Despite MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast’s seemingly unwavering optimism that the Second Avenue Subway will open on time, it’s still not clear if the line’s stations will be ready for their December ribbon cutting. According to the Times, following a Wednesday MTA board presentation outlining some of the outstanding issues (and the agency’s commitment to smoothing them out over the next eight weeks), Kent Haggas, an independent engineer for the project, offered up a very somber outlook. As he told the paper, two of the three stations set to open December 31st have fallen behind, and that the system’s “rigorous testing schedule was not being met.” More alarmingly, he added that progress to date would need to be almost tripled on a weekly basis if the MTA is to meet its deadline.
Second Avenue Subway
MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast is hoping to squash rumors that the Second Avenue Subway (SAS) will miss its December opening date. As Prendergast told the Times on Friday, “[we want to show riders] we live up to our promises” and that they are “now within striking distance of having it done.” The chairman’s remarks incidentally coincide with some newly unearthed information from the Daily News, who also reported Friday that the agency spent a week shaving down parts of the new subway tunnel wall because 75-foot train cars couldn’t fully clear curves.
Despite its location just a few blocks east of Park Avenue, Yorkville remains one of Manhattan’s most affordable neighborhoods south of 95th Street. The neighborhood’s reasonable prices partially reflect its reputation. Simply put, Yorkville has never been considered quaint or hip. Since its development in the nineteenth century, it has been best known for its German delis and unremarkable yet practical residential housing. Another factor that has historically kept the neighborhood’s housing prices below average is its high stock of rent stabilized units. Unfortunately, Yorkville’s reputation as a great place to find a bargain may soon be compromised. Recently released data on affordable housing stock in New York reveals that rent stabilized housing in Yorkville is rapidly declining. Indeed, between 2007 and 2014, the neighborhood lost more rent stabilized units than any other neighborhood in the city’s five boroughs.
While it’s still unclear whether or not the Second Avenue Subway will meet its December opening date, it does look like the rails themselves are just about ready to take on riders. Over the weekend, Youtube user Dj Hammers spotted the agency running trains past the line’s Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station (where a public area has already opened), testing out the third rail, signals and track.
After 100 years of chatter surrounding a Second Avenue Subway, it’s no surprise that the MTA can’t seem to stop flip-flopping on whether or not the line will meet its December opening date. In April of 2015, the agency announced that Phase I was 82 percent complete and on schedule, but this past June, reports of construction snafus signaled what many felt was an inevitable delay. NBC New York now confirms that the MTA is reassessing its timeline due to issues with elevator and escalator testing at the 72nd Street station.
NY1 has learned that the W train will make its triumphant return on Monday, November 7th. The line was taken out of service in 2010, along with the V train, due to MTA budget cuts, but the idea to revive the line came about last summer as a way to better connect Astoria when the Q train is rerouted once the Second Avenue Subway opens. As Curbed notes, at first it will operate between 57th Street and Whitehall Street in Lower Manhattan, but will eventually extend to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard.
Ah, the Second Avenue Subway. It’s been the topic of discussion for over 96 years (yes, the line has been in the works since 1920) and it is finally nearing completion despite reports of delays due to last minute design changes and absentee workers. But the question is, will the Second Avenue subway revitalize the Upper East Side?
Wednesday Martin, the author of the eye-opening, amusing and often shocking anthropological memoir of life on the Upper East Side, “Primates of Park Avenue,” says, “What a lot of people who don’t live here don’t know, and what many of us who do live here know, is that there is not one Upper East Side. There are at least two. The Upper East Side west of Lexington has pretty much always been and remains expensive, fancy, and established. It is the eastern UES or FEUES (Far East Upper East Side; or Yorkville) that has undergone so many demographic shifts—from slum to chic to post college kids to young families. The Second Avenue subway will bring another shift.”
New Yorkers have learned to take deadlines and budgets from the MTA with a grain of salt, and the Second Avenue Subway may be the worst offender since it was first proposed all the way back in the 1920s. But the past couple years have restored some hope; in April 2015, it was announced that Phase I of the project was 82 percent complete and on track for its December 2016 opening, and last summer the MTA even went so far as to say the entire line could open sooner than originally planned.
But yesterday the Post reported that there’s a good chance the Second Avenue Subway won’t be finished on time, blaming construction crews not showing up for work. This has put inspections behind schedule, and therefore “the agency has only completed 67 percent of the testing and needs to do another 1,100 checks by October.”
Artist’s impression of one of the Second Avenue subway’s 16 new stations
While the New York City subway system has improved by leaps and bounds since the days of squealing graffiti-covered, crime-riddled trains, stations are still an unpleasant reality. Between the grime, stench, heat and noise of oncoming trains (which in turn makes it impossible to hear indecipherable, possibly important announcements), by the time the actual train shows up we’ve had our share of city cacophony.
The good news is that an engineering firm is working with the MTA to create the amazing possibility of quieter subway stations, Wired reports. The challenge of quieting the din lies in the fact that a subway station has to be “incredibly strong, graffiti-proof, soot-resistant, human bodily waste-resistant,” according to Alex Case, an architectural acoustician with the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This indestructible infrastructure by nature creates an echo chamber that amplifies the racket. Engineering firm Arup has been hired by the MTA to improve the acoustics of the new Second Avenue line, the first phase of which–a stretch of track that lies 10 stories below the Upper East Side–is scheduled to open this December, with 8.5 miles and 16 new stations on the way when the line is complete.
Perhaps in an attempt to distract disgruntled riders from looming shutdowns and never-ending delays, the MTA has released a new subway map that features stations along phase one of the Second Avenue line and the reinstated W line to Astoria. The former isn’t planned to open until December (which, as Gothamist notes, we’ll believe when we see) and the latter November, but if you were stuck on a sweaty platform this morning, this eye candy is surely a welcome treat.