New lighting and air quality monitors installed, pols also hope for improvements on noise, parking
By Sabina Mollot
With the L train shutdown now six months away, constant noise and debris have already been a part of life for residents of East 14th Street on Avenue A and east for months due to the preliminary work.
Neighbors have been vocal all along of their displeasure about the work to build the Avenue A entrance to the First Avenue subway stop and an Avenue B substation, and local elected officials have managed to win a few concessions from the MTA on their behalf. But the biggest problems, like late night construction noise and the loss of 60 parking spots, have remained.
On October 15, Council Member Keith Powers hosted a walkthrough of the 14th Street worksite and surrounding areas with NYC Transit President Byford and Council Member Carlina Rivera, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein.
It was following that scenic tour that Powers said the MTA agreed to make some changes and consider others.
One improvement, however, was made a few days earlier when new lighting was installed at the work site between Avenue A and First Avenue on Thursday, October 11. This was to address safety concerns of Stuy Town residents because of the high barriers separating the construction from the sidewalk.
Another change was that the lighting was switched from diesel power to electric.
In response to residents’ requests, the MTA has also placed air quality monitors surrounding the construction zone. Additionally, on Monday, the agency committed to placing the monitors all along the route and that the results be shared with the public. As to how exactly the information will be shared has yet to be worked out, according to Hoylman.
“But it’s an important good first step. They said they would make the data available.”
Hoylman was one of 21 elected officials who’d written a letter to Byford asking for the air quality monitors and shared results.
Powers said he would like to see the results made available either in real time or on a weekly basis.
In response to concerns about hazardous chemicals being removed from below ground, the MTA said asbestos that is being treated gets hauled away not at the work site but moved offsite by rail to the Canarsie train yard. This happens during the weekends when the L train is out of service. Powers said the MTA told elected officials that this process would be complete by the time the shutdown starts. Any other debris from the shutdown will be hauled out by trucks from 14th Street and Avenue A.
Out of concern for the shops along the south side of 14th Street, which have been practically hidden from view due to a closed sidewalk, as well as in-progress residential development along the street, the sidewalk will be reopened by December, Powers said.
Other issues still remain, however, like late night noise. Work on the project has been allowed to go on until 11 p.m. although Powers said Byford has committed to having noisy work finish by 10 p.m.
But, said Powers, “It’s still too late. I have to talk to my neighbors who can’t sleep or who wake up in the middle of the night. I have asked for 9 p.m., which is still, to me, late.”
But according to Powers, the MTA is considering this. “They made no commitment to it, but they seem open to it.”
He added that during the tour, MTA reps seemed sympathetic of people who live directly above and around the work site and also were concerned about the local stores.
“Our concern is to get some visibility for the businesses between construction sites,” Powers said. “The same thing happened on the Upper East Side with the Second Avenue Subway.”
Ideally, Powers said, he would like to get some sort of compensation for businesses that have lost foot traffic, but he doesn’t believe that is possible. He recalled how he helped draft legislation aimed at helping the businesses near the Second Avenue Subway when he worked for then-Assembly Member Jonathan Bing. But even with that legislation, which was never signed into law, the process wouldn’t be simple, Powers said, since the onus would be on retailers to prove how much they’ve lost in business.
Another construction-related problem is parking.
“They took 60 spots on 14th Street and they didn’t tell us,” said Powers, or rather, the MTA did share the information, but not until the day the spots were removed. “I was very disappointed they decided to take so many and I made that clear to them. That is not the way to be a good neighbor.”
The majority of the spots will remain unavailable until the project is complete. However, Powers has asked that those doing construction not take up additional spots by parking nearby and he is also in communication with the Department of Transportation to look into ways to squeeze out at least a few spots by rearranging the work site.
For the most part, he is hopeful. “Andy Byford is very receptive when we reach out to him and he understands that he has to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Powers said.
A spokesperson for the MTA did not respond to a request for comment by Town & Village’s deadline.