Volume 73, Number 46 | March 17 -23, 2004

Neighbors fed up with noisy 13th St. subway work

By Albert Amateau

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Foot and car traffic have a tight squeeze at 13th St. and Sixth Ave. because of subway work.

The $25 million Transit Authority project to rehabilitate and expand the existing emergency ventilation system beneath 13th St. on both sides of Sixth Ave. is six months behind schedule, and neighbors are complaining about noisy weekend work.

Construction, which began 19 months ago and was scheduled for completion in July 2005, was originally supposed to be confined to weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

While the T.A. had clearance from the city to work on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the agency told neighbors that there would be no Saturday work and that noisy work during the week would not begin before 8 a.m.

But delays caused by the discovery of unmapped utility lines forced the T.A. to pick up the Saturday work option.

“They’ve extended work to the weekend and residents are not pleased about it,” said Gerard Saliman, president of a co-op on the east side of Sixth Ave. “They’re working earlier in the mornings on occasion,” he added.

While the Transit Authority insisted that its contractor, J. P. Picone, was working only during the agreed time, Con Edison has had to do emergency work recently. “We had to get in there for emergency work two weeks ago and we had to finish early before Transit began the day’s work,” explained Joy Haber, a Con Edison spokesperson.

“We fell behind schedule when we peeled back the asphalt and found a tremendous number of utility lines and pipes, some that were mapped and others not,” said Deirdre Parker, a Transit spokesperson. Nevertheless, the agency is sticking by its July 2005 completion date. “We believe we’ll be able to make up the time,” Parker said.

However, a construction worker at the site who declined to give his name said last week that the job could take longer. “The plans showed 12 electric lines and we found 15,” he said. “Con Ed had to come in and find out what they were and where they were going. You can’t shut down power, because there are apartments all along here,” he said, indicating buildings on the south side of 13th St. east of Sixth Ave. “They’ve just finished putting new service boxes on this side,” he added.

On the west side of Sixth Ave., workers ran into an unexpected outcropping of bedrock. “They have to chip away through 20 feet of it — you can’t blast because of the subway,” the construction worker said.

Neighbors, however, are losing patience with what they consider bad planning. “Why does it take so long? You could build a skyscraper in three years,” observed William R. Taylor, a resident of 101 W. 12th St. He said noisy construction work on the night of Feb. 27 kept residents in the building awake until after midnight. “That’s all that people were talking about in the elevator — what kind of sleeping aids they were using,” said Taylor.

The work is necessary to upgrade and expand the ventilation fan plant that will suck out smoke from and supply fresh air to subway tunnels under Sixth and Seventh Avenues, Parker said. “We’ll make a quarterly project update available to managing agents of neighborhood buildings, local elected officials and Community Board 2 sometime at the end of April,” she added.


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