5/16/12 | 493 views
Second Avenue Subway Seen as Key to Parish in Work Zone
After the blow of a routine whistle, the reverberations caused by the ongoing construction of the Second Avenue Subway arrive, on schedule, at St. John the Martyr Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Such has been the state of affairs there for the past six to eight months.
“This is the history of our city—our city is changing all the time,” said Father Sean R. Harlow, O. Carm., pastor of St. John the Martyr. “It’s a dynamic city filled with energy. In the long run, this is going to be a tremendous benefit to our church.”
Construction of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway is scheduled to be completed in December 2016, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The first phase of the two-track line will provide service from 96th Street to 63rd Street as an extension of the Q train.
Because of the commotion and, for many, the confusion that continues to surface about the Second Avenue Subway, St. John the Martyr parish reached out to the community by sponsoring a moderated panel discussion, “Why a Second Avenue Subway Now?” in the basement of St. John the Martyr at 250 E. 72 St. Approximately 60 citizens attended the April 26 forum.
“We’re sitting on a subway station right now,” Father Harlow said after the forum. “People are going to be pouring out of the subway station on the four corners here at 72nd [Street] and Second Avenue.”
Those same people, he said, will be seeking places to live, shop and, most importantly, attend Mass.
St. John’s hosted the gathering, the pastor said, to provide neighborhood residents with the context and perspective as the pros and cons of the subway’s construction continue to be debated.
“The Church is very aware of the needs of our good community and wants to serve those needs as best as we can,” Father Harlow said. “We see ourselves as a vibrant part of the present community.”
“There are so many questions,” he continued. “The Second Avenue Subway is causing such an upheaval in people’s lives.”
Specifically at St. John’s, “people are finding it difficult to find us, with all the construction going on around us, and all the scaffolding up on 72nd Street.”
Elderly parishioners are particularly challenged, he said, primarily because of disruptions in the streets and intersections. “The intersections can get very dangerous, especially on a rainy day or if we have snow.”
At present, many of the regular churchgoers of St. John the Martyr avoid the work zones altogether by attending other nearby Catholic churches not as adversely affected by the construction, the pastor reports.
The April 26 panel was moderated by Sam Schwartz, a former chief engineer and a former first deputy commissioner of the New York City Dept. of Transportation and a former New York City traffic commissioner.
Panelists were Peter Derrick, a transit historian and author of “Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion That Saved New York” who is a former assistant director for the MTA; Doreen M. Frasca, who served as an MTA commissioner from 2008 to 2011, and as chair of the MTA’s transit committee, and is president of a firm that specializes in the structuring and financing of airport, airport access and other transportation-related projects; Martin Paul Orenstein, a veteran real estate broker and property manager, and Stuart Halper, an attorney who specializes in real estate law and co-owner of a company that manages condominiums, cooperatives and rental properties.
Ms. Frasca, a resident of the Upper East Side, attends Mass at St. Vincent Ferrer Church on East 66th Street.
“I love our system,” she said of New York’s mass transit. “To me, it kind of personifies New York and what New York is all about. We’re loud, we’re sometimes rude, we can be maddingly efficient or we can be enormously frustrating, but we never disappoint.”
She would like to see the transit system continue to grow and thrive, she said.
“Transit is like the arteries and veins of the body,” she said. “It’s so critical to the growth and thriving of the city, and yet, we’re always going hat in hand to beg for more money for it.”
Ms. Frasca also spent 20 years on Wall Street, helping clients to evaluate the feasibility of project financings, structuring financial plans and accessing bond markets.
“It’s incumbent on all of us to be more vocal with our state senators to say we really have to move transit up on the priority list so that projects like Second Avenue Subway can have the funding to move expeditiously…to their conclusion,” she added.
Commuters, she said, should also be mindful of the plight of MTA workers. “These folks are real champs. A lot of these folks are doing jobs that I don’t think anyone in this room would want to do,” she said.
“I’m not sure people really appreciate how difficult it is and how important it is that the folks that are operating those trains are getting you and your loved ones safely to work and to home every day.”
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