Second Avenue Subway Construction Update: Effect on Rents and Quality of Life

Published on Feb 16, 2012

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If you're looking for an Upper East Side rental apartment--and not in the "fancier" precincts along Fifth, Madison, or Park Avenues; or in Carnegie Hill, or Gracie Point, but in the more regular-people part of the neighborhood, between, say, Third and First Avenues, and 68th and 96th Streets--it's always a good idea to get a Second Avenue subway construction update.

Yes, the Second Avenue subway, which will make getting from the UES to anywhere else in Manhattan much less frustrating and crowded than it's been in decades (really, that 77th-Street 6-train station can be a nightmare) is still several years from being completed.

In fact, the best-case scenario has the first phase of the Second Avenue subway, which will really just be a continuation of the Q line up from 63rd Street to 96th Street, ready to start zipping riders up and down the east side in December of 2016. So what can UES renters expect between now and, basically, five years from now?

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First the good news for Upper East Side rental apartment seekers: since the current stage of the Second Avenue subway began in 2007, residential rents have been falling in the area like nowhere else in Manhattan.

In fact, according to Andre Soto, director of management at the property management company Salon Realty, prices of UES rental apartments along Second Avenue have dropped an amazing 30 percent in the past few years. Thirty percent! And this in a time when, overall, Manhattan rents are hitting record highs, vacancies rates are the lowest they've been in recent memory, and landlord concessions are few and far between.

It's no wonder that, more than ever, young professionals are flocking to the immediate neighborhood, attracted by the low rents as well as the general energy and bustle of Second Avenue itself, even in the face of an increase of store closings near construction. And when you're in your twenties, you're usually either at work or out with friends anyway, right?

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Of course, low prices on these UES rental apartments come with a caveat. Though the near-constant blasting around 72nd Street is winding down, the demolition of bedrock is now moving up to 86th Street. These blasts can be actual earth-shaking explosions--you feel them in your home--and the construction sites' low-rumble accompaniment of drilling is no soothing picnic either.

The drilling can go on all night, as contractors work to stay on schedule. And, as you might expect, there's no shortage of dust (or unpleasant, exhaust-y odors) in the area either, and the grit can and will enter your apartment through open windows.

BUT fears of the dust being toxic, and causing either immediate or long-term health problems in area residents appear to be unfounded. An MTA-commissioned study, vetted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, of air quality around the blasting sites showed that "measured pollutants" were well within Federal guidelines. That said, a bill put forth by district Assemblyman Dan Quart would mandate frequent, independent air-quality testing at this and all so-called mega-projects in New York City.

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