In a surprising blow to the City’s plans to develop the Far West Side, MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander has put the plan to extend the 7 line on hold until cost overruns and other financial concerns can be addressed. Sander’s announcement has City Hall on the defensive as the Mayor’s Office won’t promise to fund cost overruns, and Sander won’t jeopardize other MTA construction projects.
The Times reports:
The new leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority signaled yesterday that it had deep concerns over a deal with the city to build a $2.1 billion extension of the No. 7 subway line, saying the authority did not have the money to pay for possible cost overruns or other additional expenses.
“It is M.T.A.’s position that we are under no legal obligation to absorb any additional costs or overruns,” Elliot G. Sander, the new chief executive, wrote in a letter to Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. He was responding to a letter from Mr. Brodsky expressing concerns that the project could exceed its budget. Mr. Brodsky made Mr. Sander’s letter public yesterday.
The conflict stems from the original agreement concerning the 7 line. Mayor Bloomberg, in an effort to promote his Hudson Yards project, hammered out a deal with the MTA where the city would pay for construction costs and the MTA would handle the project’s design and implementation. But this deal came with one caveat: The city’s contributions were to be set at $2.1 billion.
Well, as reported in November, the project’s budget was on the rise due in part to a weak dollar and the need to purchase new subway cars from Japan. Now, Sander says the MTA, focusing on the Grand Central Terminal-LIRR railink and the Second Ave. subway, can’t assume the cost overruns, and City Hall ain’t budging.
Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff had some firm words for The Times. “Our view is that we certainly had an understanding and that the city would be responsible for all costs up to $2.1 billion and that the M.T.A. would bear the responsibility for costs above that. We’re going to sit down and talk, but our view is, the deal is the deal,” he said.
Also involved in this brouhaha is Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky who oversees the Transit Authority. “If we keep to the basic principle, which is the city will pay and the M.T.A. will build, we’ll be O.K.,” Mr. Brodsky said to The Times. “But right now there are hundreds of millions to almost a billion dollars of costs that the M.T.A. would probably have to absorb that would endanger the Second Avenue line, the East Side link and other parts of the capital program, and that is simply unacceptable.”
So now what?
Well, someone has to blink in this game of New York politics, and hopefully, it will be the City. Right now, it’s clear that those on the MTA’s side are sticking up for this project. Sander has stressed the need for a Second Ave. subway and will not sacrifice these aims for the sake of the Hudson Yards development, a pet project seen as Bloomberg’s baby.
Meanwhile, the City should take responsibility for the funding promises it has made. Already, plans for the 7 line extension may be cut to build to build a station only at 34th and 10th Ave. and a shell at 41st and 11th Ave. that could be renovated into a full station in the future. For the sake of the subway, the City should be willing to kick in money for any projected cost overruns and both stations. A completed projected now will be much cheaper in the long run than the need to complete another station in the indeterminate future.
But for now, our Second Ave. subway is safe. It’s the silver lining in this dark and ugly cloud as two political powers face off over dollar signs.