The end, however, appears to be in sight.
Dynamiting for the “main cavern” of the future East 72nd Street Station, along with late night drilling, is expected to be finished by the summer, MTA officials told residents at a Community Board 8 Second Avenue Subway Task Force meeting Thursday night.
After that, smaller blasts — which will be closer to some buildings at East 72nd and 69th streets — are expected to be completed by the end of the year, they said.
But as the earth-shaking jolts wind down around East 72nd Street, preparations are gearing up around East 86th Street. Blasting there is set to begin in April, and is expected to continue through November 2013, MTA officials said.
Residents there will have the benefit of the agency’s hindsight and the recommendations from an air quality study conducted only after community outcry.
"The recommendation going forward is for us to continue to monitor [the air] at 86 Street, first doing a baseline before we start blasting and then monitoring going forward," MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu said, presenting the study's results.
The construction site will also be built with the improved smoke and dust control measures that were implemented further south only after public grumbling grew louder.
Despite residents' concerns that the subway construction is making them sick, the MTA insisted that the study’s results — which were vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — showed most measured pollutants were below national air quality and industry standards and posed no health dangers.
The 3.3 million points of data collected at 10 monitoring stations between East 69 and 87 streets showed that “construction does not present an immediate or long term threat to public health,” said Guido Schattanek, a senior environmental engineer at Parsons Brinkerhoff who authored the study.
Independently-conducted air monitoring might soon be required. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer helped craft legislation with Assemblyman Dan Quart, who will introduce the bill in Albany, calling for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct an air quality analysis of the blasting area.
But several residents told MTA officials their health was suffering not just from bad air, but also from being kept up because of late night drilling shaking their homes.
"I can’t sleep at night," said Deborah Taylor, who lives on East 69th Street.
"Why does this have to be 24 hours a day? My dining room wall is now cracked. It definitely does more than just shake my building."
MTA officials explained that drilling has to happen at night because the daytime shifts are reserved for blasting and for the trucks hauling away the debris from the blasting.
Mark Connelly, who started a petition this week entitled “Stop Late Drilling,” which has collected more than 50 signatures, said he's tired of having his 4-month-old daughter awoken at 1 a.m., as she was Wednesday night.
“I put on the fan. Then we went to ear plugs,” Connelly said. “And then it just went beyond what ear plugs can do.”
Knowing the night drilling should end by the summer was heartening — to some extent.
"People can’t wait five or six months to be able to sleep at night," he said.
The $4.45 billion first phase of the project, which will extend the Q line from East 63rd up to East 96th street, is expected to be completed by December 2016.
A lawsuit that Yorkshire Towers had filed to stop the MTA from slapping two Second Avenue subway entrances for the 86th Street station in front of their 21-story building was dimissed last month.