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MTA Resumes Second Avenue Subway Blasting

By DNAinfo Staff on December 5, 2011 9:00pm

By Sonja Sharp and Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo staff

UPPER EAST SIDE —  The MTA resumed blasting for the Second Avenue subway project Monday evening after taking a two-week hiatus to find ways to cut down on the dust and odors that have been rattling resident's nerves and spreading fear about the air they're breathing.

Though Monday's blasts didn't start until after 5 p.m., the MTA's changes include increasing the blasting window from 3 to 7 p.m., adding an hour on the front end to allow more time between dynamiting to allow for smoke and odor to dissipate, transit officials said. Several locals seemed to notice a difference on the first day.

"Generally, we are spreading out the blasts into longer intervals as well as decreasing the size of the blasts," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

The smoke and noxious odors had gotten worse after the MTA stopped blasting past 7 p.m. in August because of dinnertime noise complaints. That forced workers to do several blasts simultaneously to get the work done within the allotted time.

"It's been getting worse in the past couple of months," said Upper East Sider Camila Malagon, 19, who works at the clothing shop, Crave, on Second Avenue between East 68th and 69th streets. "We always have to close the door because it smells disgusting. Normally it gets really smoky in half the store."

On Monday, however, the shop kept the door ajar.

"It wasn't a problem," Malagon said.

The MTA also made changes to the muck houses, which are designed to minimize dust from the dirt workers have dug up for the subway at East 70th and 72nd streets. The agency purchased two new "Dust Bosses" that spray a water mist to force the dust particles to settle within the boxy structure. The transit agency installed a wet burlap curtain in the shafts to act as a screening device for dust, permanently sealed some overhangs and installed vents elsewhere, Ortiz said.

"The purpose of [the] overhang was originally to allow the blast pressure to escape, however it resulted in an unacceptable amount of dust and smoke to leak out," Ortiz noted.

Tizzy Bako, 21, who lives in the Bronx and works at Alice Hair salon near the construction site, said there was "no way of escaping" the weekly blasting ritual of the horn blowing before the floor starts shaking followed by a smell "as if you're stuck in a smoke cloud."

But Bako said it didn't smell Monday.

Lynne Cashman, who has lived on East 71st Street and Second Avenue for nearly 40 years, also said Monday's blasts didn't feel as strong or smell as noxious.

It was a relief to Cashman, who has seen huge amounts of smoke seep through her closed double-paned windows accompanied by a "foul" odor that has persisted for 45 minutes. 

"I didn't smell anything on the first blast," said Cashman. "The second one I smelled a little something, but nowhere near as bad as it's been. I couldn't see any smoke, but I'd have to reserve judgment because it's dark out."

The $4.45 billion Phase 1 of the project of the project that will extend the Q line from East 63rd up to 96th street is expected to be completed by December 2016.

"We know we have to live with [the construction]," Cashman said. "But we want to live with it safely."