34th St. and 11th Ave. still seems like the middle of nowhere to me. (Source: AP)
We are now in the middle of a golden age of subway expansion. For the second time this year, the MTA celebrated a groundbreaking as city, state and agency officials gathered in the Times Square station to launch the 7 line westward to its eventual new terminus at 34th St. and 11th Ave.
The project, set to be completed in 2014, will cost the city — and not the MTA — an estimated $2.1 billion. Supposedly, this money will come from the tax revenues from the as-yet-realized Hudson Yards development. (For more on that development, check out Curbed’s top-notch coverage.) Officials were, of course, patting each other on the back yesterday.
“My administration is committed to ensuring the vitality of our state’s critical infrastructure as it contributes to fostering continued economic development,” New York’s Governor Eliot Spitzer said. “The transit system is the lifeblood of New York City, and the 7 line extension will bring an underutilized part of the city to life as a vibrant residential and commercial center.”
The Mayor, one of the driving forces behind this extension, spoke well of the project too. “Nothing better exemplifies our commitment to transit oriented development than the fact that we’re providing over $2 billion for the extension of the 7 and working with the MTA and the State to realize this vital component of our development plans,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. “The development of the Far West Side simply couldn’t happen without this extension, and because of it we will see this area give rise to a vibrant and exciting neighborhood with needed housing, office space, commercial and cultural venues, and parks and open spaces.”
But what just a minute. As I’ve detailed in the past (here, here, here and here), the 7 line extension we’re getting is not the one we want or need. When the city and the MTA originally agreed to the project, the plans called for a stop at 41st and 10th Ave. and one at 34th St. and 11th. But rising costs quickly scuttled those plans.
The city balked at spending a few hundred more million dollars beyond than the $2.1 billion they had originally planned in spite of an estimated tax windfall of $60 billion from the Hudson Yards development. The MTA proposed a shell station at 41st and 10th that could eventually be turned into a full station when funds were available. When the city tried to force the MTA to cover the cost overruns of such a shell station, the MTA balked, and those plans were simply scuttled. Thus, the city is screwing over a neighborhood and the MTA. Once that work is complete, it will forever be significantly more expensive to build that station.
But as long as the drilling and detailing work is still east of 41st and 10th Ave., there’s hope yet. Enter Senator Chuck Schumer. Over the weekend, Schumer sent a strongly-worded letter to New York leaders urging them to include the second station at 10th and 41st even if that meant cutting down on some of the more useless parts of the planned Hudson Yard development. William Neuman at The Times reports:
Mr. Schumer asked the city to postpone plans for a costly tree-lined pedestrian boulevard west of 10th Avenue and to direct money toward the station project, which was canceled because of escalating costs…[City spokesman John Gallagher] said about $560 million would be spent on land for the first phase of the boulevard and portions of the subway line, including a new station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue…
But in an interview, Senator Schumer said the city still had time to change course. “It seems so obvious that a second rail station is more important than a boulevard for economic development,” he said. “It’s not that the boulevard is a bad thing. It’s just if you’re faced with a choice, when there’s limited funds, you first do the infrastructure.”
I don’t have much to add to what Schumer had to say. The man is completely, 100 percent right. The city, if they’re really expected $60 billion in tax revenue, should be able to fund another subway station on an extension they wanted built in the first place.
While city and MTA officials claim they may yet try to work something out, their responses to questions about potential overruns and future plans were vague at best. Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg outright dismissed Schumer. “Senator Schumer is never critical about anything. You must have confused him with someone else,” he said in response to Schumer’s letter. That’s not really the response I would expect from someone who could personally fund this entire 7 line extension.
Meanwhile, as construction goes, so goes politics. I’m sure this groundbreaking isn’t the last time we’ll hear about that stop at 41st St. and 10th. Hopefully, someone will come to their senses about it and just fund the whole thing. The city sure could use it.