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Congestion Pricing

MTA Halts Work On Second Avenue Subway After Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Gridlock Gov. Hochul has joined the history books as the next governor to stop work on the Second Avenue subway.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Gridlock Gov. Hochul has joined the history books as the latest governor to stop work on the Second Avenue subway.

On Tuesday, the chief executive in charge of the MTA's capital construction told reporters that the transit agency stopped work on the expansion of the Second Avenue line because the governor's decision to pause congestion pricing means the agency can only perform capital work that keeps the system running.

"There are a lot of projects that we will not be able to build, and we'll be focusing on state of good repair," said MTA President of MTA Construction & Development Jamie Torres-Springer. "We have in a couple of cases issued stop work orders on projects that do not strictly meet that state of good repair requirements. ... But yes, we have stopped work on Second Avenue subway."

Torres-Springer said specifically that the agency had told contractors not to move forward on the early work of ripping up Second Avenue to relocate utilities.

Cones were in place for utility work on the Second Avenue subway, but that work has been halted.Photo: Jackie Zamora

"The contract that we had out was called the 'early works' project, which was essentially relocating the utilities on Second Avenue to make room for the 106th Street station box to be built. They ... were about to begin tearing up Second Avenue to relocate utilities. We've stopped them from doing that work," he said.

That work won't go forward because the MTA is currently figuring out how to prioritize different projects remaining in the 2020-2024 capital plan, and the uncertainty around that means the agency doesn't want to commit to money to work it can't follow up on.

"The loss of congestion pricing funds is very serious to the MTA. It represented 30 percent of the dollars that we had in our current five-year capital plan. But because we have already awarded a lot of contracts over the last couple of years, it would have been about 60 percent of the funding that we have left," said Torres-Springer.

The stunning revelation came hours after Hochul told reporters that the MTA is doing just fine and that she still wants to do expansion projects, specifically mentioning the Second Avenue subway that her cancelation of congestion pricing just halted.

Supports of congestion pricing were especially angry.

"We have said from the moment Gov. Hochul postponed congestion pricing that the future of New York City as we know it is in danger," said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress. "Today’s actions by the MTA to stop work on the Second Avenue Subway expansion sadly – and maddeningly – proves that point. And the residents of Harlem will suffer the consequences."

With the report that the MTA has stopped work on the frequently stalled project, Gov. Hochul joins a long and ignominious line of pols who have failed to provide subway equity for Harlem.

The first plans for a Second Avenue line date back to 1929, and called for an $800-million line between Houston Street and Harlem. But the dream quickly evaporated in the doldrums of the Great Depression.

Other delays were attributed to World War II, the Korean War, the city’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s (though there were three disconnected strips of tunnel completed) and the MTA’s fiscal crisis of the 1980s and 1990s.

The completed first stage — with new stations at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets — opened in 2017, and was serving 200,000 riders a day before the pandemic. It has relieved overcrowding on the Lexington 6 train, which was operating at 120 percent of capacity.

But now the extension, which would have brought new stations to 106th, 116th and 125th streets, has no completion date.

Gov. Hochul's press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But an East Harlem resident whom Streetsblog met in the former project zone had plenty to say.

“This really sucks that I have to wait even longer for the subway to be built here,” said the transit user, who gave the name Tania. “I wonder how long it’s going to take now.”

Update: After initial publication of this story, Gov. Hochul's Communications Director Anthony Hogrebe sent over a statement: “As the governor made clear today, she is committed to funding the MTA and the Second Avenue Subway, and is working with partners in government on funding mechanisms for the MTA while congestion pricing is paused.”

— with Jackie Zamora

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