MTA Mulls Night Visits to Homes of Sleepless Second Ave. Subway Neighbors

By Amy Zimmer on February 21, 2012 11:15am 

An image of the progress on the Second Avenue Subway tunnels and caverns as of Jan. 21, 2012.
An image of the progress on the Second Avenue Subway tunnels and caverns as of Jan. 21, 2012.
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Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin

UPPER EAST SIDE — Step aside, sandman. The MTA wants to make sure residents are getting a good night's rest.

MTA officials are considering nighttime visits to apartments around East 72nd Street, after repeated complaints by residents who say the overnight construction for the Second Avenue subway is keeping them awake.

Engineers for the authority are planning the visits to hear — and feel — for themselves what's going on late-night and try to find ways to mitigate the problems, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

"[The MTA] is still working on addressing the ongoing noise issues after 10 p.m.," Ortiz said in an email. "Engineers offered to visit a sample of apartments to assess the noise in order to evaluate the residents' experience with respect to a potential mitigation strategy."

While the MTA has not yet determined how or when it will conduct the visits, Ortiz said "it's certainly possible" the engineers would make arrangements for night meetings.

The MTA, which insists it needs to drill at night to prepare for the next day's dynamiting, is responding to fed up residents who have long complained about noise, air quality and health. A petition, Stop Late Drilling, lists 76 signatures, including some from elected officials.

State Sen. Liz Krueger and others signed a letter to the authority earlier this month, asking the MTA to find alternatives to the "unacceptable levels of noise and vibrations" at night.

"Residents are doing all they can to adapt to living with the disturbance of this project and there is a limit to how much we can ask our constituents to endure," the Feb. 10 letter states. "There comes a point when individual residents are unable to mitigate the effects of this type of work and must be granted some reprieve."

The officials called on the MTA to "consider every reasonable approach to finding a solution to this problem," saying that the "blasting schedule seems to leave options open for doing this work at times other than the middle of the night."

Ortiz said in an email that the MTA had tried shifting the drilling work to daytime hours, but said that was only "partially effective" since the construction must be completed in a specific order and there was no arrangement of work that would prevent the drilling from happening at night.

The MTA is restricted to blasting between 3 and 7 p.m., and there's no trucking allowed after 10 p.m. Therefore, the window for drilling to prep for the blasting has to occur in the middle of the night, Ortiz explained.

Mark Connelly, who started the petition last month after too many sleepless nights, said the 4 a.m. drilling hasn't been as loud in his apartment recently.

"It either wasn't too bad or it was manageable with ear plugs or white noise. And I don't complain about those nights," he said, noting that he could endure that until June, when the night drilling is expected to stop.

But as things have eased up for him, Connelly said, "I know that others have had it worse."

The $4.45 billion first phase of the project, which will extend subway service from East 63rd up to East 96th street, is expected to be completed by December 2016.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney's office has said President Barack Obama's budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 includes $123 million for the subway project. If the budget clears Congress, that would be the final installment of the $1.3 billion in federal funding committed to the MTA for the subway's first phase.

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