Residents oppose plan for MTA substation

Community members in Chelsea voiced their opposition this week to the MTA’s plan to build an underground substation to improve power along the 8th Avenue A/C/E subway lines. 

The electrical power substation takes AC power from Con Edison and converts it into voltage that can be handled by the transit system, MTA officials said. 

The construction is expected to cost $80 million. 

The proposed site on West 28th Street between 8th and 9th avenues falls in between Penn South, a residential co-op. 

At a Community Board 4 transportation committee hearing Wednesday, residents and elected officials raised their concerns with the project, including the proximity to a residential community where many older people live.

“I find it hard to believe that the middle of a residential complex is good on any level for a substation,” said state Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the neighborhood of the proposed substation. 

Concerns over disruptions caused by construction including noise levels, air quality, roadway impacts on traffic, and the increase of rats were raised by community members at the hearing on Wednesday. 

“There’s a lot of people in wheelchairs and a lot of kids, too,” Michael Bournas-Ney, a Penn South resident, said. ”It’s a real community — it’s not, like, a regular bunch of buildings. It’s a genuine community.”

Construction is expected to last 39 months with 24 of those months taking place at street level, MTA officials said.

The purpose of the substation is to increase the reliability and number of trains along the A/C/E subway lines.

People also expressed concern with potential long-term health impacts of the substation once it’s in service, including electromagnetic frequency,  radiation levels and the threat of fires or explosions at the site.

MTA officials said an environmental assessment deemed the project to be safe and found no direct health risk.

Opponents to the plan also pointed out its proximity to several social services in the area that they fear will be disrupted during construction, including the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy residents and the Church of the Holy Apostle, which serves thousands of people through its soup kitchen.

“The whole block is going to vibrate and shake so we’re worried that people won’t be able to withstand and stay out there for long periods of time — that they’ll be dispersed,” Ambur Nicosia, Penn South Board president.

The West 28th Street site was originally proposed in 2018, but was met with resistance by the community, the Penn South Board, as well as elected officials, including then-City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. 

The MTA then considered 30 alternative locations, but returned to West 28th Street as the ideal site in 2021, according to Luke DePalma, senior director of Government and Community Relations for New York City Transit. 

The current site is a halfway point between existing substations at 53rd Street and Greenwich Street and is located at the ideal distance from subway tracks, the MTA said. It also has sufficient street width and requires no temporary or permanent easements, officials said.

“At every point in the outreach…

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