Home MTA Construction 4th Ave. F station rehab to get budget axe

4th Ave. F station rehab to get budget axe

by Benjamin Kabak

This rendering will forever remain a very nice picture.

It’s starting, and I hope it doesn’t end up costing the city the Second Ave. subway yet again.

In a move that isn’t too shocking, the MTA has abandoned its plans to do a full overhaul of the 4th Ave. station on the F line. While the agency will still rehab all of the tracks and Culver Viaduct structure itself, in an effort to save nearly $65 million, the MTA has withdrawn the station rehab plans. This move is a big blow to an area sorely in need of an aesthetically appealing station and is sure to be an early warning sign of more construction cuts to come.

Mike McLaughlin of The Brooklyn Paper broke the news late last week:

The almighty transportation agency has abandoned its ambitious plans to renovate the shabby Fourth Avenue station in Park Slope into a glittering, light-filled, Euro-styled stunner.

Just last November, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority showed off renderings (left) of the elevated F-train platform basking in sunlight from new windows, renovations that were part of a larger project to reconstruct the crumbling elevated tracks on the F and G line between the Carroll Street and Fourth Avenue.

The trackwork is still set to start later this year and finish in 2012. And improvements to the equally beleaguered Smith–Ninth Street station are still slated to begin next year. But the overall $250-million project has been trimmed to $187.8 million, so something had to give, said Deirdre Parker, a spokeswoman for New York City Transit.

“Work on the Fourth Avenue station was never officially funded. Consideration has been deferred until the next capital plan,” Parker said in an e-mail to The Brooklyn Paper. And, yes, that next capital plan will roll around in, oh, 2013.

While the Smith-9th Sts. station will get its much-needed aesthetic overhaul, this news is just another step backwards for an MTA that has spent much of 2008 backtracking on promised upgrades. It’s easy to renege on promises of aesthetic upgrades; they don’t impact train performance. But as many transit rider advocates note in McLaughlin’s article, appearances matter. (Ed Note: See clarification at bottom.)

Meanwhile, I can’t help but fear for the future of other big-ticket items. A whole bunch of Q stops are set for renovation, and various projects — Chambers St. on the BMT Nassaue Line, South Ferry, Bowling Green, to name a few — are in different stages right now. Could these all face the axe as the MTA looks to trim its budget? Are we looking an age in which station aesthetics – already a sore point for the MTA — are sacrificed even further in the name of money?

And then what happens when we start looking at the big-ticket capital projects? Are the Second Ave. Subway and LIRR East Side Access projects in danger?

In the various questions posted to Gene Russianoff on The Times’ City Room blog, more than a few straphangers focused on station aesthetics. As anyone who’s been to London or Paris or Moscow can attest to, New York’s subways are a visual mess, and I fear that, as the pursestrings tighten, this is a situation that will not improve any time soon.

Addendum: Paul Fleuranges, NYC Transit’s Vice President, Corporate Communications, writes in with a clarification and a correction this morning. “There was never any intent to perform a full station rehabilitation of the 4th Avenue station during the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation; as such work is not contained in the funding envelope for this particular capital improvement in the 2005 – 2009 program,” he says.

Instead, the work will include surface reconstruction in a station that has seen parts of its outdoor platform beginning to crumble. The 4th Ave. renderings were simply views of what the station could look like if it were to receive funding in the capital plan that covers 2010-2014.

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Todd June 10, 2008 - 12:36 am

Seriously, what the hell?! I mean, how much money did The MTA spend on the planning designs for this project? I bet that pretty picture wasn’t drawn for free! They couldn’t see this coming? WHO THE HELL DOES THEIR ACCOUNTING?

I have just one question: How do they keep getting away with this? They receive federal and state money and yet they continue to mismanage. They talk and plan about projects that never get off the ground and yet they can’t manage what they’re currently running. They’re really good about moaning that they’re low on funds though! And now they’re priming us for another fare hike!

They’re just going to piss that away too. The MTA is such a joke.

I hate them so much.

Pjason325 June 10, 2008 - 5:44 pm

Hi Todd. I agree with your point of view. There’s more than enough evidence is that the MTA is making too many promises that they can’t keep. Whenever the vision fails, the people will suffer.

Ray June 10, 2008 - 7:34 am

Disappointing for sure. And Todd raises a good point and for me a question arises. How much do we actually spend on building? If the private sector were to construct this project, would it cost $65MM? Perhaps so.

As we look at station redevelopment and maintenance – which is sorely needed system wide – what opportunities exist for private partner(s)?

There must be untapped potential in major development rights, special air rights, commercial leasing opportunities, franchise services, vending, and new advertising technologies. My sense is once the private local interests are engaged – we might find funding to close the gap a bit.

Moreover, it seems many major stations are the driving forces behind the BIDs surrounding them. I’ve noted that BIDS are often well staffed and effective at maintaining street level. Perhaps the improvement districts could expand their oversight to include the light maintenance of area subway stations. Trash can be removed, lights replaced, tile work maintained, walls painted, signage maintained, gum can be scrapped off platforms!

Finally, if an area (residents and businesses) wants something NOW might we offer them the option of a special tax assessment or even perhaps a fare surcharge (.25 per ride) for using that station?

Cap'n Transit June 10, 2008 - 7:36 am

Todd, I hope you have just as much hate for the state legislators who cut $50 million from the MTA budget instead of making up for the Pataki-era cuts.

ScottE June 10, 2008 - 9:17 am

“Work was never officially funded.” So, there’s nothing more to this plan than the ambitious expansion that Lee Sander spoke about a few months back re: the new “outer boroughs” line over existing track right-of-way. Except, of course, for some preliminary design and pretty pictures. If they can’t deliver on what IS funded, it’s kind of silly to publicize projects that AREN’T funded.

I suppose that quote was thrown in there to explain why the cancellation of this project doesn’t mean that there is a sudden influx of allocated money which can now be used elsewhere.

I wonder if an elevated station like this can be built pre-fab somewhere else in the country, and then just hoisted into place. It would probably be cheaper and quicker; though the local unions may have something to say about it.

Boris June 10, 2008 - 1:46 pm


I agree with Todd. Cap’n Transit, your comment is well noted but serves more as a devil’s (the MTA’s!) advocate. We need more details about their accounting practices, or lack thereof.

How DARE these fools raise our fares and then cut service? As Todd says, who the heck runs their accounting?

I applaud Ray’s suggestion (I suggested this in another rant…er, comment) to privatize part or preferably all of the MTA. While privatization has a host of ills (viz. Maggie Thatcher and British Rail), perhaps some combination of public oversight and private ownership would work.

Todd June 10, 2008 - 7:14 pm

Cap’n Transit, I’ll give you the $52 million Albany cut. Heck, I’ll even toss ya the $354 million from Silver’s killing the congestion pricing proposal.

What I fail to understand is how they didn’t see the other part.

You know, the other $2,594,000,000.

paulb June 11, 2008 - 9:23 am

The viaduct reconstruction proceeds, which is important, and AFAIK, there’s been no backing off the promise to resurrect F express service to Church Avenue once that is done. There’s another point of view, isn’t there? OK, the MTA overpromised, but at least it’s got some plans in hand. I’m a grownup, I can suffer a little disappointment. It’s more likely a delay than that the renovation will never be done.

In terms of where the $$$ go, how does the MTA/NY Transit compare to other public transit operators? Not just in the US, but abroad, also. I don’t know quite how to phrase this, but what we see as defects in the way an agency like this does “business” must have much to do, since it is a public agency, with NY’s public sector culture, which is linked to it’s gov’t, i.e., democratic, culture. I guess what I’m getting at is patronage. NY Transit functions in a government environment that requires not just running efficiently but answering various “public needs” or “expectations”–hiring, promotion, which neighborhoods get the spending, civil service requirements, union precedents, unwritten quotas. If you stripped the MTA back and were somehow able to create an ideally efficient and competent organization, would the citizens of NYC be particularly pleased?

David Brown June 18, 2008 - 9:48 am

I really dislike the politicians as it relates to the MTA. There is NO leadership that is pushing for subway station renovation at a reasonable cost and time frame (Cortland Street is shut down SEVEN years after 9/11 just being one example). Another example is the Chambers Street Subway Station (If the politicians at City Hall ignore that station right at City Hall, how does anyone expect them to pay attention to the likes of Brook Ave?). Throw in the F Train stations to this discussion, there are so many awful subway stations on the F line it is not funny. Smith and 9th Street, 4th Avenue, East Broadway, Second Avenue, 14th Street, and 23rd Street to name a few. Instead of spending $2 billion to extend the 7 line, what about spending money at Chambers Street? That should be a priority.
Simply put, the entire transportation mess from Bloomberg to Bush, and the Democrats in between, really hurts the New York area, and the nation as a whole. We need poitive leadership on this issue (It would help long term with the gas shortages). However, Between Patterson, Obama and McCain, I don’t see it.

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[…] overhaul as part of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project. But when parts of the project were scaled back, the station rehab plans were placed in limbo. The station itself is a mess. The paint is beyond […]

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » » An MTA problem grows in Brooklyn October 21, 2008 - 12:50 am

[…] a permanent work zone. Further down the F line, a long-overdue rehab for the 4th Ave./9th St. stop got the axe when the MTA’s finances went […]

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[…] a shape as those at Smith St. Still, as the rehab project’s cost ballooned, the MTA had to scale back work at 4th Avenue. Now, though, the on-again, off-again rehab at that station is firmly back on thanks to the […]


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