Second Avenue Subway now open for business

Calling himself “cautiously optimistic” last December, Governor Andrew Cuomo pressed MTA workers and officials to make the January 1 deadline for the Second Avenue Subway. Public works aren’t known for meeting deadlines or budgets, but the Q train was indeed up and running (the N runs at rush hour as well), serving an estimated 200,000 daily riders on the Upper East Side.

Nearly 100 years in the making, the subway line with a final price tag of $4.4 billion was on the drawing board since the subway system’s early days. The Second Avenue Elevated Line was even taken down in 1942 and 1955 in preparation for the proposed subway line. Work began in earnest in 1972-1975, but unfortunately the city’s bankruptcy ended the tunneling.

The biggest subway extension in 50 years was launched anew in 2007 thanks to new federal funding jumpstarting the project. The unfortunate reality for major construction projects here in New York is that workers are often injured and killed while on the job. Happily no one was killed during the recent campaign, unlike the long-delayed East Side Access tunnels to Long Island.

There have, however, been a number of safety violations and injuries over the last decade. Here’s a short list of some that made the news.

Notable accidents

Worker Joseph Barone was stuck chest deep in a quicksand-like mud on the tunnel floor in 2013. The rescue took four hours and three responders were injured in the process.

An unnamed worker fell 20 feet after fixing a conveyer belt. Strangely, co-workers were unable to show investigators at the time exactly where the accident happened.

Construction worker Ashanti Stupart shattered his left leg and tore a large swath of skin off his thigh while pouring concrete using a flexible hose in 2014. The subsequent rescue was mitigated by the fact that he was 100 feet below street level. He made news at the time for announcing a $50 million lawsuit against the MTA and the city for unsafe working conditions.

Notable safety violations

According to a 2013 story by the NY Daily News, OSHA cited the MTA with 18 violations 2011-13 that amounted to $61,000 in fines. Part of this was workers being exposed to three-times the legal level of silica dust particles created during drilling in 2012. It was deemed that the masks workers wore were not sufficient protection.

There were also two controlled blasts of August 2012 that went awry. The August 8 blast sent debris several stories into the air and blowing out windows of a gallery at 72nd St. and marring building facades. On August 21, a second unrelated blast at the same location was even larger, sending 25-pound chunks of debris several stories into the air. Happily no one was seriously injured. OSHA slapped MTA with $12,000 in fines for the blasts, at least one of which was attributed to human error.

The upshot

There have been no reports of major incidents in the last few years and now the trains are running. Sometimes it doesn’t work that way, with workers cutting corners as deadlines approach. This endangers themselves, their co-workers and even average citizens who happen to inadvertently be in harm’s way. If you find yourself in a similar situation and are injured, you should still seek medical help if 911 wasn’t called.

It’s also smart to reach out to a lawyer with experience in personal injury. It may seem greedy for hard working folk to seek damages, but compensation can help with medical co-pays, lost wages and other expense related to an injury. If the company if the company is already talking about a settlement, it’s still advisable to speak with an attorney before agreeing to anything. A lawyer can provide the peace of mind of knowing that your personal rights were protected to their fullest.