It is the phantom subway station that just won’t fade away. It is the the phantom subway station that, for the sake of a neighborhood and New York City’s future, has to be built. And it is a phantom subway station that just might be inching one step closer to a return to reality.
I’m talking, of course, about the on-again, off-again station at 10th Ave. and 41st St. that will nearly make or break the way we judge the 7 line extension. To recap: The original plans for the extension called for a stop to serve Hell’s Kitchen and the developments near the Hudson River in the low 40s, but as cost overruns became steep, the city — which is funding the entire extension — dropped its plans to build this station. Only the new terminal at 34th and 11th Ave., the lynchpin to the Hudson Yards development, would see the light of day.
First, the city promised to build a shell station at 41st and 10th Ave. so that the MTA could later build a full station, but when that became too expensive and the economy went south, those plans were scraped. At one point in 2007, then-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff offered to go halfsies with the MTA, but the cash-starved authority with bigger capital fish to fry declined. Then, nearly three and a half years after rumors of the station’s demise first emerged, the Real Estate Board of New York, under new leadership, decided to launch a last-second effort to save the station at 10th Ave., and that is where we find ourselves in 2010.
The news today is guardedly optimistic. Eliot Brown of The New York Observer rehashes recent history and finds that REBNY’s efforts could be paying off if only Mayor Bloomberg weren’t such an obstructionist. He reports:
Now, REBNY feels it has a plan that could keep the station alive, but the Bloomberg administration rejects it as unfeasible. Still, the administration, which initially resisted entertaining the late-in-the-game effort, is itself examining other funding options.
Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said he had a consultant produce a report that recommended about $100 million in work to move utilities, an amount that could keep the option open for later funding to finish the station. The full cost of the station is estimated by the city to exceed $800 million.
“What we’re looking to do is preserve the ability that the station will eventually be built,” he said. “Nobody ever really expected the station to be built immediately–$800 million was not ever going to just come from some add-on in a bill in Washington. But can we do something so that over the next five, six years, money can come in from Washington?” …
A spokesman for the Bloomberg administration, Andrew Brent, dismissed Mr. Spinola’s plan as something that would disrupt the current project, which anticipates a line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue by 2013. “We’re not going to entertain any plans that add meaningful time or cost to the subway extension,” Mr. Brent said in a statement. “If a plan can be worked out that preserves the possibility of a station getting built in the future without delaying or adding cost to the project, we’re open to it. That remains a big if.”
Bloomberg’s line of reasoning is utterly spurious. The city has gone this long without 7 service to the Hudson Yards area, and considering that real estate development won’t take off for years in that neighborhood, if New Yorkers have to suffer a delay of a year to ensure that something forward-looking is built at 41st and 10th, the subway-riding public would be better off for it.
Vaguely, Spinola, whose organization didn’t realize for years that the station at 41st and 10th had been axed, ended with some words about the city’s trying to “find a solution.” He said, “At the moment, I think they are taking the concern seriously that the station will not get built unless they do something about it, and I think they are exploring the possibilities.” How comforting.