The Second Avenue subway, which was hailed by Governor Cuomo as proof "government can still accomplish big things for the people it serves" when it opened this year, began operating without all of its safety testing being completed, according to a new report. But in a glass half-full way of looking at things, it shows that government can successfully cut corners as much as the most cartoonishly evil capitalist enterprise.
The Times reports that fire alarm systems along the line were still being tested when the Second Avenue line opened and that "17,000 defects found during inspections had not been fixed." In addition, the entire line still only has a temporary safety certificate from the Federal Transit Administration. The paper got the information on safety defects from oversight reports made for the FTA by an independent engineering firm.
While the safety defects were all relatively minor, the paper reported that subway workers are posted in stations to monitor stations for fires, and that finishing safety problems after the line opened turns out to be more expensive, because crews have less time to work while trains are running 24 hours per day.
One Second Avenue line scholar, St. Peter's University assistant professor Philip Plotch, also said that there's a lack of transparency involved in the previously unknown safety fixes. "We the public have no idea how much it costs and what they’re taking money away from," he told the Times.
As far back as July last year, there were stories circulating that equipment and safety testing for the Second Avenue line were running behind the schedule imposed by Governor Cuomo's New Year's Day deadline. Still, the line opened with a fancy private New Year's gala in the 72nd Street station, and everyone rode the train without incident.
Escalators at the 86th Street station had to close for a week this past May after faulty sensors set off sprinklers that damaged them. The same escalators were then shut down for three straight days in July.
The Times implies that the New Year's deadline and Cuomo's hands-on involvement are examples "of how he tends to move aggressively on glittery, new projects, while more mundane concerns like maintenance, whose negligence has contributed to the subway system’s collapse, have languished." They said it, not me, so get mad at them all you Cuomo fans out there.
"The stations on the new Second Avenue line are completely safe and they have been since the day they opened," MTA spokesperson John McCarthy told Gothamist in a statement. "They feature state-of-the-art technology for fire protection, closed-circuit monitoring, and new public address systems - any suggestion that safety was at all compromised to meet the deadline to open is patently false."
And MTA Chairman Joe Lhota told the Times, "The project was not opened prematurely. It was opened when it was safe to be opened.”