Sunday, December 6, 2009

Return of The Gates

btw. 85th & 86th - looking N

The orange construction fencing that is being used to protect the Second Avenue subway work site in the 80s reminds me of The Gates, which was a work of art (by Christo and Jeanne-Claude) that was on display in Central Park back in the winter of 2005.

When I took these pictures, on Sunday December 6th, there were no clouds in the sky and the winter sun to the south had just past the center line of Second Avenue. These conditions provided me with the opportunity to take some wonderful images - with really nice shadows, as you will see.

The Gates - Central Park - 2/05

btw. 85th & 86th - looking SW

85th - NE corner - looking N

It's interesting to see here how the restaurant owner (I assume) has landscaped the construction fence in an effort to improve "the view" from his establishment.

85th - SE corner - looking S

85th - near the SE corner - looking SW

btw. 83rd & 84th - looking S

btw. 83rd & 84th - looking S

83rd - NE corner - looking S

83rd - SE corner - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking S

btw. 82nd & 83rd - looking N

82nd - NE corner - looking N

82nd - SE corner - looking NW

A jumble of ConEd power lines.

btw. 81st & 82nd - looking N

Various utility lines lines here (and generally between 82nd and 87th Streets) are being relocated in preparation for the construction of the 86th Street station and its entrances.

btw. 72nd & 73rd - looking SW

This is the approximate location of the future 72nd Street access shaft.

Excavation of this shaft, and the one of 69th Street, is scheduled to start in 1Q2010 with controlled blasting [of the shafts] scheduled to start in 2Q2010.

The two shafts will be used during excavation of the station cavern and for muck removal.

btw. 69th & 70th - looking SW

This is the location of the future 69th Street access shaft.

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72nd - looking N (facing 259 East 72nd Street)

This building will be demolished, starting in May 2010, so that the site can be used to construct entrance #2 and ancillary structure #2 for the 72nd Street station.

The ancillary building at this location will be approximately 75 feet tall - which is about 1 story higher than the existing building on this location.

69th - SE corner - looking NW

Ancillary building #1 for the 72nd Street station will be located in the site that is now occupied by the two buildings shown above and the shoe repair shop shown below.

69th - near the SW corner - looking N (facing 235 East 69th)

The plan at the moment is for the new ancillary building to occupy the entire lot, which will mean that some of the windows on the east face of the building at 233 East 69th Street will be covered over by the west face of the new ancillary building. (the red-line in the image above roughly shows the windows that will be lost.)

Needless to say, the effected apartment owners are not happy about losing any of these windows, as Tom Namako of the NY Post reported in his article "Sun block at E. Side co-op" back on September 28th.

Residents of this building turned out en masse at the CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting on November 30th to express their concerns.

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96th - looking N

The contractors at this location are laying a new 30 inch gas main in this recently excavated trench.

btw. 96th & 97th - looking NE

New sections of pipe for the gas main are shown here.

97th - looking S

97th - NE corner - looking SW

The old Century Lumber yard building now sits empty. It will be demolished within the next 3 months to make room for ancillary building #2 of the 96th Street station.

(I called the telephone number for Century Lumber earlier today. After a very long delay the phone rang and someone answered. The gentleman on the phone told me that Century Lumber has merged with Mensh Mill & Lumber, which is located in Flushing, Queens.)

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86th - SW corner - looking E

The contractor closed the crosswalk between the SW and SE corners of 86th and 2nd Avenue a few weeks ago so that utility relocation work could take place near the SE corner of the intersection.

Most pedestrians ignored the posted signs (as any New Yorker would expect) and crossed anyway.

86th - NW Corner - looking SE

Another view of pedestrians crossing Second Avenue in a crosswalk that has been closed.

The CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force passed a resolution at their last meeting on November 30th requesting that that a person be posted at this location to control the traffic until such time that the crosswalk is re-opened.

Then a few days ago a notice was posted on the web site of the East 86th Street Merchants/Residents Association with the news that this cross walk will be re-opened during the week of December 14th.

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Before I close out this posting I want to return a point that I raised in my posting of December 4th, 2009 - where I wondered how it could be that Contract 1 could actually be 57% complete (a number that the MTA reported to the community at the last CB8 SAS Task Force meeting with this slide.)

Two people wrote to me (one with a comment to the blog and one with an e-mail) to explain this issue to me in more detail.

An anonymous commenter said:
"As someone who works in construction (though not on transportation projects) I actually can believe that Contract is 57% complete.
The reason, I believe, is that the scope of work for Contract 1 is primarily labor.

Building the launch box and shafts at 69th/72nd Streets are jobs that require lots of labor and -- by comparison -- relatively little materials. Boring the tunnels, on the other hand, requires a sizable investment in equipment (the TBM) with a considerable -- but comparatively smaller -- amount of labor.

The scope of work for Contract 1 is primarily labor. Building the launch box and shafts at 69th/72nd Streets are jobs that require lots of labor and -- by comparison -- relatively little materials. Boring the tunnels, on the other hand, requires a sizable investment in equipment (the TBM) with a considerable -- but comparatively smaller -- amount of labor.

It is likely that payment for the TBM itself has already been either partially or fully remanded, because the equipment has probably already been procured and fabricated. Often, boring machines are built specifically for a new project, and it wouldn't be possible to construct a TBM without payment for the people who spend time fabricating it. Although the TBM arrives at the site in pieces, a lot of work takes place before it arrives.

Finally, crews have been working in the 90s to prepare the launch box for years now, representing a massive effort and substantial amount of labor. By comparison, the labor required to create shafts at 69th/72nd Streets is minimal. Although much of the work remaining includes what we'd believe to be the "meat" of this contract (assembling the TBM on-site and drilling the tunnels themselves, then disassembling the TBM), due to the massive amount of labor already exerted it's not hard to believe that nearly 60% of this contract work has been complete."

Ron Aryel, who gave me permission to use his name, said:
"I wanted to help you understand why the MTA said that, as of November, Contract 1 is 57% complete. Your reaction was understandable, but if you look carefully at what's going on, you'll see that it makes sense.

Contract 1 included:
1) Utility relocation at several locations

2) Conventional excavation plus drill and blast to excavate the five block area of the launch box plus access shafts at 72nd St station site;

3) Preparation of the launch box which includes laying electric power especially to power the TBMs;

4) Installation of the TBM, test and boring of tunnel to 72 St.

Of these steps, Step 1 by far requires the most crews, manual labor and time. This was especially so because of the spaghetti (of utility lines) they found underground. Step 2) conventional excavation plus drill and blast, takes far more time and person-hours of work than TBM boring.

The TBM boring gets you the most mileage of tunnel with the least time and fewest people. Once assembled, TBM boring is basically a piece of cake - you turn on the machine and let it chew its way forward. The conveyor belt takes care of the muck; the dump trucks just line up under the hopper and fill up. Yeah, you have to change cutters on the wheel every so often, but there's really not much to do compared to steps 1 and 2. And you make fast progress. It will take probably six months at the most for the TBMs to finish drilling. (South of 72nd st the tunnel will be built as part of Contract 4 of I'm not mistaken.)

The percentage of contract completion is based on how much work (how many tasks) have been completed compared to the total task list for the job. Step 1 above had more tasks than all of the the other steps combined (and likely required more people than the other steps)."

These are good and valid arguments that help to explain how it could be that they are "57% complete" with Contract 1.

By some measurement (like "labor hours worked vs. scheduled labor hours" or "actual work days vs. total work days scheduled") they are 57% complete (with Contract 1) - at the moment.

But I still believe that the public's perception will be different - since the public will assume, with the MTA saying that they are "57% complete with Contract 1" that the contractors are well along with the tunnels - which they haven't even started yet.

Case in point -- this amNY story on December 7th which reported (incorrectly), "tunneling between 63rd and 92nd streets is more than half done, according to MTA materials."

And a just-released report by McKissack+Delcan for the Capital Program Oversight Committee of the MTA Board included this text on page 5-48, "Of further concern is that this contract [SAS Contract 1] is reported over half complete with its main activity, the TBM tunneling of two bores, yet to start."

- - -

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

"Second Avenue Strife"
By Elizabeth Wagner
Pavement Pieces - 12/14/09
Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute - New York University

"43. Because We Keep Digging"
By Christopher Bonanos
New York - 12/13/09
(includes a fantastic picture of the work site under 2nd Avenue)

"The Subway Shaft: How Second Avenue Subway Construction Hurts Businesses in its Path"
Public Advocate for the City of New York - 12/09
(A very well written 17-page report.)

"View-Obstructing Building Takes Shape"
By Dan Rivoli
Out Town - 12/9/09

"Subway Sickness?"
Residents wonder if respiratory problems are linked to construction
By Della Hasselle
Our Town - 12/9/09

"Second Avenue Subway work has caused damage, power loss"
By Heather Haddon
amNY - 12/7/2009

"Small Businesses Seek Hope on 2nd Avenue" (2:00)
By Abigail Wendle
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Sanitary & Topographical Map of the City and Island of New York
If you click on this link and then zoom-in, you can see that much of the TBM launch box site was once marshland along with a a few streams. This might help to explain the instability of some of the older building on Second Avenue.

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All of the pictures shown in were taken on December 6, 2009 unless noted otherwise. The actual posting was loaded onto the blog on Monday 12/14/09.

1 comment:

jmp said...

The apartment owners on 69th street don't have a legal leg to stand on, as those are lot line windows.

In NYC, lot line windows are not considered a right, and are built with the specific understanding that the owners of the adjacent lot can build a structure that would block them at any time.

Now there's the question of whether or not the people who bought those apartments factored the existence of the windows into the price they paid for them. If so, they should look more carefully at the offering documents, which almost surely mention that the lot line windows are not guaranteed to be permanent.

There have been plenty of disputes of this sort before, when new construction blocks lot line windows on an existing building. The case law is extremely straightforward, and not in favor of the apartment owners...