MTA NYC Transit Emergency Ventilation Project for the 4/5/6 Subway Line on Park Avenue

Monday, July 4, 2016

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The Community Board 6 Transportation Committee held a public meeting on June 6, at which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority made a presentation on the proposed Emergency Ventilation project for the Lexington Avenue 4/5/6 Subway Line. The MTA notice states that this proposed project may cause significant impacts on the environment and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will be prepared under SEQRA, Article 8 of the NYS ECL. A Draft Scoping Document outlining the content of the DEIS will be prepared and a Public Scoping Meeting has been scheduled.

A second public meeting on this topic was held on June 16 from 6:30-8:30pm at Beth Israel Hospital/Podell Hall, 1st Floor Bernstein Pavilion on Nathan D. Perlman Place (between East 15th & 16th Streets). MHNA Honorary Trustee Ellen Imbimbo and Trustee Fred Arcaro testified at the June 16 meeting. Comments on the project can also be posted on the MTA’s website. July 1 was the close of the comment period for the initial scoping phase. The MTA plans to end the scoping phase of the project by Fall 2016 and to begin the detailed design by June 2017.

The subway tunnels for the 4, 5 and 6 (Lexington) line from the 33rd Street and Park Avenue station to Grand Central at 42nd Street are the ones addressed by this 4-5 year project, with a 2-year construction period. Although the ventilation for this line is adequate under normal circumstances, it would not be adequate under emergency situations, such as a fire, where it is necessary to quickly clear the air in the tunnels. The MTA has given this project a priority ranking of 5 (with 1 being most critical for safety and 252 least critical), and it is part of the MTA Capital Program. The design proposed by the MTA will vent the gases to the street, in the case of an emergency.

The MTA evaluated many alternative ways to design this project and narrowed the choices down to the two “least bad” solutions. The assessment is based on engineering concerns, cost and disruption to the neighborhood. They propose a 4-5 year project along the East (northbound) side of Park Avenue to install large fans underground with ventilation gratings along the sidewalks. The project will involve tunneling and “cut and cover” methods of construction. One lane will be kept open for northbound traffic. Pedestrians will be able to use the sidewalk. They are evaluating whether to site the project from 36th to 38th Street or from 37th to 39th Street. They are now in the process of scoping the project and preparing the environmental review. They have not yet assessed the cumulative effects of the project, taking into consideration other projects along Park Avenue, in the Queens Midtown Tunnel and in the neighborhood. They are currently conducting public meetings to hear and address neighborhood concerns. Diagram of Alternative 11.

The MTA is aware that the construction is taking place in the Murray Hill Historic District, and that there are landmarked buildings in the proposed construction area. Because of this, they must follow stringent rules about how much vibration is permitted. There will be no use of dynamite for this project. They will be monitoring their work and can stop the work if the allowable limits are exceeded. They will not be touching the Park Avenue Malls. They did not mention how the project will affect the sidewalk trees along Park Avenue, or whether there will be remediation after the project if the trees are damaged or removed.

There will be another public hearing in the environmental impact statement (DEIS) stage, given the public's interest in the project, and the public comment period will be open for at least 10 days after that hearing. Additionally, the MTA notes that all questions and concerns that were raised during scoping will be addressed in the Final Scope of Work, which is expected to be released in the fall.  The option of "no action" will be addressed at this time.


Updated 7/3/16, 8/22/16


Ellen Imbimbo Testimony
Fred Arcaro Testimony
Letter of support from State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Dan Garodnick
MTA response to request for 90-day extension 8/1/16


MTA draft scoping document
MTA scoping document Appendixes A and B
MTA scoping meetings
MTA summary document
MTA website
Online form to submit comments to the MTA on this project