Twelve (12) years after the Notice of Intent, nine (9) years after approval of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, and six (6) years after the start of construction, the MTA has launched the Second Avenue Subway Community Information Center (“CIC”), a “one-stop shop along the Second Avenue Subway construction corridor, where visitors can learn about the subway, its history, and its construction.” The CIC is intended as a central hub to provide construction information to the public, and to bring project concerns directly to the staff’s attention. Last night I, along with five local residents, attended the Center’s premiere presentation.

Community inclusion and participation is a laudable goal, and should be an integral part of any planning project, which is why a neighborhood storefront project office might better have served the public by opening before construction started–not six years in. At the event last night, community folks were asking whether the CIC is another example of the MTA learning on the job about how to engage the host community in this massive infrastructure project. Additionally, many were wondering whether the CIC is truly envisioned as a meaningful engagement with the host community. Here’s hoping it is (!) and that the lessons learned from Phase I will be implemented in the anticipated (someday!) Phases of the Second Avenue Subway Project. Major construction projects (which we also acknowledge as ambitious and necessary) are disruptive to the host community, but many residents say that the MTA’s on-the-job learning in this instance has been especially painful for the Upper East Side.

A couple of years ago, the Hunter College Urban Planning program had a studio class study the Second Avenue Subway Project (with Congressperson Carolyn Maloney as the client). Their final report, “Lessons Learned”, could be a helpful resource for the MTA as it completes Phase I and plans for future Phases.