Sacrifices for Second Ave. subway

By Josh Rogers

Downtown Express photos by Ramin Talaie

The M.T.A. has proposed closing Yip’s restaurant on Water St. to make room for mechanical equipment for the Second Ave. subway line.

A few Downtowners got a taste last week of what will have to be sacrificed if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority proceeds with plans to begin building the long-awaited Second Ave. subway line at the end of next year.

The main playground at the Seaport will likely be closed for several years, under the M.T.A.’s preferred plans presented to Community Board 1 last Thursday. The Seaport’s Jehovah’s Witness church and Yip’s Chinese and Italian fast food restaurant on Water St. will have to permanently close to make room for two of the line’s proposed stations at Hanover Sq. and Fulton St.

The M.T.A. or its subsidiary, New York City Transit, have not yet approached the church or restaurant because no final decisions have been made.

“Why needlessly upset them if we ended up not using their space,” Alissa Kosowsky of N.Y.C. Transit, said at the meeting.

The plan is to get feedback from community boards before approaching building owners about their properties. The M.T.A. will try to negotiate sales with owners, and if that fails, they will take over buildings with court-imposed sales of property under eminent domain.

No one at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness at 334-336 Pearl St. was answering any of their phone lines June 20 and 23 and no one was at the church on either day. A manager at Yip’s at 124-126 Water St. said the owner was not available for comment. The manager said the restaurant first opened in 1974 and moved to Water St. almost 20 years ago.

“I feel bad that the owners might be forced out of business,” said Mike Skidmore, who lives and works next door to Yip’s.

But Skidmore, like many others at the meeting, was happy to see the project progressing. “I think it’ll be great,” he said the next day. “It’ll really ease transportation. The city needs the Second Ave. subway.”

He is concerned that the M.T.A. has not said how it will schedule construction, which may mean they could resort to its scaled back plan to build the line from 125th St. to 63rd St. — a plan called the “stubway” by opponents of the shorter line.

“I hope they’ll start with the full funding,” Skidmore said. “I’d hate to see them stop at 14th St.”

Just over $1 billion is budgeted to design and begin to construct the subway, but the total cost is believed to be somewhere in the range of $17 billion. In addition to the Seaport and Hanover Sq. stops in the C.B. 1 area, other proposed stops Downtown are Chatham Sq. and Houston, Grand, and 14th Sts. At each stop there will have to be negotiations as to where to put mechanical and safety equipment, which may replace the church and Yip’s, as well as where to place the station entrances and exits.

The unnamed playground at Fulton and Pearl Sts. would have to be closed in order to build one of the Seaport entrances near the playground. Pearl St. runs on both sides of the triangular playground and one of the consultants on the subway, Peter Chamley, said the playground which is near Southbridge Towers could be enlarged after it reopens because the M.T.A. is thinking of closing the narrow side of Pearl St.

“We can provide more park space than there is now,” Chamley said.

Arthur Gregory, a C.B. 1 member, said closing the tiny street should also make it safer for pedestrians. “You don’t really need it,” he said. “It really is dangerous.”

This playground on Fulton St. may close for a few years to build the subway’s Seaport station.

The Seaport station would have two entrances. Chamley said the next alternative to placing the mechanical equipment would be in the grassy tree area across the street from the church and in front of Southbridge at Frankfort and Water Sts.

The mechanical and venting equipment is usually about two stories high and can have a regular building’s exterior. The church and Yip’s were chosen because both are only two stories high and have no residential tenants like many of the other nearby buildings, Chamley said.

The Hanover Sq. station would also have entrances at Coenties Plaza and at Wall and Water Sts. Both would place limits on new plaza improvements announced in May by the city Parks Dept. and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation an scheduled to open next year.

“These subways are way into the future,” said Ray O’Keefe, chairperson of C.B. 1’s Financial District committee. “The parks at Coenties and Wall St. are now.”

O’Keefe also supports the subway line, but he asked officials to look for ways to take up less park and plaza space.

The M.T.A. has recently discovered it will have to build the Hanover Sq. station much deeper than it thought — about 100 feet below ground. O’Keefe pointed out that the M.T.A. originally proposed Hanover because officials thought they could build the station closer to the ground and make a future connection to Downtown Brooklyn easier. C.B. 1 had been looking to place the station to the south closer to the Whitehall Ferry terminal and agreed to Hanover for the possible Brooklyn connection.

Skidmore said the M.T.A. should take a second look at a Whitehall stop if the Hanover station will have to be so deep.

The M.T.A. would not allow any of the diagrams it presented at the public meeting to be published.

Since it will be at the end of the line, Hanover Sq. will have four entrances – inside 55 Water St., which will also house mechanical equipment, at Water St. and Coenties Pl., and two at Water and Wall Sts.

Officials said they have an agreement with the owners of the 55 Water office tower for the entrance and the equipment. The entrances at the Seaport will be at Fulton and Water Sts. and near the playground at Fulton and Pearl Sts. Each station will also have elevator entrances to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act although officials have not said where they may go yet.

Kosowsky said the M.T.A. is open to suggestions as to where to place the stations and encouraged board members to consider alternatives such as the pedestrian section of Beekman St. near Southbridge.

The goal is to place the Seaport entrances as close to Fulton as possible, but the south side of the street is not feasible because the tracks have to run under the A,C subway tunnel leading to Brooklyn and there is also a large sewer line under Fulton.

Since it will be closer to the surface, the Seaport construction will use the more disruptive “cut and cover” method of construction. Hanover will be built well below ground underneath the surface.

Kosowsky said they will do everything to minimize noise and disruption at every location, but regardless, there is only so much that can be done.

“You’re going to see us,” she warned. “You’re going to hear us. You’re going to get dust.”


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