MTA: Improvements coming as blasting starts at 2nd Ave. subway
After years of complaints from residents and business owners as it builds a subway along Second Avenue, the MTA has made changes to new construction work beginning Monday that the agency hopes will help make it a better neighbor.
Among the frustrations of those who live and work near the construction have been noisy late-night explosions underground, blocked storefronts driving away customers and complaints of poor air quality affecting residents — and even their pets.
Michael Horodniceanu, who was tapped as the MTA's head of capital construction shortly after work began on the new line, said he's is encouraged by improvements made in advance of blasting set to begin Monday at 83rd Street. One of the changes will help clear the air after blasts.
“For some people, nothing I can do will really make them happy,” Horodniceanu told amNewYork during a recent tour of the construction site. “There is no such thing as immaculate construction.”
But that doesn't mean he dismisses neighbors' concerns. “I decided that I would be the face of Second Avenue. I went into stores to ask, 'What's wrong?'" Horodniceanu said. “We're here in front of these people's living rooms for years. You really need to account for that.”
And many in the neighborhood seem to believe things could be getting better.
M. Barry Schneider, who co-chairs Community Board 8's Second Avenue subway task force, said “there wasn't a dialogue” when the began construction in 2007.
“It was all one-way. We would get information from the MTA. There was no deep involvement with the community,” Schneider said. Now, he said, the agency is “much more transparent.”
While people who live and work near 86th Street have been living with construction above ground for years, Monday marks their first experiences with regular, daily blasting each afternoon. Controlled explosions near the 63rd Street station are nearly complete, and blasting near 72nd Street is on schedule to end in June.
Local pols, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, gave the MTA a “B” grade last year for its work on the project.
“Turn out for Second Avenue Subway Task Force meetings has been way down, particularly at the last meeting, suggesting that there are fewer angry people,” she said.
Federal officials, meanwhile, lauded the MTA for its “prompt response to community concerns” in a recent report.
Residents who live near 86th Street are being cautiously optimistic about how their lives will be impacted by increased construction work.
“We're a little anxious until we know what it's like when they're blasting right outside the window,” said Jay Hallen, 32, who lives with his wife in a third-floor apartment on 86th Street.
“Given all the work they have to do, the community outreach program is impressive,” Hallen said during a community meeting with Horodniceanu and other officials.
Alan Brazier, a sculptor who lives a half-block away from where the blasting begins Monday said what most irks him is drilling that begins early in the morning, but said he rarely hears any noise at night.
“It's a pain in the ass" Brazier, 56, said about the construction, which takes up portions of the sidewalk along Second Avenue. “At the end of the day, it's going to be a useful service.”
Wendy Iza, a manager at clothing boutique Item at 83rd Street, said her store has “definitely lost customers over the years.” Her regular customers keep coming back, but foot traffic has been slashed due to the eyesore.
David Diaz, manager of Big Daddy's Diner across the street, said he looks forward to reopening an outdoor cafe when construction is over.
“We'll have a flow of people coming out of the subway,” he said. “It'll be better.”