...

I just wanted to respond to a couple of points you raised:

There are two of the big clamshell type devices connected to large cranes, located at the two "glory hole" locations, where debris will be removed from the hole for the duration of the tunneling work. I highly doubt that those are for actual digging, since the clamshell hangs at the end of a loose line, making it impossible to get it to dig into any kind of well-packed dirt. Rather, I'm guessing that those clamshells will be used to remove debris from big piles where it will be put as it's removed from other parts of the hole.

After all, when those YouTube videos were up (briefly as that was), we saw that there are large hole digging machines working inside the hole now. I'm guessing that they've got as many of them down there as they can have working in such a confined space without compromising safety. It would make the most sense for the debris from that digging to then be deposited in one of a couple of places where it is constantly being removed during the day.

When the TBM starts going, the MTA has said that the TBM will run 24/7, while debris will only be removed from the launch box between 7am and 10pm. I'm assuming that those clamshells may well be an integral part of that removal process for the entirety of the tunneling.

As for S3 having the contract to repair the condemned building, that doesn't necessarily mean anything about the MTA accepting any kind of blame.

I once lived in a walkup that was undergoing extensive renovations, and the work that the landlord told us would take 6-12 weeks took almost 3 years because the project was a low priority for the contractor, who would not show up terribly regularly, in part because the landlord had gone with the cheapest contractor he could find to give the Department of Buildings evidence that they were working to correct some violations.

In this case, the MTA and S3 have a vested interest in getting that building shored up as quickly as possible. Whether or not the work on the subway was the biggest factor in the deterioration of the building's condition, there's no question that there were violations on the books for several years that the building's owner did not correct -- even before subway construction began.

The longer it takes that building to get fixed, the longer it will take to get the launch box prepared for the TBM. It wouldn't surprise me if the MTA got a ruling that the landlord had to use their contractor or be liable for the delays caused to the subway construction project for dragging his feet.

The more sinister interpretation is that the landlord dragged his feet on repairs because he knew that a vacate order was the only way to get rent stabilized tenants out, and that an empty building is of much greater value to developers. Of course, in that case the property owner would want the building to decay and really would drag his feet quite a bit more on repairs...

Ben said...


I wanted to come back to earlier comment, now that I have a little time.

I'm sure that you're right about how the clamshell buckets are being used. The contractors have a number of bulldozers down in the hole, as we can now see in the pictures that I posted on 10/8/09, and these machines are probably making piles of soil near the "glory holes" - like you said.

Yes, I also agree that just because the S3 is the contractor repairing the building doesn't mean that they (or the MTA) has accepted responsibility for the problems.

As you said, the MTA needs this building repaired ASAP so they can blast the bedrock out of the south end of the launch box. So it could be that the MTA came to some kind of legal arrangement, with the buildings owner, that allowed them to use S3 to do some or all of the work.

I didn't mention it in the posting, because it was already a bit long -- but S3 also received permission from the DOB to work from 7 AM until 10 PM M-F and 10 AM - 6 PM on Saturdays for the next 2 weeks, on this job. So clearly they are [now] in a hurry to get this job done.