Home View from Underground For $200,000 a year, a subway station name

For $200,000 a year, a subway station name

by Benjamin Kabak

yankeestadiummousepad I’ll get to the nitty-gritty of the MTA’s sweetheart deal for the Atlantic Yards rights later today. If you want to read about this embarrassment of riches for Bruce Ratner and the MTA’s dereliction of duty ahead of time, check out Mike Grynbaum’s coverage on City Room.

Right now, I want to instead turn my attention to an intriguing bit of news that came out of the MTA Board’s Finance Committee meeting on Monday. For the first time, the MTA will be taking in money in exchange for the naming rights to a subway station. The Observer’s Elliot Brown summarizes this development:

Monday’s announcement, made at a meeting of the M.T.A.’s finance committee, did include one new, if small, income stream: The agency agreed to lease the naming rights for the Atlantic Avenue station, where the project is based. With payments of $200,000 a year for 20 years, the new name: “Barclays Center,” which an agency official said will appear alongside the existing name for the station.

So in a few years — whenever this hideous arena opens up — the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. subway station will become the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St./Barclays Center station. Talk about a mouthful.

For the MTA, securing a naming rights deal has been a long-term project. A few years, some subway conductors starting referring to 47th-50th Sts./Rockefeller Center as “Top of the Rock” for the then-newly opened attraction at the top of 40 Rockefeller Center. The transit agency, however, drew in no money for the deal.

A few months ago, the authority tried again. When the city and the Mets dismantled Shea Stadium and opened the corporately-named Citi Field, the MTA tried to get some money to rename the Willets Point-Shea Stadium stop after Citi Field. The two sides could not reach an agreement, and the station is now awkwardly called Mets-Willets Point. It is one of the few stations in the subway system at which the attraction’s name — in this case, the Mets — precedes the geographical identifier — here, Willets Point.

This deal with Forest City Ratner for the naming rights should lead us to reconsider how subway stations are named, and it’s bound to engender a debate between the traditionalists and those who feel the MTA should milk funds out of the system. For the most part, stations are called by their closest streets. There are a few stops at 96th St., some at the city’s various 7th Avenues and others along Canal St. Other stops take on the nearest big landmark: 34th St.-Penn Station, Howard Beach/JFK Airport and Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue come to mind. Others — 42nd St./Times Square, Flushing-Main St., Forest Hills/71st Ave. — are geographical signals.

Until this Barclays agreement was finalized, MTA stations were named for convenience’s sake. Stations with similar names were modified to signify where along a street the station lay, and major neighborhoods were identified as well. Now, though, stations are open to the highest bidder. What is stopping Disney from buying the naming rights to Times Square? Who wants to get off at 42nd St./Times Square/Disney? What about 59th St./Bloomingdales?

Maybe the MTA shouldn’t be charging for these corporate names. Maybe it’s part of its public duty to identify the major attractions that around the station in question. Or maybe the MTA shouldn’t offer up anything more than those in-station gray signs if corporate naming-rights sponsors won’t pay. After all, the MTA doesn’t need to accept free advertising for a brand.

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22 comments

Kai June 23, 2009 - 9:41 am

I’m fine with kind of naming as long as it’s relevant, which in this case it would be (actual nearby landmark).

I’m against random naming of stations (“Disney Times Square”)… this would be irrelevant and confusing. There can certainly be full station branding, however, just don’t mess with the name.

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rhywun June 23, 2009 - 11:21 am

Call me a traditionalist; I find these corporate naming schemes repellent. Of course, we lost this battle over a hundred years ago at Times Square…. But at least that name stuck. I can guarantee you no New Yorker is ever going to call that station “Barclay’s Center”, or whatever it becomes in 20 years after some other conglomerate buys the naming rights.

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Alon Levy June 23, 2009 - 12:56 pm

With Times Square, it helped that the New York Times was headquartered right there. The same is true for Herald Square and the New York Herald. Both the Times and the Herald were also longstanding institutions that could be expected to survive long enough to take hold. There’s a real difference between 59th Street-Bloomingdale’s or 34th Street-Herald Square-Macy’s, and Atlantic-Pacific-Barclays.

Of course, it’ll be easier to just imprison everyone involved in the Atlantic Yards deal on a conspiracy charge and get more honest people to run the MTA’s business deals, but that will be another sign of the apocalypse.

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Kai June 23, 2009 - 6:28 pm

With no deal it would probably have been “Atlantic/Pacific – Nets*” in the fashion of Citifield.

*Or whatever the team will end up being called.

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rhywun June 23, 2009 - 8:34 pm

Ugh, gross. Also, sports teams are just as ephemeral as the multinationals who buy their stadiums’ naming rights.

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Paul Hanson October 28, 2009 - 11:21 pm

I think you people are thinking way too small here.

Naming rights for stations? Come on.

Let’s sell the naming rights for the lines

JetBlue Rockaway Line

ING Culver Local

Twizzlers Broadway/7 Av Express

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Sweetening a sweetheart deal :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog June 23, 2009 - 12:31 pm

[…] « For $200,000 a year, a subway station name Jun […]

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Ariel June 23, 2009 - 12:52 pm

I think the Barclay Center station makes sense, because like Yankees Stadium and Citifield, it is an arena that will attract thousands of people during events.

Just giving a name based on any random corporation willing to pay would be ridiculous, i.e. 42nd st/Times Square/Disney. The naming should revolve around major landmarks, and if MTA could get some corporate dollars doing just that, they should take as much advantage as possible. I congratulate them on the Barclay’s Center deal.

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Paul June 23, 2009 - 12:55 pm

If they sell the naming rights I say it must be no less than a 50 year lease. And it must be iron clad that even if the company goes bankrupt the first creditor that gets paid is the MTA for these rights. If they don’t do something like this you will have the stations changing names every 5-10 years which is stupid and not at all practical.

For example look at the baseball stadium where the Houston Astros play it was Enron field and I think it has had at least 2 other names since it was built.

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Chicken Underwear June 23, 2009 - 4:26 pm

If associating the name of the arena with the Atlantic/Pacific St Station get one less person to drive there I support it.

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Paul B June 28, 2009 - 11:44 am

I think the Astros play in Minute Maid park at this moment.

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Times kinda sorta supports naming rights deal :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog June 29, 2009 - 3:25 pm

[…] days ago, I helped break the story of the MTA’s first naming rights contract. To recap: As part of the Atlantic Yards deal with Bruce Ratner, the MTA will receive $4 million […]

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THE CITY FIX: Exploring Sustainable Solutions to the Problems of Urban Mobility » Blog Archive » Don’t Sell Subway Station Naming Rights July 9, 2009 - 11:21 am

[…] news is a few days old, but I think it’s really fascinating that New York is considering selling partial naming rights to the Atlantic/Pacific station, the second busiest station in Brooklyn. The Times article on the […]

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Dubai Gets A Metro » INFRASTRUCTURIST September 9, 2009 - 3:07 pm

[…] balance sheets of so many transit authorities and municipalities across the US, they may prove a trendsetter in that decision as in so many […]

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In Chicago, private money to renovate a station :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog October 26, 2009 - 5:17 pm

[…] few months ago, the MTA unveiled the details of its first subway station naming rights contract. For $200,000 a year over 20 years, Barclays will attach its name to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. […]

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Taking a lesson in station naming rights from Chicago :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 19, 2010 - 1:41 am

[…] after being rebuffed by the Mets and Citi over a station naming rights deal in Queens, the MTA secured an annual payment from Barclays to append a corporate moniker to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. stop. The Barclays Center will one […]

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Joel Epstein February 23, 2010 - 12:58 pm

I disagree. Hate advertising as much as the next guy but mass transit is not getting built and upgraded, even in NYC, as quickly as it needs to be. Why not take the cash if it serves the greater good? Just don’t give the system away for free… be agrressive in cutting the best deals for the transit agency. Here’s my perspective from Lalaland where we have a long way to go before we have an adequate subway and light rail network.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....84361.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....69462.html

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In Philadelphia, the wrong approach to naming rights :: Second Ave. Sagas June 23, 2010 - 12:06 pm

[…] subway station beneath it will have a new name. For $4 million spread out over 20 years, Barclays will pay the MTA for the naming rights to the station, and straphangers will get off at Atlantic Ave./Pacific […]

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Chicago turns to naming rights deals for added revenue :: Second Ave. Sagas November 12, 2010 - 2:11 am

[…] to pony up the dollars to name the 7 stop at Willets Point after Citi Field, but it secured a 20-year, $4-million commitment from Barclays to append the name of the Nets’ new arean to the Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. hub. […]

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Interviewing Jay Walder: Labor relations and revenue sources :: Second Ave. Sagas November 30, 2010 - 1:04 am

[…] rights deal with Apple has gotten a decent amount of attention over the last few weeks. I know the Barclays deal was the first major MTA naming rights deal. Are there other efforts being made to identify naming […]

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What’s In a Name? MBTA Sells Out Boston In Its Naming Rights Plan « Transit on the Line December 13, 2011 - 6:00 pm

[…] nor is it unique in some of its attempts to close the funding gap. About a year ago, Boston joined New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Toronto, and New Jersey in the growing list of North American […]

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At Atlantic Ave., an updated name with a corporate twist :: Second Ave. Sagas May 15, 2012 - 12:30 pm

[…] we learned back in June of 2009, the MTA is earning $200,000 annually for 20 years for the right to append the name of the new arena to the subway station name, and the new moniker is now showing up on maps and at the station. […]

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