Volume 22, Number 22 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | October 9 - 15, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio
Commuters on the A/C platform this week. Part of the platform has been narrowed as work on the new Fulton St. Transit Center has picked up its pace.
Subway work tightens the squeeze on Fulton
By Julie Shapiro
Work on the Fulton St. Transit Center is ramping up, and Downtown residents and commuters are starting to feel the effects.
Weekend service outages will start soon on the A/C line, blue plywood barriers have popped up on platforms and one entrance to the 2/3 recently closed.
“It’s really congested, especially at lunchtime,” said Rose Zolaazo, 57, as she navigated the narrowed 2/3 entrance at Fulton and William Sts. during rush hour this week.
The payoff for several years of inconveniences will come in 2014, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to open the $1.4 billion transit center, linking 12 subway lines and the World Trade Center PATH trains beneath a glass-domed station. The project has faced numerous delays, but a $424 million infusion of federal stimulus cash lifted the plans out of limbo earlier this year, and now the M.T.A. says the project is meeting its new schedule.
In fact, some pieces of the project, such as the foundation work, are ahead of schedule, said Uday Durg, the project manager. But, Durg quickly added, “I don’t want to jinx it.”
Durg described recent progress and upcoming goals to Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee Monday night. The news that most pleased the committee was that the northbound platform of the Cortlandt St. R/W train will open soon.
“There is no doubt in my mind today that we will open it in December 2009,” Durg said.
The entire Cortlandt St. station has been closed since 2005 (at the time it was supposed to reopen in 6 –9 months), and the southbound platform won’t open until the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, Durg said. The R/W is not currently connected to the other Fulton St. lines, but an underpass is scheduled to join them in 2011.
While Durg described the M.T.A.’s plans to minimize dust, noise and waste, he warned the residents to expect some inconveniences.
“As we proceed into major construction, people will feel a little pain,” Durg said, describing new plywood barriers, moved turnstiles and weekend service outages on the A/C and 4/5 lines over at least the next year. To ensure “proper crowd control” of the 300,000 people who move through the station each day, the M.T.A. has posted 25 agents there during rush hour.
“This is an area where a lot of construction is going to be happening,” Durg said. “And if [people] can avoid it, they should.”
While most of the construction will take place below ground and behind barriers, some work and staging will leak out onto Fulton St., disrupting traffic and pedestrians on blocks that have already been under siege from the city’s water main construction for the past two years. The M.T.A. work will have the biggest impact on the south side of Fulton St. between Broadway and Nassau St., adjacent to the lot where the new station will rise, and several business owners there sounded concerned.
Rodney Rogers, co-owner of the KC Barber Shop on that block, had hoped the end of the water main work would restore foot traffic to his shop, and he was not happy to hear that the M.T.A. was about to set up camp nearby.
“We’re doing real bad,” Rogers said. “We don’t got no say-so. We in a lose-lose situation.”
Rogers was not comforted by the thought of a new station in 2014, because there was no way to know if he’d still be in business by then.
“I gotta think about ’09,” he said.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has a grant program to assist small businesses affected by construction, but some business owners said the $25,000 limit was too low and others said they had not received any money yet.
While the final Fulton Transit Center will not be done until 2014, the M.T.A. will open many pieces of the project as soon as they are complete. In 2011, a new William St. entrance is scheduled to open, along with a clearer connection between the A/C and 4/5 lines. 2012 could see the opening of a renovated 4/5 station, a new entrance at Dey St. and retail in the historic Corbin Building adjacent to the station. In 2013, the new A/C mezzanine is scheduled to open, eliminating the confusing ramps that are now in place.
Work that is happening right now includes the foundation of the new station building, which will have a glass dome called an oculus that will filter light down to the platforms. The M.T.A. is also removing artwork from the existing station so it is not damaged during construction. The murals will be restored to the completed hub.
The M.T.A. is using a high-tech system of prisms and wireless communications to monitor the stability of surrounding buildings, with messages sent to Durg’s BlackBerry if anything looks amiss.
One intersection on Fulton St. where the M.T.A. will be doing a lot of work over the next couple years is at the corner of William St. A manager of Cafe Seaport, which is on that corner, did not sound fazed by the prospect.
“We’re used to construction,” said the manager, who gave only the name Kelly. “They dug up the street five, six times already.”