MURRAY HILL — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has shelved a plan to build a ventilation plant underneath a stretch of Park Avenue in Murray Hill after neighbors rallied against it, according to State Senator Liz Krueger.
The project, which called for the construction of a ventilation plant underneath Park Avenue near East 37th or East 38th Street, was removed from the MTA’s five-year plan in part due to opposition from neighbors, Krueger told constituents in a letter last week.
According to Krueger, the MTA could add the project to its next five-year capital plan, which will cover 2020 to 2024, but for now residents of Park Avenue can breathe easy.
“Late last week I was notified that the MTA is removing this project from their current 5 year plan, based in part on community opposition,” she wrote. “So, while we may all face these issues again in later years, for now this project will not be going forward.”
A spokesman for the MTA did not respond to requests for comment.
The construction would have likely required tearing up a stretch of Park Avenue in order to build the plant, which the MTA said was needed in the event of an emergency fire or smoke situation on the Lexington Avenue line between the stations at 33rd Street and Grand Central Terminal, a section of track that does not have an emergency ventilation system.
When they announced the project last June, representatives of the MTA described the ventilation plant as a necessary safety measure, but from the get-go residents questioned the immediacy of the problem. The section of track was identified as a priority in a 1994 study, but the MTA didn't begin planning the project until last year, leading some community members to accuse the MTA of using scare tactics to take advantage of spare cash in the capital plan.
“MTA was saying it was a safety issue, and we don’t want people to be unsafe, but on the other hand, that determination was made years ago and they haven’t acted with any great expedience,” said Justin Flagg, a spokesman for Krueger. “That caused the safety issue to come into question.”
Word of the project’s indefinite delay came as welcome news to some of the community members who helped organize the group Save Murray Hill in order to fight the ventilation plant and who have complained that they’ve already lived through years of construction, thanks to a portion of the East Side Access project, which has torn up part of East 37th Street, and worried about the addition of a new headache.
“Right now this neighborhood is just overwhelmed with traffic congestion, noise pollution, and other problems stemming from the East-Side Access,” said Janet Martin, a neighborhood resident who supported Save Murray Hill. “It’s just too much for one neighborhood to shoulder.”
Representatives of the agency who spoke to neighbors at a public hearing on the project last June said the MTA had drafted a list of possible locations for the plant, which included:
► Underneath the northbound lane of Park Avenue between East 36th and East 37th streets, between East 37th and East 38th streets, or between East 38th and East 39th streets.
► Underneath the divider separating Park Avenue between East 39th and East 40th streets.
► Underneath the divider separating Park Avenue between East 37th and East 38th streets.
► Underground, between Lexington and Park avenues or between Park and Madison avenues, at East 36th, East 38th or East 39th Street.
Locations east of Park Avenue would cost an estimated $93.9 million, while locations west of Park Avenue would run the agency an estimated $96 million, and a plant built directly underneath Park Avenue would cost about $85.5 million, the agency said.