Thursday, November 18, 2010

MTA: Becoming Better Neighbors

Late last month, the MTA announced a plan to improve the conditions in and around its construction sites on Second Avenue.

In a nutshell, the MTA has said that their goal is to "improve the pedestrian experience" [on Second Avenue] in an effort to "be better neighbors."

A few people have asked me for further details on the MTA's plan, so I dug a little deeper (no pun intended). I was able to track down a presentation that was given by Michael Horodniceanu at the October meeting of the MTA Board of Directors NYC Transit Committee. (Dr. Horodniceanu is the President of MTA Capital Construction.)

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The transcription that accompanies the presentation (shown below) is based on a video recording of the October meeting of the NYC Transit Committee. A small number of minor editorial changes were introduced by me in an effort to make Dr. Horodniceanu's unscripted remarks easier to read.

I also added hyperlinks for words and abbreviations that may not be commonly known to the general public.

Please keep in mind that many of the images in the presentation are just conceptualizations. The final design, so I am told, could be different.

In addition, please note that what follows is not an official transcript of the meeting.


Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the other things that I would like discuss -- and for this I have a short presentation -- is what we expect to do along Second Avenue, as we become better neighbors to the people that we inconvenience with our work on a daily basis.

A board member:
We will pay very close attention to this -- because that is not a fun place to live and work right now, so I'm glad we're taking these extraordinary steps -- they're certainly needed.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the things that we are doing is that we are upgrading the conditions along the construction site to makes sure that certain things are happening, and we are creating a better environment for pedestrians -- we [would] like to improve the experience of the pedestrians so they can basically navigate the area [and] we are helping the businesses in the area to accommodate their customers -- as well as in this particular case we expect to use cleanliness as being a very important thing.

Construction sites normally are not known for their neatness and cleanliness, and while you have 9 to 12 months contracts, that's okay in a way, we're going to be there for the next 6 years -- so we have to make sure that we're going to be good neighbors since we're building in front of every one's living room.

A board member:
On the previous slide it mentions repairing sidewalks. Are these repairs regardless of whether MTA caused the problem or just... you're going to go through [the] whole range of streets?

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Wherever we [have] impact -- and I'll show you what things we expect to do -- we expect to have one specific block that we're doing first, and this is between 92nd and 93rd, and we're going to make that a model block and we're going to continue beyond that.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Here's a good example of existing and planned -- if you look at the corner on the left side, there is a bulging fence... this is our site. Our contractor occupies that site and it's bulging in about a foot and half. If you look at the wall here, it is made out of a variety of fences so it's kind of a patchwork and that is not acceptable.

The idea is, what we will do here -- we will actually make sure that we are cleaning up and lining up things. When you look at the sidewalk, in this particular case, if we need to -- and that's what we're showing here -- I'm not suggesting that everyone needs that -- we may put in a wooden sidewalk just to make sure that it's kept level.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
This is another example, and you can see that number one there are -- in front of the stores -- we have a kind of steps or stoops, whatever you want to call them, and these steps actually cut in to the width of 7 feet because you have to negotiate around them. Again, the idea here is that we want to make sure that we are creating that -- take the fence, the fencing is irregular, high, low. That's going to change as well and we're going to make sure that the signage is both comprehensive and it will have a pattern that people will be able to understand.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
On the other side we have a variety of jersey barriers painted whatever the way they came from another job -- sometimes broken -- the fencing is again, a variety of fencing that you can get.

Here what we're going to do is take a page from what we did on the Fulton Transit [project] in which we're providing uniformity, and we're going to put some signage showing people that we want to encourage them to shop on Second Avenue as well as showing people what the stations are going to look like -- things that will actually showcase what we do, not showcasing a kind of a messy construction site.

This [image] is somewhat idealized -- someone took an artistic license to put flowers at the bottom but that is neither here nor there. We will make it uniform.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
One of the things is that at the edge of every block we're going to put in uniform signage -- telling people what they should expect to find on that block. Which businesses... so people will be able to understand what we are doing.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
A night, it's kind of pretty dark... and there are a variety of reasons, and some of it is lack of light. Forget about the type of lighting that is being shown here.

A board member:
[inaudible comment]

Dr. Horodniceanu:
Well, it is particularly tough because in many locations we have not only the fencing, we have the shed above it -- by the time you do that you create a dark tunnel, totally uninviting for anyone to be there, we expect to change that.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
We specialize in crooked lines, sometimes. We're going to make sure that they're straight -- as well we're going to make sure the pavement is right. Some of the pavement we just put patches and we expect the people to do well with that.

I'm out there now actually on a weekly basis talking to people, and I visited with an assisted living facility that we have actually cut back the sidewalk to 7 feet, and in the process of doing that -- because of the slope and how the sidewalks work -- we created a curb reveal that is like 6 inches for people who are supposed to step down and get in to a cab.

So these are the things that we are looking at, and I'm looking at the ADA and the corners to make sure that people can get down it.

Dr. Horodniceanu:
So the bottom line is, we are creating a good neighbor standard that we expect to keep throughout the construction zone.

We are going to replace the warped fencing -- paint barriers and ugly sidewalk surfaces -- [provide] way finding signage, and we're going to do the crosswalks that have to be repainted, safe sidelines for pedestrians. I have pictures when people come to the edge and they have to -- kind of like in the subway -- they have to look and see if there are any trucks coming.

And with full access to businesses and residences -- and part of it is to make sure that the contractor complies with our specs as well as the ADA compliance with sidewalk slopes and heights.

A board member:
Michael, how much budget have you allocated for all of this?

Dr. Horodniceanu:
The budget for it is -- at this point I don't expect to expend additional money. I expect to make sure that the contractors are doing what they're supposed to be doing and if there is any expenditures, they're going to be minimal.

A board member:
And can you give everyone assurances that the fly problem that people were talking about -- because contractors were not cleaning up themselves at the end of the day -- that that is going to get resolved. It was like the Plagues of Joab -- we had rats and then flies [inaudible]

Dr. Horodniceanu:
I actually happened to be there the day after when something was said about flies and I was walking and I couldn't find the flies -- but I'm serious, I mean, you know, it seems like... the flies, the locust next, I don't know. We'll make sure that the place is clean.

We cannot make sure that the tenants themselves do not deposit trash in an unsightly manner, because that has happened as well... I'm not going to go there... we're going to make sure that from our perspective the contractor is going to clean up after themselves.

I quite frankly doubt that we created the flies because we primarily take out muck -- we don't do much more than that at this point. We're there so therefore we're going to make sure that things work well.

Right now we've put together a task force to do this job -- we're involving the merchants as well, various people in the various departments at MTA -- there's more to come... this is just the beginning.



The video recording of Dr. Horodniceanu's remarks can be found on this link:
MTA New York City Transit Committee Meeting
Metropolitan Transportation Authority - 10/25/10
start: 44:45 / end: 54:35

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so many of these buildings are so ugly. the facades are dominated by vents and gratings. i'm assuming that is is to accommodate all of the HVAC work that is being done in the stations. despite having sweat through my share of shirts on the subway, i don't entirely support MTA's policy that all new construction be air conditioned...