While most subway stations rely on sidewalk grates for fresh air, the new stops on the long-awaited Second Avenue line will be cooled with a modern ventilation system. But residents and politicians say the ventilation system, which will be housed in permanent above-ground structures, "many as large as midsize apartment buildings, rising up to nine stories tall," will turn vibrant Upper East Side blocks into "dead corners," blighting the neighborhood and lowering property values, according to the Real Deal.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority insists on constructing the new ventilation system for the $4.5 billion line because sidewalk grates now violate the city's building code. The agency plans on building eight such edifices — one on each end of the planned stations — in a 34-block stretch of the Upper East Side. To make room for the structures, the MTA has used eminent domain law to acquire 13 properties, while 75 residents and merchants face eviction at an estimated cost of $10 million.
Though the agency has already conceded to allow small retail businesses like newsstands in six of the eight planned structures when the line is finished in 2017, architect Stanford Eckstut says the renderings still look like "an improved parking garage," which apparently isn't a compliment. "These are buildings that are going to last forever; they should be contributing to the street scene," said Eckstut, whose firm co-designed ventilation towers for the PATH train in Greenwich Village in the 1990s. "They should not just be a wrapping to hide mechanical things."