It's beginning to look a lot like an on-time opening for the Second Avenue Subway. Despite pictures of tunnels shrouded in scaffolding, and multiple missed project deadlines, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) assured a skeptical public this fall that phase one of the system’s newest line would be open by New Year’s Day. Should New York expect a new east side subway in the new year, or is the new line still a pipe dream? First there were reports in October that the new tunnels, which would add stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th streets, were too narrow to accommodate trains; workers had to file concrete passages to size. Now, it appears the odds and ends of bringing the $4.5-billion project to fruition are holding up opening day. When The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) reached out to the MTA about a media tour of the line at press time in mid-December, a spokesperson said that no tours were planned at the time, but the paper should attend the opening event at a to-be-announced future date. The line, in the works since the 1920s, has been delayed by the Great Depression, a world war, and good old-fashioned politicking, so its latest temporal setback is hardly a surprise, according to transit advocates. The most recent deadline for the subway, which includes a Q train extension from 57th Street–7th Avenue to the new 96th Street station, was set seven years ago. After recent mistakes, the MTA is taking extra precautions to ensure every component is functioning adequately: When it opened in 2015, the 7 train extension to Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side was plagued with structural deficiencies—most notably leaky ceilings that turned busy walkways into perilous butt-to-floor encounters. Despite the obstacles, Governor Andrew Cuomo is confident the line will be open right as Times Square revelers usher in 2017. On Twitter, he urged New Yorkers not to drink the hater-ade: “Right now, there is a lot of cynicism and skepticism about our projects. We’re going to restore credibility. #2ndAveSubway will open Jan 1.” He is allegedly pressuring the MTA to finish up quickly, but as we usher in 2017 there’s still no opening to look forward to—and this is only phase one. When complete, (most likely after everyone reading this has died), the whole 8.5-mile line should carry straphangers from East 125th Street to Hanover Street in the Financial District.
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Earlier today, Governor Cuomo announced that the New-York Historical Society will partner with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to preserve the spontaneous “Subway Therapy” installations that appeared throughout New York City subway stations in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, which was largely predicated on openly racist, misogynist, and xenophobic rhetoric, as well as the denial of climate science. The project was created when artist Matthew Levee Chavez brought sticky notes and pens to subway stations in the days following the election results, and encouraged New Yorkers to “express their thoughts, feel less alone, and also become exposed to opinions different than their own,” Chavez said. Working with the artist, the New-York Historical Society will archive the sticky notes as “an emblem of emotion and humanity in the month following the [2016 national] election,” according to a press release. "Over the last six weeks, New Yorkers have proved that we will not let fear and division define us. Today, we preserve a powerful symbol that shows how New Yorkers of all ages, races, and religions came together to say we are one family, one community and we will not be torn apart," said Governor Cuomo. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society spoke of the way “ephemeral items in particular can become vivid historical documents,” and the importance of ensuring “future generations can understand the historical impact of present events.” “‘Subway Therapy’ perfectly evokes this historic moment,” Mirrer said of the participatory art piece. As the removal of the sticky notes is already underway, the public will still be able to participate in the project, this Tuesday through Inauguration Day on January 20th, by placing sticky notes on the glass wall inside New-York Historical Society’s front entrance, located on Central Park West at 77th Street.
No-car zone proposed for 14th Street in Manhattan, Grand Street in Williamsburg, during L train shutdown
For several months, transit advocacy groups and politicians have been entertaining the concept of closing Manhattan’s 14th Street to private car traffic while the L train tunnel—pictured above—is repaired. Now they are hoping to put similar rules in place for Grand Street in Williamsburg. Under the rules of the plan, people would only be allowed to travel by bus, on a bike, or by foot in both of these areas while the L train pathway is properly restored. Carolina Samponaro, senior director of Transportation Alternatives, told The New York Post that “Grand street is a major backbone along the L train route just like 14th Street,” saying that the group is aiming for a “complete street redesign.” The no-car zone in Williamsburg would extend from Grand Street to Metropolitan Avenue. At present, the L train moves some 225,000 passengers daily between Williamsburg and Manhattan. Though there were mixed feelings back in the spring when the MTA reviewed possible plans for repair, all 11 Community boards along the L were “overwhelmingly in favor” of a total shutdown for 18 months, as opposed to a one-track-at-a-time three-year closure, as reported by The Architect’s Newspaper. The Canarsie Tunnel which brings the L train under the east river was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012.
New Yorkers will soon be traveling through flood-resistant tunnels and over earthquake-proof bridges, complete with jazzy, customized LED installations. Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans this week for infrastructure upgrades geared towards maintaining the safety, efficiency, and security of the MTA's bridges and tunnel. "By investing in New York's transportation network today and equipping it to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we are cementing our state's position as a national leader in 21st-century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation," Governor Cuomo said, in a statement. "From speeding up commutes and reducing emissions on key roadways with automatic tolling to bolstering resiliency on our bridges and tunnels and increasing security at key checkpoints, this transformational project will revolutionize transportation in New York and ensure that our state is built to lead for generations to come." The governor's initiative covers travel routes high and low: On the ground, the New York Crossings Project will bring flood-control barriers to tunnels to prevent the catastrophic water damage unleashed on underground infrastructure by Hurricane Sandy. Previously built to prevent the impact of 100-year floods, the new barriers are capable of withstanding those 500-year deluges. The plan also calls for the bearings on all bridges to be replaced with seismic isolation bearings to protect against earthquakes and other adverse natural events. Bridge columns and piers will be reinforced, while concrete armor units will be installed to on the underwater part of bridge piers to provide further protection. On those seven bridges and two tunnels, the state will install automatic toll booths to boost traffic flow and decrease congestion, saving commuters an estimated 21 hours of driving and a million gallons of fuel each year. Sensors and cameras will be installed on gantries above the road so monitors can record passing cars and bill E-Z Pass or invoice drivers of non-E-Z Pass vehicles. The cameras won't be watching license plates alone: In an effort to ramp up security, Albany plans to test emerging face-recognition software on drivers. (The Orwellian technology will also be used at the just-announced Penn-Farley Complex.) Invoking civic buildings—Grand Central Terminal, the original Penn Station—that are also nice to look at, the governor aims to create "modern transportation gateways" from the humble toll plaza. Tunnel plazas will be redesigned with LED-enabled "veils," while gantries for the new toll booths will sport "wave" designs that also provide soundproofing. An all-day light spectacle on the George Washington Bridge, the governor explains, will provide a festive, Instagram-ready tableaux for visitors (and boost the sale of blackout shades for anyone living in a 10-block radius of the bridge). The first phase of the installation will begin this January, with all project being funded through the MTA's $27 billion capital plan.
In the final days of the state legislative session, it's common practice for participating parties to play Supermarket Sweep with the budget bill: Hundreds of special-interest items are piled into the document at the eleventh hour when legislators don't necessarily have the time to scrutinize each one. At the end of the last legislative session, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) snuck a major item into the budget that would allow the agency to develop land it controls any way it chooses, regardless of local zoning. Senate Bill 8037, sponsored by Senator Jack M. Martins, a Democrat from Eastern Long Island, would repeal the problematic language. The bill maintains that the definition of "transportation purpose" is too broad, and could have "unintended consequences" for local governments. Martins's bill passed the Assembly and the Senate, and is waiting for a signature from Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Architect's Newspaper reached out to one of the bill's co-sponsors, Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who represents part of Manhattan's East Side, for comment on the legislation. A representative from Senator Krueger's office stated that there's no word yet on when the governor will take action on the bill.
Fresh from devising a plan make re-imaging Penn Station and regional rail, Jim Venturi and his team at ReThink Studio are snapping at the MTA's heels once again. As all subway-faring New Yorkers will know by now, the L-train is due to shut down in 2019 for much needed repairs on the Canarsie tunnels that connect Manhattan to Williamsburg. The MTA is still figuring out how to compensate for the shutdown, though their plan may include increased subway, ferry, or bus services. The stakes are high for daily commuters and the neighborhood's overall growth: In May, the New York Times reported that Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president Carlo A. Scissura said businesses were panicking. Developers too were worried. “You may see people who say: ‘It’s not worth it to rent an apartment along this corridor. I’m just going to do something else,’” Scissura said. “This is an area where a Saturday or a Friday night is like prime-time rush hour on a Monday morning commute." So what does Venturi's Rethink Studio propose? "Right now with the L train outage there are only bad choices available" Venturi told The Architect's Newspaper. "Shuttle buses and ferries are not nearly as convenient as subway service, and redirecting passengers onto existing nearby subway lines will lead to further over-crowding," according to ReThinkStudio. Consequently, his team proposes running the E train through its current end-stop at the World Trade Center and into Brooklyn. Taking the A/C line, the service would continue northbound on the G line, terminating at Court Square in Queens. Currently, the G train only uses four cars on its service, which runs every eight minutes. The plan, Venturi argues, will help the transportation network handle the L trains daily passenger load: Some 400,000 riders every weekday. Venturi also hopes that running the E alongside will add some resiliency to the network, providing room for growth for redundancy for fallback plans. For those on the G, ReThink Studio's proposal would make traveling into Manhattan a one-seat journey. Meanwhile, L train passengers will have a two-seat ride into Manhattan by transferring at Lorimer Street. In this scenario, the E would break away from the A and C lines at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street, a feat made possible by adding a new rail switch, as illustrated by the studio. "This is a good idea regardless of the L train shutdown," Venturi said. He argues that the added "connectivity and redundancy is what the system needs." Indeed, such resiliency and redundancy in underground transit networks can be found in both Berlin and London, where many lines run the same route at numerous instances.
Attention riders: All L train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Manhattan beginning January 2019. The MTA announced today that the Canarsie Tunnel which brings L train riders under the East River will be closed for 18 months to repair damage wrought by 2012's Hurricane Sandy. In four community meetings this spring, the agency reviewed repair scenarios and solicited New Yorkers' feedback on partial and full tunnel shutdown scenarios. The full closure option was chosen over a one-track-at-a-time three-year closure. Although residents in L-dependent neighborhoods had mixed feelings about the inevitable closure, all 11 Community Boards along the L were "overwhelmingly in favor" of a total shutdown. Repairs will target damaged signals, switches, tracks, power cables, and other infrastructure that was corroded by salt water when seven miles of the tunnel flooded. Upgrades will be made to stations closest to the river, as well. “Approximately 80 percent of riders will have the same disruptions with either option. Throughout our extensive outreach process and review, it became clear that the 18-month closure was the best construction option and offered the least amount of pain to customers for the shortest period of time,” NYCT president Veronique ‘Ronnie’ Hakim stated. “The 18-month option is also the most efficient way to allow MTA to do the required work. It gives us more control over the work site and allows us to offer contractor incentives to finish the work as fast as possible. We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process—and risk unplanned closures—by leaving one track open during construction.” Although the MTA is formulating a transportation plan for the Brooklyn-Manhattan commute, perhaps it's time to seriously consider some alternative options. Newtown Creek water shuttle, anyone?
On Monday Governor Cuomo unveiled designs for the renovation of 31 subway stations stations and hundreds of new subway cars. 1,025 cars will sport new features, inside and out, while 750 new cars will be "Open Car End" designs, so passengers flow will be enhanced but there will be no more fleeing the dreaded stink car. "The MTA is the circulatory system for the metropolitan area. If you want to grow the metropolitan area, if you want to sustain the metropolitan area, the answer cannot be that people get in their cars and commute to work. That just does not work," Cuomo said at a press conference. "The volume just cannot be handled by the current road transportation system. The MTA is going to have to increase their capacity to manage that higher volume." For those anxious that the MTA may draw on the vast reservoir of design talent in the city, worry not. The new stations and cars look sleek, but not radically so. The open-tube designs are intended to reduce crowding by more evenly distributing the number of passengers on the train while wider doors will speed up entry and exit time by one third. In addition to wi-fi and USB charging ports at stations and in cars, security is paramount: The governor highlighted the presence of surveillance cameras on platforms and inside trains. The investments are part of the agency's $27 billion, five-year capital plan. The MTA is using design-build contracts to speed up the project timeline: "We have had enough experience to know the best way to do this now is contract the entire project to a private sector developer who does this, who can design the project to your specifications, can build the project, is incentivized to get it done quickly, and is penalized if they are late. These endless construction projects, that just go on and on and on, and they seemingly have no end, have to stop. We need a different way to do business which is design-build," Cuomo declared. Stations will be completely closed during renovations to further expedite the process. The first of several Requests for Proposals for the renovations will be released this week.
The non-profit group Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the MTA over a Bronx subway station that remains inaccessible to wheelchairs despite a major overhaul. According to DRA, the MTA’s failure to make the station wheelchair accessible is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people from discrimination based on disability. The Middletown Road station in the Bronx was closed between October 2013 and May 2014 for improvements, which included replacing staircases and other parts of the structure. The costly renovation also included new ceilings, walls, and floors, but failed to add an elevator. The station lies in the middle of a four mile stretch—which contains ten stops on the 6 line—that are not wheelchair accessible. According to the DRA, New York City has one of the worst public transportation systems in the country for handicapped people, with only 19% of subway stations accessible to wheelchairs compared to 100% of stations in Washington, D.C. and the San Francisco Bay Area. While city busses are all wheelchair accessible, they're often a much slower and less efficient way to get around. According to DNAinfo, the MTA claims it was not in violation of the ADA because adding an elevator would have been impossible due to the physical constrains of the station. The DRA asserts that it could've been done. Minor accessibility improvements to the station were implemented, including new handrails and tactile signs. The suit, which was filed on behalf of Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) and Disabled in Action of Metropolitan New York (DIA), claims that an elevator would have been technically feasible. According to Anthony Trocchia, President of DIA, the suit is meant to call attention to the broader issue of wheelchair accessibility on the New York City subway system.
In order to finish the Second Avenue Subway by its December deadline, the MTA requires an additional $10 million per month on top of the $39 million per month that is currently being spent, Kent Haggas, the project's independent engineer, has told DNAinfo. About seventy-percent of the project goals set forth by the MTA in March have been reached, according to the project's contractors. According to another engineer, a pileup of changes that arose during construction have also heightened the stress to complete the subway on time. In February, the MTA’s full board voted to use $66 million from its existing contingency budget to stay on schedule, leaving $50 million left to finish the project. On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo announced the Capital Plan Review Board’s approval of the MTA’s $25 billion repair and upgrade plan, according to an article from the Daily News: “The money covers everything from track and station repairs to new train cars and buses.” Included in that range is the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway project into East Harlem. The Daily News article quotes a statement from Governor Cuomo: “By investing in the most robust transportation plan in state history, we are reimagining the MTA and ensuring a safer, more reliable and more resilient public transportation network for tomorrow.” The state will contribute $8.3 billion while the city will contribute $2.5 billion but the funding will not be available until the MTA has exhausted its own $50 million slotted for the subway.
Expanding on the East River Ferry system, Mayor de Blasio will see his $55 million plan for a five borough ferry network come to fruition summer 2017. At $2.75-a-ride, the system will be managed and operated by a California company, Hornblower, that has a proven track record in the industry, having run services in New York for ten years. Currently, the ferry caters to Manhattan residents and those on the shoreline between DUMBO, Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. The network will be expanded to escort people to Astoria, Queens; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; and the Rockaways, Queens. Come 2018, Soundview will service the Upper and Lower East Side. Another proposal looks to extend the service further to Staten and Coney Island, though no completion date has yet been penned in. The cost of a ferry trip will align with the price of a single subway ride. Bicycles may be carried on for an extra dollar. This is less than half of what it costs for a standard weekend ferry fare at the moment. Such a pricing scheme is no accident, either, as de Blasio has his eyes on integrating the network with the rest of the MTA system. According to de Blasio, commuters will be able to enjoy the "fresh air, harbor views, and a fast ride on the open water" on the 20-minute journey between Astoria and Manhattan's East 34th Street, as well as being able to make the most of the ferry on the hour-long commute between the Rockaways and Wall Street. “Today I applaud Mayor de Blasio for his $55 million capital commitment to a 5-borough ferry system and declaring that New York City’s waterfront will be open for all. The ripple effect from this service will be felt throughout the entire city from Bay Ridge to Bayside; from Staten Island to Soundview,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile. “Access to a true 5-borough ferry system will be just another jewel to add to our crown here in southwest Brooklyn, one that will be a boon to small businesses and real estate alike.”
At first glance, this may look like state-funded environmental pollution: New York's Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) regularly dumps unwanted subway cars into the Atlantic. However, these New York City subway cars are now a happy home for fish. The MTA aims to create artificial marine environments, similar to those created by sunken ships, that will foster aquatic life. While most of this activity has gone under the radar, the MTA has been dumping subway cars since the turn of the 21st century. To date, after ten years worth of dumping, 2,400 subway cars currently lie on the ocean floor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPzRibWesyo Man-made reefs are nothing new, either. U.S. fishermen have engaged in the practice since the 1830s using structures of logs joined together. Turning relics to reefs with other refuse quickly followed; now unwanted subway cars turn the barren stretches of the eastern Atlantic seaboard into thriving habitats. The subway car shells create surfaces upon which oysters, clams, barnacles, and vegetation can live and grow. They also provide useful hiding places for fish that would otherwise be easy prey in the open ocean, all of which is good news for local fishermen. The move from the MTA appears to be a stroke of financial genius, too. While dumping subway cars into the ocean is convenient, the nonprofit Ocean City Reef Foundation has also paid $600 per car to ship them 30-hours away from NYC and create the reef. So far, six states have jumped on the bandwagon, and Michael Zacchea, director of the MTA Artificial Reef Program, describes it as "the ultimate form of recycling." Additionally, Jeff Tinsman, Delaware's reef program coordinator, has stated that fishing activity has seen a 30,000 percent increase in the vicinity of the artificial reefs. Myrtle Beach is a hotspot for the subway cars: that's where the MTA unceremoniously dumps them off a barge with the help of a mechanical arm. Now at their final final stop, they'll lay there for approximately 40 years with some cars having been in service just 10 days prior. Despite the project's praise and apparent success, there has been skepticism, notably from the National Resources Defense Council. They say the scheme has "less to do with conserving fish than saving and making money. Sport fishers and divers have actively lobbied for artificial reefs for the fish and tourism dollars they can attract. And, by donating old equipment to the cause, private industries and governments save millions of dollars." "You can basically put anything in the ocean and call it a reef as long as it stays there," says scientist Kristin Milligan. It's also worth mentioning Osborne Reef catastrophe, which saw thousands of car tires dumped with good intentions, ultimately required cleanup by the U.S. military.