Home Fulton Street Above-ground Fulton St. hub remains in limbo

Above-ground Fulton St. hub remains in limbo

by Benjamin Kabak

During the press gaggle prior to the tour of the new South Ferry station, the transit reporters gathered around Michael Horodniceanu, the president of MTA Capital Construction, to pepper him with questions. Talk, of course, turned to the ever-delayed Fulton St. transit hub.

When we lasted checked in with the Fulton St. hub, it was October, and the MTA had no plans for the hub. It was stuck in MTA Purgatory. Two weeks ago, Horodniceanu sort of ducked the questions surrounding the above-ground parts of this structure. “We have not yet made a decision on it,” he said. He did claim that the final structure would be “similar to what we’ve seen.” What we’ve seen is an oculus erased from the plans nearly a year ago.

At the MTA Board meeting this past week, the agency’s CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander had an update on the Fulton St. Hub, and Julie Shapiro and Josh Rogers of the Downtown Express reported on the update. While work continues apace below ground, things are moving slowly above ground. Perhaps passengers will just exit via a ladder leading down into the transit complex.

Anyway, the two downtown reporters write:

Nearly one year after the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it had run out of money to build the aboveground portion of the Fulton Transit Center, the agency still has made no decisions about the future.

“We have a couple of different options for what’s above ground,” Lee Sander, M.T.A. executive director, said this week. “The issue is really figuring out how we pay for it.”

He did not disclose any information on the alternatives under consideration. He said he was “highly confident” something will be built above street level, but he has made similar comments throughout the year and the M.T.A. had said they would have a new plan for the site by last February…

Sander would only say Thursday that the M.T.A. is not interested in topping the station with a commercial structure to raise revenue. “At this point that’s not in our plans, and given the fact that we’re in the environmental planning process, I think I will leave my comments there,” he said.

So the MTA, as Shapiro and Rogers noted, “displaced 140 businesses in 2006 to make way for a domed Fulton station that was to become a new Downtown landmark,” and since then, nothing has happened. The intersection of Fulton St. and Broadway remains an empty lot surrounding by a blue construction fence, and the MTA heads can tell us only what is not going to fill that spot.

At some point, something will rise above the Fulton St. transit hub, and in the end, as long as the below-ground connections work out, it doesn’t really matter what happens above ground. But for now, we know we’ll be waiting a long time for the MTA to build something. They have to figure out what will go in the empty spot, conduct the appropriate environmental reviews, find the money for construction and then build it. Yikes. We might be in a for a few years of nothing at Fulton St.

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Scott E December 22, 2008 - 9:19 am

I think you need to cross out the “W” and “Z” from that graphic above the article!

Anyway, I think what Horodniceanu meant when he said the design would be “Similar to what we have seen”, he was referring to what we’ve seen at the corner of Fulton and Broadway for the last year or so: a barricaded construction site where buildings used to stand. I believe the reason for not considering a commercial structure above the station is that the property was taken by eminent domain, restricting its use for public (not private, commercial) purposes. At this point, though, the lawsuits that would arise from “abusing” eminent domain (if the commercial option is implemented) would likely be better than the costs of deferring the project for so many years.

An interesting quote a bit farther down the article, when he references mega projects like Second Ave Subway and East Side Access — they’re not quite the priority they once were.

Marc Shepherd December 22, 2008 - 10:24 am

A structure will be built at Fulton St., though it may take a while. They won’t leave a giant hole in the ground forever.

You’re wrong about your eminent domain analysis. Current law gives the government a pretty wide berth to do as it pleases with property seized via eminent domain. Anyhow, the injuries of the displaced businesses are no longer redressable, so the issue is legally moot. Nothing a court does now can put things back the way they were. What’s more, it was always intended that there would be commercial space there in some form or another.

You are right about the bigger story later in the article, though wrong about the interpretation. It’s not that they’ve de-prioritized ESA and SAS. They’re the same priority they always were: important, but not as much as keeping the existing system running. If the fools in the legislature fail to fund the MTA properly, management will choose to maintain the current system. What else could they do? You don’t build a new house if you can’t afford upkeep on the house you’ve already got.

The more interesting point is that Sander is putting a high priority on getting the rest of the system ready for CBTC.

rhywun December 22, 2008 - 10:12 am

I’d rather have Pizza Hut and Ranch One back at this point.

Scott C December 22, 2008 - 11:05 am

Still not sure what work is going on underground. I am in the Fulton Street complex every day and have not seen any work underground in months. I guess they are still technically building the Dey street corridor, but nothing else is going on, that is for sure.

rhywun December 22, 2008 - 12:06 pm

Maybe the progress is too slow for the naked eye to catch, like rotting fruit… Get a time-lapse camera down there to see if anything is happening.

Kevin December 22, 2008 - 6:09 pm

I’d rather see a shopping center put on top of the transit center to raise some additional revenue. Other countries do it, why shouldn’t we?

rhywun December 22, 2008 - 9:43 pm

I have no problem with that. Just nothing as ghastly as the WTC mall was. Anyway, It’s not a grand terminal or anything – I never understood the “need” for this majestic space they originally proposed in the first place.

AlexB December 23, 2008 - 2:40 am

As one of the most important intersections downtown, it matters a great deal what gets built above the underground passageways. This is even more true now that the PATH station has been whittled away. The subway system as a whole is almost entirely devoid of any architectural efforts besides some occasionally nice decorations. That oculus was going to be a nice downtown landmark and a clever way to bring light into the subway. New yorkers are too used to the subway being a purely utilitarian experience. Build it (and the PATH station) right.


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