MTA dismantling Second Avenue subway muck houses
Upper East Side residents who have dealt with blasting, traffic and debris from the Second Avenue Subway construction are about to see their neighborhood get closer to normal.
A timeline is set to remove the giant muck houses that have blighted the area for more than two years, with dismatling already being done on the structure on 72nd Street, which is slated be completely gone on Aug 26.
The 165-foot-long, roughly four-story high muckhouse held the debris from the blasting down below. Dismantling the 69th Street muck house is expected to begin in the fall and to be completed by the end of the year.
"It's the white elephant on the street," said Martha Siegel, who lives across Second Avenue from the giant box on 72nd Street.
Siegel, like other residents, was thrilled that crews have started to take it down.
"I was ecstatic when it was coming down," she added.
The MTA started putting up the muck houses on 72nd Street and 69th Street in April and June 2011, respectively. They eat up two lanes of Second Avenue and have boxed in businesses.
Residents near them had their street views replaced by a wall of white and had to contend with traffic from trucks that brought in the debris.
"It screws up the traffic," said East Side resident Elizabeth Cooke. "It can be much more congested."
They may be ugly, but Michael Horodniceanu, the president of the MTA's capital construction, said the neighborhood would have suffered more without them. They housed the noise, dust and, well, muck that would have been exposed otherwise, he explained.
"These muck houses have done their job," Horodniceanu said. "That's not a small structure to have in front of you. However, the structure allowed us to, in effect, be able to isolate some of the impact from the community."
Horodniceanu said the experience with the 72nd Street station muck houses helped shrink the size of the 86th Street station structures, which are about two stories shorter and purify the air by removing 98% of impurities. Those will be taken down by summer 2014, according to Horodniceanu.
Currently, crews are dismantling the 72nd Street muck house, top to bottom. The equipment that stores the muck is being taken apart, as are the panels, of which there are 120, totaling 18,500 square feet. Then, ventilation pipes and the gantry crane will be removed. Further, utilities, like a gas main, must be put back in place.
In its place will be a staging area for a contractor to continue work underground. With blasting for the 72nd Street station complete, crews will complete structural work underground, such as installing concrete walls.
Businesses operating in the shadow of the muck houses, a few which have relied on a stable of reliable clients to remain open, eagerly anticipate being visible from the street again.
"The worst thing is people can't see me anymore. I'm the store in the back street, not the store on the avenue," said David Kim, owner of Crest Cleaners.
Still, Kim remembers what operating his store was like before the muck house went up: "A lot of noise, dust and gunpowder smell, every day."
For James Kiss, who lives near the 72nd Street muck house, the eyesores are a small price to pay for a major expansion of the city's subway system.
"If a New Yorker cannot tolerate something as simple as this, they're not a New Yorker," Kiss said, noting he is happy to have the muck house come down. "We want progress, we expect progress."
Horodniceanu thanked the residents and businesses that suffered through the muck houses so that the neighborhood as a whole could benefit.
"They took the brunt of that part of the visual impact," Horodniceanu said, "so other people will not have to be exposed to other nuisances our construction brought to the area."
The next time someone sees a muck house, he said, the Second Avenue subway will be on its next phase, bringing the Q train up to 125th Street.
Second Avenue Subway
The muck houses around 72nd Street may be coming down but Upper East Siders still have three and a half years before the first piece of the Second Avenue subway opens.
The MTA expects the initial $4.5 billion phase of the new east side subway line to be finished December 2016. Then, riders will be able to ride the Q train to new stations along Second Avenue at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets and to the Lexington Avenue-63rd Street station.
The next phase of construction will take place from 105th to 125th streets to extend the Q train even further into Manhattan's east side.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel and it's bright,” said Michael Horodniceanu, MTA capital construction president.