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