The fourth post in Second Ave. Sagas’ history arrived on November 29, 2006. In it, I reported the news that the planned station along the 7 line extension at 41st St. and 10th Ave. might be axed due to rising costs. It was the first we heard of any change in the city’s plans, and over the next few years, the MTA and New York City engaged in some good old fashioned political wrangling. Even Sen. Chuck Schumer threw his hat into the ring. After the MTA shot down a proposal from the city to go 50/50 on the station, the two officially killed the planned stop on September 19, 2008, a good 17 months ago.
In the intervening months, I’ve checked in on the progress underneath 11th Ave. as the tunnel boring machine slowly makes it way toward Times Square. I’ve written extensively on the need for a stop at 41st. and 10th and the folly of building the extension without even a shell of a station. Transit advocates and those plugged into the urban planning community understand the need for the station now and if that’s not feasible, then at least provisions for a shell. Building nothing now would ensure nothing in the future because the costs will be just too high.
Yet, until just last week, we had few vocal allies in this fight. The people who needed the station and stood to benefit most — the real estate owners in Hell’s Kitchen and the residents there — were silent until last week when Mary Anne Tighe, the head of the Real Estate Board of New York City, spoke out in favor of the stop. Now, suddenly realizing that this station won’t exist, Tighe and REBNY are preparing to throw their weight behind a public campaign to urge the city to build something at 41st and 10th Ave. Where were they two years ago?
Charles V. Bagli profiled their efforts in The Times yesterday. The group has launched a new website/online petition called Build the Station and hope to use the same lobbying prowess that resulted in the federal government’s decision to move the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial in this subway oriented effort. “We think it should have two stops,” Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said. “There is substantial growth already taking place near 10th and 41st. For them to quietly let the station evaporate, without anyone telling anybody, is a mistake.”
Based on Bagli’s story, REBNY is going to push the feds for money to fund this station, but it sounds as though REBNY is nearly too late to make a difference:
The station’s status is not exactly news, however. City and transit authority officials say that the station was eliminated from the plans more than two years ago, and it was not a secret. There were newspaper articles and protests by elected officials, including Senator Charles E. Schumer and Representative Jerrold Nadler. The city and the authority did retain an “option” with its construction contractor to build the second station, but that expired in September 2008.
For now, the plan is to continue to cut a tunnel from 34th and 11th to the current No. 7 terminus at Times Square. The tunnel will pass by 41st and 10th, where the second station was to be built…
Mr. Spinola said developers like Joseph Moinian and Larry Silverstein and tenants in some of the new towers on 42nd Street had long understood that the station would be built. The board, in fact, is so eager to see plans for it resurrected in these financially trying times that it says local landlords may be willing to provide some cash, say $50 million of the $800 million cost.
As Bagli notes, unsurprisingly, some developers care more about this station than others, and Related, the company trying to purchase the land rights atop the Hudson Yards, just wants its promised stop at 34th St. and 11th Ave. completed.
Many have long urged real estate developers to get involved, and the idea that those who stand to benefit the most should pay for some of the infrastructure improvements is not a new one in the public discourse. It has, however, often been met with contempt by landowners who don’t want to pay for improvements that won’t be realized for years down the road. If REBNY can truly convince someone, anyone, to fund this station, it would be a minor miracle. But then again, if the Moynihan Station can draw in $267 million for a bunch of staircases, why can’t this station, one in the path of oncoming construction and trains, get the money?
The city, of course, remained as obstinate as ever. “A 10th Avenue station might sound nice,” a spokesman for the mayor said to Bagli, “but the MTA and state budget problems are well known, and the city is in no position to step in to pay for that, too.”