With the winter games unfolding in Vancouver this weekend, I keep thinking about how, had the Mayor’s bid in 2005 to secure the Summer Olympics for New York City been successful, the next great gathering of international athletes would have been ours. And then I start thinking about how the 7 line project — one now destined to serve residents of a real estate complex not yet built or even paid for — got its start in Bloomberg’s desires to see the Olympics come to New York. It was that same desire and the subsequent loss of the games to London that has led to the downfall of the station at 41st and 10th Ave.
We know the project’s recently history fairly well. The project’s design phase started in 2002 when Bloomberg launched his plan to develop Manhattan’s last great frontier, the Hudson Yards land. At the time, the Mayor hoped to lure the Jets from New Jersey with a stadium that would also serve as the home for the 2012 Summer Olympics. In June 2005, amidst massive public protest, the state legislature failed to guarantee financing for the stadium, and a few months later, the IOC, citing that failure, awarded the Olympics to London.
Still, the 7 line extension did not die with the Olympics. Originally, the project’s timetable was an aggressive one. Project Design Completion was due to be wrapped up by December 2006 with construction beginning that year and revenue service in time for the Olympics in 2012. Today, the MTA still lists TBD as the Project Design Completion date. Construction started on December 15, 2007, over a year later than originally anticipated, and revenue service is right now scheduled to start during December of 2013. The MTA will miss those Summer Olympics by a good 17 months.
Over the course of project’s history, the City and MTA have fought over nearly every aspect of it. The City, the primary funding partner for this extension, refused to fund cost overruns and an expensive station stop at 41st and 10th Ave. The MTA has had trouble securing a deal for the land rights to the Hudson Yards area, and the current $1 billion offer from Related is on borrowed time, already one month past the anticipated closing date.
What though would have happened if the Olympics had come to New York? For that, we hit the maps. Take a look at the map below. It is an excerpt from a special map the MTA printed in 2005 showing the potential locations for all of the Olympics events. (To view the map in full, click here.)
Any Olympics plan for the city included heavy usage of the Far West Side. The Javits Center would have hosted six key events, including weightlifting, fencing, wrestling and table tennis, and the planned West Side stadium would have featured some track-and-field contests and the soccer matches. To ensure capacity for those events, the city would have needed a subway stop at 34th St. and 11th Ave. and probably would have paid to build the one at 41st and 10th as well. Instead, the costs skyrocketed, and we’re left with REBNY’s protests, years too late.
So far, progress along the 7 line remains on target. According to the latest update from Capital Construction, the tunnel boring machines have excavated nearly 40 percent of the planned 9500 feet. The two TBMs are mining north of the 34th St. station cavern, and northernmost machine has passed under all three Lincoln Tunnel tubes, the more delicate part of the drilling. By the end of next month, we’ll have an update on the projects budget and timeline.
Meanwhile, we can remember when the Olympics nearly came to New York. Enthusiasm amongst city residents was decidedly mixed, but the subways would have benefited once the athletes all went home.