Construction impact on neighborhood still an issue
"Moses was in the desert for 40 years because he didn't have a plan," said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-12) at a press conference she called to address the Second Avenue subway project. "We want to make sure that the MTA has a plan to complete this project and they deserve credit for managing to keep both the budget and the completion dates steady over the last four years, that is an improvement."
Maloney, a former grade-school teacher, called the press conference to issue her office's report card on the project's progress and to highlight the dismantling of the "muck house" - a site designated for construction debris on 72nd Street and Second Avenue.
"Many people are afraid they will never complete it," said Maloney. "I am here with a sharp pencil to make sure that they do complete it and to give grades, and to give oversight, and to make sure that this project is completed and the quality of life for the Second Avenue is returned to the residents that live there."
The latest report card graded the MTA on their progress in such areas as communication with public (A-), on-time record (B) and mitigation of construction impact (C-), among other measures. The MTA earned an overall B+, up from the B they received the last time the report card was issued in 2011.
Of the $1.3 billion pledged by the federal government for the project, all but $16 million has been given and Maloney said the remainder is included in the federal budget which is still being worked out in Washington. Maloney said she's confident the money will for the project will still be there when the budget is passed.
"All of that money is in the ground right now, save $16 million and that is in the federal budget coming out hopefully this year," said Maloney. "I'm convinced we will have the money on the federal level."
Maloney also said the MTA has furnished her office with a letter saying that a state-funded match to the $16 million is in place, but she doesn't know the exact amount of money for the match. The federal and state funds will go to completing phase one of the project, which will travel on Second Avenue from 96th Street to 63rd Street where it will hook up with the Q Train.
"This is the largest construction project, and mass-transit project, not only in my district, not only in the city of New York, not only in the state of New York, but the largest project in the country," said Maloney. "The Federal Transit Administration] has rated it the most important mass-transit project in our country, they predict on day one it will move over 200,000 of our residents and commuters."[
Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, who represents the Upper East Side, was also on hand to offer comments on the project. She said the biggest complaints she hears from constituents are blasting from construction and the increase in rats due to the amount of trash along Second Avenue. She also praised Congresswoman Maloney for securing the funding to complete phase one of the project.
"A project of this magnitude is going to have a lot of impact on the surrounding community," said Lappin. "[Making sure] we are both commending them for what they've done well but holding their feet to the fire on things they could do better [is] our job as elected officials."
The MTA initially set a deadline of 2013 to complete the project, but pushed it back to December 2016 after design delays and bureaucratic issues arose.
"We're here to say you can't push this back anymore," said Maloney. "We feel this neighborhood has sacrificed for the economic development of the whole city. It's been uncomfortable for people to live on Second Avenue, many of our businesses have had to close because people have not been able to get to their stores. "
Maloney pointed out that the tunnelling was completed five months ahead of schedule, which she said was one of the hardest and most disruptive part of the process.
The second phase of the project is still being hammered out and Maloney said she'll be holding a forum with MTA officials in October to determine whether it will run uptown or downtown.
The two areas where Maloney's office gave the MTA poor grades were in mitigation of construction impact (C-) and progress on station entrances and ancillary facilities (C).
"The construction impact continues to be the most negative aspect of the project. Residents in this neighborhood continue to complain about noise, and dust, [and] blasting," said Maloney, who noted blasting will be completed this summer.
Maloney also mentioned an incident in March where a construction worker was trapped in mud for four hours and a blast gone awry in August 2012 that sent debris eight stories high onto Second Avenue. Maloney said thankfully there were no injuries in either incident.
Maloney said station access for the only currently-active contractor on the project is on 96th Street, which accounts for the C grade in the station entrances and ancillary facilities category. She said station access for other contractors set to work on later portions of the project should have been started already.