9:53 am Aug. 23, 20121
Following a Second Avenue subway blasting mishap that rained Manhattan schist down on the Upper East Side, a contrite M.T.A. announced a raft of new safety measures.
"I truly would like to apologize to the residents of the area that have been exposed to numerous problems throughout the construction of this project, and I pledge to them that we'll do our best for something like this not to occur again," said Michael Horodniceanu, the M.T.A.'s capital construction president, in front of the agency's Financial District headquarters yesterday afternoon.
But the M.T.A., which has been on something of a charm offensive lately, didn't shoulder responsibility for the mishap alone.
"I will say to you that the responsibility for blasting properly … belong to the contractor," said Horodniceanu, referring to a joint venture called SSK Constructors.
The M.T.A.'s Second Avenue subway project may represent the most ambitious expansion of the city's aging transit system in decades, and a much-needed release valve for the overcrowded 6 train nearby, but its construction has, not unexpectedly, discomfited scores of Second Avenue businesses and raised the ire of residents along its route.
Yesterday's rock shower at the corner of 72nd Street and Second Avenue sent debris eight stories high, shattered windows, and, miraculously, hurt nobody.
The M.T.A. seems aware that things could have been a lot worse.
Horodniceanu, in green-and-purple bow tie, pinstriped suit and tassled loafers, announced his preliminary findings, and some new safety measures.
"What happened yesterday was completely unacceptable and should have not occurred," said Horodniceanu, who went on to describe himself as "really upset and angry" that pedestrians in the neighborhood were put in danger.
What happened, according to the M.T.A., was that the contractor tried to blast a roughly triangular piece of rock, about 30 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 12 feet high, to make way for an escalator shaft at the site of a future subway station.
This was the 73rd blast to take place there, but this one, unlike most of the rest, was part of a diagonal shaft, and the energy created by the powdered explosive did not go in the direction anticipated, lifting two inadequately secured, 1,800-pound metal plates and spewing debris into the air.
Yesterdat, the M.T.A. said it would retain an independent safety consultant, and deploy a blasting consultant more frequently. It has also asked the contractor to review its procedures and present the M.T.A. with a plan that ensures such incidents don't happen again.
Only when new operating procedures for blasting are in place will the contractor be allowed to resume explosions at that location.
The M.T.A. would also further prohibit pedestrian movement during blasting and use protective matting during explosions.
"The most that you should ever feel in an explosion like this is a little thump on the ground," said Adam Lisberg, an M.T.A. spokesman.
Asked if he still had faith in the contractor, Lisberg said, "One of the things that the safety consultant will be taking a look at is, are there safety problems here that don't happen elsewhere. If so, why?"
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