Apr
14

Stirrings of development at Hudson Yards

By

Work on the 7 line extension is moving quickly, but the same cannot be said of development at Hudson Yards. Photo by Photo by Clayton Price for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Over the past four and a half years, I haven’t smiled upon the 7 line extension. A pet project of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s that serves as a living relic of the city’s failed Olympics bid, the $2.1 billion extension has seen useful elements — such as a station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. — eliminated. While the new stop at 34th St. and 11th Ave. is one that will benefit an eventual neighborhood, at a time when subway expansion dollars are very limited, this Subway to Nowhere isn’t the best use of funds.

Yet, the project is, as we learned recently, moving forward. Just last week, the MTA unveiled photos from inside the station cavern, and the authority has maintained that the 7 will head to the Far West Side by December 2013, nearly 32 months from now.

Unfortunately, nothing will be there when the 7 train extension opens. Sure, the Javits Center will still host conventions and the few people who live and work in the undeveloped area will have quicker access to the rest of Manhattan. But Related Companies, the real estate developer who agreed to purchase the land above the rail yards from the MTA, doesn’t anticipate opening a building there until 2015 at the earliest. Things, though, may be moving forward on that front.

According to article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Related is attempting to convince Time Warner to anchor the Hudson Yards development. Apparently, Time Warner’s still-new corporate headquarters above Columbus Circle could now command such a high price that it would make more sense for the telecom giant to sell its space and move west. While talks, according to the Journal, “could fizzle,” Time Warner wants to move but “isn’t close to a decision.”

Eliot Brown and Lauren Schuker report:

If Time Warner makes the jump, it could finally open up a long-planned frontier in Manhattan development by the Javits Center. Related has been pushing a long-term plan to deliver a city-within-a-city to be built over the Long Island Rail Road storage yard. It’s slated to include 12.9 million square feet of new office, retail and residential development

The deal would be a major boost for Related Chairman Stephen Ross, who agreed in 2008 to a $1 billion long-term lease with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to become the site’s developer. Related has said it needs a large tenant to begin construction and has pledged to make space available to the first tenants at the cost of development…

Time Inc. and HBO, both divisions of Time Warner, lease more than two million square feet of space in Manhattan that expires in 2017 and 2018, according to research firm CoStar Group Inc. It is unclear if those divisions would be part of a move to Hudson Yards. But the timing of the lease expirations would allow for it. Related has said it could deliver the first phase of the development by 2015.

The two reporters note that Related has yet to secure a tenant for its planned buildings but believes it will lease out around 3.5 million square feet this year. The company is targeting Coach as a potential anchor tenant as well.

Meanwhile, the subway moves forward. Optimistically, construction will be completed at least two years before the buildings start to grow above the rail yards that abut the Hudson River, but the Subway to Nowhere will go west nonetheless.



Categories : 7 Line Extension

38 Responses to “Stirrings of development at Hudson Yards”

  1. John-2 says:

    Ironically, 100 years after the Flushing line was pushed through this undeveloped area, causing it’s land to suddenly become valuable due to the new easier access to the central Manhattan business district, the Hudson Yards station will end up trying to serve a similar purpose. You’ll have a station basically located in a near-vacant area, where developers (business in this case instead of residential/commercial) will be touting the location because of it’s new access to the CBD.

    • I’m not arguing against sending the subway to undeveloped areas if money were no obstacle. I’m simply noting that when funds are limited, this extension isn’t a very good use of them right now. If we could build out the fantasy map, by all means, send the 7 west. But don’t you think that $2.1 billion would be better spent ensuring more of the Second Ave. Subway or working on a rail link to JFK or anything else really?

      • R. Graham says:

        In all fairness. The deal to extend the 7 line was one of the requirements of the city from the winning bidder of the air rights to the rail yards.

        When the bidding was done the city threw down the cash that was available at the time. The only problem in this case is the original winning bidder didn’t meet their end of the bargain then Related took over and they also aren’t meeting their end.

      • John-2 says:

        Short term, yes. On a longer timescale, if the city does develop the Hudson Yards to the point that it becomes a major business destination and source of brand-new sales tax, property tax and other public/private income generation, then the extension will serve its purpose. But realistically if everything went right, you wouldn’t expect to see those major benefits until about 2025 at the earliest.

        • That’s a pretty long-term time frame considering the paucity of funds for public transit expansion and the crushing need along the East Side for more of the Second Ave. Subway. I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea of building out to encourage development. I just don’t think this project is the way to do that.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I don’t know if it matters where it’s done. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the 7 extension, except the lack of the second station and that it does nothing about land use policy. Any development is going to be at best an improvement on Le Corbusier, with thousands of parking spaces and hideous street life. The city fathers are still opposed to the kind of development that made places like the Village, the LES, and Williamsburg pleasant or at least interesting places to live/visit. Modern planners still haven’t seen connected the dots on why places like Stuyvesant Town need a rent-a-cop security force and older neighborhoods get by without.

            • Bolwerk says:

              s/seen/even

            • John-2 says:

              The Stuyvesant Town security actually dates all the way back to the complex’s creation in. 1947, and was Met Life”s way of assuring people that the north side of 14th Street wouldn’t be bothered by the south side of 14th Street (which also went into the tenant rental policies which were subject of a discrimination lawsuit in the 1960s. But the security cops have been there since just after Fiorello LaGuardia left office to the point they’re pretty much part of the scenery by now).

              • Bolwerk says:

                Yeah, I figured as much. Why would they be safe in 1947 but not 2011? Projects were already magnets for antisocial behavior back then.

          • Ron Aryel says:

            Actually, it’s exactly the way to do it. There is no better way. New residential construction on Roosevelt Island was timed by the 63rd St line’s opening. Plus, Javits is a substantial employer and so the subway will, from Day One, be carrying employees and conventioneers to the convention center. Philadelphia’s convention center has commuter rail and subway built into it. If I recall correctly, so does Boston. It’s ridiculous for an important destination like that not to have rail serving it.

        • R. Graham says:

          Based on the deals the city made with two developers we were supposed to be seeing the major benefits by 2016 at the earliest.

          Someone screwed this one up big time.

          • Bolwerk says:

            New York does nothing to make sure contractors do this crazy little thing called THEIR JOB. There doesn’t even seem to be a serious penalty for tardy work, bad estimates, or shoddy accounting. Hell, there seem to be incentives for it: contractors just get paid extra. Nobody loses, except taxpayers. They should be charging big penalties for contractor fcukpus (and maybe small rewards for getting the work done on-time or under-budget).

      • Justin says:

        I also think the city should have funded more of the Second Avenue Subway or merging Airtrain with LIRR to provide a one seat ride from Penn Station to JFK. I find it amazing that the city doesn’t do anything to contribute to the MTA’s capital projects overall, yet Bloomberg has them specifically contribute to his pet project.

        Instead of the city issuing property ta xrefunds , that money perhaps could have gone to a MTA capital project. I think NYC should go over its entire budget and get creative in finding ways to fund the MTA (which it doesn’t bother to do)

        • R. Graham says:

          Um no! I’ll take the refund. This city makes quite enough money and if they need more they can toll me. Not the refund thou. There are too many surprises when we file these days anyway.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Why would you be surprised? The city is not allowed to raise revenue to fund those things, and has to pay for all the top-down mandates Albany already inflicts on it – not to mention confiscatory taxes by Albany and Washington to pay for roads and schools in the suburbs and red states.

    • petey says:

      i never fail to just sit gawking at that picture.

  2. Al D says:

    The biggest failing of course is having a subway that runs through and skips a neighborhood, i.e. 10 Ave/41 St. All this talk about boondoggles on this blog, this will be one not soon forgotten. Trouble is, look how long it takes to correct (or undo) something once it is done.

  3. SEAN says:

    Wait a minute, Time Warner wants to move after that enormous complex with their name on it near Central Park was built only a few years ago?

    • al says:

      They can get lots of $$$ for it, as well as consolidate all Manhattan operations under 1 roof. From the WSJ article, there are 4 Midtown locations with a total of close to 5 million sq ft owned or under lease by Time Warner. The Columbus Circle HQ site is roughly 1 million sq ft of office. They can sell or lease it off to some other organization, and take a cheaper (and newer) space at Hudson Yards. Related is also offering to sweeten the deal by pledging to make space available at cost of development.

  4. Yanir says:

    Is it a definite that there will be no 10th Ave station or is thre still some hope?

    • There is pretty much no hope once the feds declined to fund the feasibility study. We’ll see what happens down the road.

      • Marcus says:

        They did the design change that will make it easier to build later though, right? If not, that was an act of monumental stupidity.

        • R. Graham says:

          They would have to build in a way that they would leave a shell for a potential. They didn’t build leaving a shell. 10th Ave is likely as good as dead forever.

          In order to make such a station happen once service has begun to 11th Avenue would be years worth of General Orders so they could do the blasting necessary to create the station cavern. This is something they should have done now.

          • al says:

            No they wouldn’t. There is a type of small TBM (not the type that installs pipes) that can do this. The cutting face have a diameter of 1-2 meters, and can cut out bores and caverns many multiples its diameter by working back and forth over the rock face. One can even do selective mining that would leave rock pillars for support until concrete and steel structure gets installed to support the loads.

            • R. Graham says:

              But how feasible is this once the entire project is complete and service has commenced? From what it seems if they were to use such TBM, all service would have to be stopped for months if not a year to allow the new station excavation to take place.

              If that is indeed the case then I don’t see how it happens at all.

              • al says:

                Not that difficult. There are added cost with building it after the fact. However, most of the work can take place with the 7 extension up and running most of the time. Street entrances, station ancillaries and mezzanine construction can take place with little or no impact to subway operations.

                The more expensive option would have the deep mezzanine level, with a shallow mezzanine near street level. Less expensive would be a few street entrances feeding a deep mezzanine.

                The deep mezzanine would be right on top of the tunnel. They would excavate outside around the tunnel bore. This would allow for a large cavern station (like Roosevelt Island on the F or 7 @ Grand Central) to include the tracks and side platforms.

                The tricky (and disruptive) part is removing the original tunnel lining and other components, and would likely be done in stages during late night and weekends. They could remove the tunnel structure above and outside of one track the length of the station, and then repeat for the other to minimize disruption.

                At most, they would shut down the 7 west of Times Square late nights (bus shuttle would run on empty streets) or run 1 track shuttles on the extension segment during the tunnel removal stage.

                The main hurdles (aside from geotechnical surprises, and legal challenges) will be funds and political capital. At $300 million a subway station in NYC, this is something for future mayors and politicos to push for.

  5. Mr. Kabak has diligently outlined the reasons to question the timing and ranking of a No. 7 extension, and they’re good reasons. But life doesn’t go by laundry lists very often. If one is a homeowner, for instance, one finds him/herself making all kinds of infrastructure choices (and, sadly, omitting valuable add-ons) based not just on practicality but on various human (or political) matters. So if I have a roof leak and a wholly separate house segment with rotting walls and bad/no insulation, but money to fix only one at a time, which one goes first? I’d pick the roof, but what if I can’t find a reliable roofer easily? The equation can change quickly. Opportunities come and go, shift and morph. Sooner or later, one must commit, knowing one can’t know every variable that’s coming.
    We can acknowledge, per Mr. Kabak, that the No. 7 extension probably isn’t the best subway extension in terms of current utility. But it will be used, it might be a launch point for a (serious) extension into New Jersey some year/decade, and it is, to use the cliche, better than nothing (no subway growth at all). The Brooklyn Bridge got lambasted by some as an extravagance. As someone above noted, the No. 7 into Queens was questioned. Long term, the extension will do all right, indeed will be seen as an integral part of the system.

    • Alon Levy says:

      This is most certainly not better than nothing. The money for the extension could have been used on health care, or public schools, or NYPD and FDNY; Bloomberg chose to build a low-performing subway extension instead.

      The possibility of an extension into New Jersey is not even a serious benefit of the 7 extension. It could have been done directly from Times Square, and would not cost more than doing it from Hudson Yards, since a launch box would be needed anyway and the cost of just tunneling with a TBM with no stations is low.

      • Plenty of New Jerseyans would disagree with such a take. Feel free, of course, to argue with them, because (truth be told) they don’t have (nor should they have) as much say on the city’s budget priorities as city residents do. But from a Jerseyan’s perspective, the issue of where the No. 7 comes from on the New York side is trifling, at best. The No. 7 extension is, for rail transit’s purposes, better than nothing, though this writer concurs with Mr. Kabak that it is not an optimal choice.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Let me clarify: the cost of a 7 extension from Hudson Yards to Jersey is about the same as the cost of a 7 extension from Times Square to Jersey – the length of tunnel would be similar overall and especially underwater, and a trainbox would have to be built in either case. Therefore, the Hudson Yards extension does not in reality make a Jersey extension easier to construct.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Why not just give you the money, and you can go kick some minorities around for Ray Kelly? We waste enough money on the crime-encouraging NYPD. Hell, we also waste plenty on healthcare and public schools, considering our schools churn out illiterates and our healthcare isn’t even single-payer. (I don’t know enough about the internals of the FDNY to comment, but they seem like a generally laudable bunch.)

  6. Donald says:

    Does anyone honestly think the Hudson Yards project is ever going to be built? The last thing the market needs is 3 million square feet being dumped onto it. That will drive down prices and increase vacancy rates, something no developer wants.

    • R. Graham says:

      The market? Are you kidding? We’re still talking about Manhattan here. Opening up 3 million square feet in an untapped area of town is not even a blip on the radar screen when you are talking about Manhattan.

      If Time Warner doesn’t make the move someone else gladly will. And if Time Warner makes the move someone else will gladly take the Circle off their hands.

      This reminds me of all the complaints about not having tenants for WTC 1, 2, 3 and 4. Give me a break. Once built someone will gladly move in. There is only one major building down in Lower Manhattan that can’t pull it’s own weight and that’s 1 Liberty Plaza, but maybe it has to do with the fact that it was rumored to collapse after the attacks on 9/11.

      • Jerrold says:

        Are you “on the level” about 1 Liberty Plaza?
        I mean, if such a false story had been widely believed, wouldn’t the building’s owners have mounted an advertising campaign to publicize the fact that the building was still there?

        • R. Graham says:

          I’ve worked across the street from 1 Liberty for about 4 and a half years now. The amount of vacant floors that can been seen from my vantage point is frightening to say the least.

    • Alon Levy says:

      This being Manhattan, driving down prices and increasing vacancy rates is a good thing. I’m not a developer; I don’t get any benefits from paying $1,700 a month for a small two-bedroom in a meh neighborhood.

  7. al says:

    Not that hard. There is the added cost of building it after the fact. However, most of the work can take place with the 7 extension up and running most of the time. Street entrances, station ancillaries and mezzanine construction can take place with little or no impact to subway operations.

    The more expensive option would have the deep mezzanine level, with a shallow mezzanine near street level. Less expensive would be a few street entrances feeding a deep mezzanine.

    The deep mezzanine would be right on top of the tunnel. They would excavate outside around the tunnel bore. This would allow for a large cavern station (like Roosevelt Island on the F or 7 @ Grand Central) to include the tracks and side platforms.

    The tricky (and disruptive) part is removing the original tunnel lining and other components, and would likely be done in stages during late night and weekends. They could remove the tunnel structure above and outside of one track the length of the station, and then repeat for the other to minimize disruption.

    At most, they would shut down the 7 west of Times Square late nights (bus shuttle would run on empty streets) or run 1 track shuttles on the extension segment during the tunnel removal stage.

    The main hurdles (aside from geotechnical surprises, and legal challenges) will be funds and political capital. At $300 million a subway station in NYC, this is something for future mayors and politicos to push for.

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