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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A New Schedule

Here's a copy of the new schedule for
the MTA's Second Avenue subway project -

(left-click on the image for a view that is readable.)

The schedule above was presented by the MTA at the last meeting of the Community Board 8 (CB8) Second Avenue Subway Task Force on September 24th, 2009.

For comparison purposes, I've also including a copy (below) of the last full schedule that the MTA presented at a CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting. (It was presented over three years ago on July 11, 2006.)

When you compare these two schedules a number of interesting things become clear:
  • The MTA's proposed in-service date for Phase I of the Second Avenue Subway has now been set for December 2016. (it was late 2013 in the earlier plan.)
  • The overall amount of time that has been scheduled for the construction of Phase I has increased from 7 years and 1 month to 9 years and 8 months. (an addition of 31 months)
  • The scheduled duration of Contact 1 (Launch Box, Tunnels and shafts at 69th and 72nd Streets) has increased from 37 months to 51 months. (an addition of 14 months.)
  • All of the other contracts have had a significant amount of scheduled duration time added to them too - with 5 to 30 additional months added to each of the 6 major parts of the project.

The project is taking much longer than planned for a number of reasons. These reasons most likely include:
  • On Contract 1 it took them much longer than they imagined to relocate the maze of utilities under 2nd Avenue in the TBM launch box work zone;
  • Contracts have been awarded later than planned (e.g. Contract 2A, 96th Street station Site Work & Heavy Civil - the Request for Proposal was issued on 3/7/08 but the contract was not awarded until 5/8/09)
  • Important parts of the final design were delayed because the final location for some of the station entrances are still being reviewed. (in particular the entrances for the 72nd and 86th Street stations.)
  • Delays related to the acquisition of certain pieces of real estate.

I'm sure that there are many other reasons, and in time they will become known - when the MTA Inspector General publishes his report on the project.

And as a final note, it's important to remember that this schedule depends on the allocation of about $1.5 billion to the project, in the yet to-be-approved 2010-2014 MTA Capital Program.

- - -

S3 Tunnel Constructors also made a presentation at the same Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting.

In their presentation they includes 4 pictures of the work that is on-going underneath the road decking that covers the TBM Launch Box. Here are copies of those pictures:

A link to the full presentation, from the last meeting of the CB8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force, is provided below.

- - -

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

MTA Presentation to Community Board 8:
Schedule and Construction Update - 9/24/09
(PDF, 11.3 Mb)

"Tenants Suing for Evacuation Costs"
Our Town - 10/7/09

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."