Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday on the Avenue

I ventured out this past Sunday in the cold weather. My goal was to find some festive decorations that would brighten up the blog during the holiday season.

This proved to be more difficult than I expected.

97th Street - looking N

A large Liebherr telescopic crawler crane sits idle in front of the Metropolitan Hospital Center. The crane is standing on top of sections of concrete decking.

This movable decking covers over a soon-to-be excavated cut-and-cover tunnel. During construction of the Second Avenue subway in the 1970s, 12-inch thick timber piles were used rather than concrete as a road decking material.

btw. 96th & 97th streets - looking W

This image was taken from a temporary pedestrian walkway that has been set up in the middle of Second Avenue. I found the walkways in this area a bit of a maze to navigate.

btw. 96th & 97th streets - looking S

The roadway at this location has been removed and most of the utilities have now been relocated. Soon the contractor will install a set of deck beams and concrete decking.

96th Street, NW corner - looking NE

Another view of the same location. The "squares" visible under the road surface are called "splice boxes." The deck beams that extend across Second Avenue will be bolted together inside these boxes.

just west of the NW corner of 96th Street - looking E

A decorated tree stands by the work site.

96th Street - looking S

Here you can see newly installed deck beams. Entrance No. 3 for the future 92nd Street station will be located here.

btw. 95th & 96th streets - looking S

A nice view of shadows in front of the Rite Aid.

95th Street - looking S

Looking south down the canyon of Second Avenue.

just South of 95th Street - looking E

This is an interesting scene. The current contractor (E. E. Cruz and Tully Construction) at this location appears to be breaking apart a section of the north wall of the TBM launch box that was built by the prior contractor (S3 Tunnel Constructors).

The portable yellow jackhammer, on the right side of the decking, is being used for the demolition of the wall.

btw. 90th & 91st streets - looking W

Across the street from the work site, residents purchase a Christmas tree.

btw. 91st & 92nd streets - looking SW

These sections of track have recently been removed from the east tunnel. Previously, the track had been used by the work train inside the tunnel.

86th Street - looking E

A view down the center of 86th Street. The contractor here has set up a work zone to prepare for the excavation for Entrance No. 2 of the station.

btw. 84th & 85th streets - looking S

Eight street lights placed in a cozy row.

One could assume that the contractor has relocated these decorative streetlights to this location for safe keeping.

btw. 72nd & 73rd streets - looking SE

A view of the 72nd Street muck house - with a newly extended vertical vent shaft. One could assume that the shaft has been extended so that the dust, smoke and odors from the underground blasting can [now] be vented well above street level.

It is possible that Santa will have some difficulty getting down this shaft on Christmas Eve -- since the shaft entrance is now located well above the roof line.

When the last work shift ends on Saturday, December 24th, perhaps the contractor might wish leave an 20-foot extension ladder atop the muck house for Santa's use.

72nd Street, NW corner - looking NE

Another view of the recently extended vent shaft. Note the protective filter cover on the end of the horizontal vent shaft.

just south of 72nd Street - looking E

If you look closely, you can see that the fire escape that was on the front of this building has recently been removed, probably with help of an oxyacetylene cutting torch.

This location will become Entrance No. 3 (a bank of five elevators) for the future 72nd Street station.

70th Street - looking S

I found a few more holiday lights in front of the Beach Cafe, opposite the 69th Street muck house.

70th Street - looking S

A view of the newly extended vent shaft at the 69th Street muck house.

70th Street - looking up

Look closely at this image and you can see that the contractor has used a kind of insulating foam to seal the gap between the steel beam and the muck house wall.

This most likely was done as an additional step to contain the smoke, dust and odors of the underground blasting inside the muck house.

69th Street, SW corner - looking NE

The 69th Street muck house in all its glory.

Visitors to Second Avenue must really wonder what in the world this structure is. Perhaps the MTA should consider placing some signage on these buildings to better inform passersby of the structures' purpose.

68th Street - looking N

And a final view of the scene on Second Avenue, looking North.

67th Street, btw. Lexington & 3rd Avenue - looking N

As I was walking towards the subway, I came across this NYC firehouse all decked out with a nice wreath for the holiday season.


In other news, the MTA's independent engineer McKissack+Delcan provided this report to the MTA Capital Program Oversight Committee earlier this week.

Quarterly Progress Report on the Second Avenue Subway &
Second Avenue Subway System Contract Risk Assessment

Report to the MTA Capital Program Oversight Committee (CPOC)

Notable highlights in the report include:

  • The current schedule contingency is 66 days (which is not much considering there is still 5 more years to go on this project.)

  • The current project cost contingency is $342 million, which is well above the $ 322 million planned budget contingency. (This is good news.)

  • The lawsuit that Yorkshire Tower residents brought against the MTA has been settled decided in the MTA's favor. (see the note below.) According to the report, work can now proceed without delay on Entrance No. 2 of the 86th Street station.

Note: A pdf copy of the court's decision can be found on this link:
Memorandum & Decision,
Yorkshire Towers Company LP, et al vs. US DOT, et al


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

"Underground Blasting Resumes On Second Avenue Subway"
By Tina Redwine
Video (1:36)
NY1 - 12/5/11

"DustBoss Saves $1 Million in Labor on Manhattan's 2nd Avenue Subway" - 12/8/11

"Pounding Away"
By Allen Houston
Our Town - 12/14/11


Off Topic:
Rats Back in the News

Some readers of this blog may recall that I wrote a posting about rats, with the title "Rats!", back in May of 2010.

We'll, just in time for the holidays New York City's rats are back in the news.

"Special Delivery, With Teeth Marks"
By Andy Newman
The New York Times - 12/19/11

This is a wonderful little story about yet another problem at the U.S. Postal Service.

Season Greetings to All


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The MTA's Workshop

Last week, the MTA did something that they've never done before.

They hosted a workshop to solicit input and a fresh set of ideas from members of the affected community on Second Avenue.

By hosting the workshop, MTA Capital Construction wanted to hear from community members how it could "better preserve the quality of life in the neighborhoods undergoing construction and more effectively communicate."

All of the images that follow were taken at the workshop that was held on Wednesday, November 30th.

When I walked into this meeting, a few minutes before 6 p.m., I sensed right away that the atmosphere was different than that of prior project meetings. (And I'm not referring only to the two smiling MTA representatives.)

The workshop was opened to 200 members of the community, on a first come first serve basis. (Everyone had to pre-register online.)

The colored dots in the seating chart above designate different areas of community interest - i.e. the work sites near the stations at 63rd, 72nd, 86th and 96th streets.)

On one wall of the room, a set of story boards had been set up to provide participants with background information on the project.

The workshop got underway after a brief introduction by Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, and Sam Schwartz, President of Sam Schwartz Engineering and lead workshop facilitator.

After participants found their designated tables, they proceeded to list their areas of concern and then generate potential solutions.

Each table had a group facilitator to moderate the discussion. Most, if not all, of the tables were also joined by representatives of the MTA and contractors working on the project.

As one would expect, with a New York City crowd, the discussion was lively.

Most tables collected their concerns using post-it notes. Then, they prioritized their concerns on large story boards, shown below.

It was rather amazing to see the high level of cooperative interaction among all participants.

One of the facilitators presenting his group's listing of solutions.

At about 8 p.m. the meeting was called back to order and a few of the tables were invited to step forward to make brief presentations.

This noble and worthwhile event was somewhat negatively impacted by two things that happened at the end of the meeting.

The first problem was that, prior to the exercise, it was not really made clear that only a handful of the tables would be permitted to present their findings to the larger group. Therefore, those participants whose tables could not make a presentation seemed to feel their work was left out or ignored.

The second problem was that some of the presentations (from the 72nd Street tables) seemed to focus solely on issues related to project blasting. These presentations turned into vocal and passionate pleas directed at the MTA for them to become more open with information and not to restart the blasting.

At the end of the evening, the MTA promised to take note of all expressed concerns and proposed solutions, and to "react" to all of them in a written report. How exactly this will be done remains to be seen.

At the end of the meeting, Dr. Horodniceanu announced that in a few weeks the MTA would invite interested workshop participants to take a tour of parts of the underground work site -- as a way of thanking them for coming out tonight.

Despite a few challenges, I would say that the workshop provided a very useful and productive forum for community discussion. Both the participants and the members of the project team (MTA employees and contractors) seemed to enjoy the two-way discussion.


In other news, MTA Arts for Transit announced that they are now seeking professional artists for consideration to create public artwork for the 72nd Street Station on the Second Avenue Subway Line.

The MTA's official announcement can be found on this link:
Call for Artists - MTA Arts for Transit

Here are two examples of the art work that is planned for two of the new stations --

MTA Arts for Transit / Artist: Sarah Sze

Rendering of the artist's work proposed for the new 96th Street station.

MTA Art for Transit / Artist: Jean Shinplanned

Rendering of the artist's work proposed for the 63rd Street station.

Jennifer Maloney's piece, "Subway Depths, Lit by Art", in the Wall Street Journal last week provides more background on the MTA's Art for Transit program and the art that is planned for the new stations on Second Avenue.


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

"Subway Depths, Lit by Art"
By Jennifer Maloney
The Wall Street Journal - 11/25/11

"Working New York: Sandhogs"
By Tracey Samuelson
WNYC - Audio (2:55) - 11/28/11

"Residents Express Concern Over Health Problems From Second Avenue Subway Project"
By Tina Redwine
NY1 - Video (1:43) - 11/30/11