In news that will shock no one, New Jersey is willing to throw its political support behind Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to send the 7 train to Secaucus while Staten Island politicians are objecting. As the plan exists right now as nothing more than a long-standing dream suddenly drawing Bloomberg’s attention, the cross-border state politics and interborough maneuverings will likely dominate the coverage as long as the idea is still alive.
The first word from west of Hudson came from Gov. Chris Christie earlier this week. He likes the project because it requires less of an investment from New Jersey and because New York would pick up some of the tab — an aspect of ARC that led to resentment over the project’s funding. Christie, who didn’t say too much this week, proclaimed that New Jersey will “do our share.” in a radio interview, he said, “All of this will be able to come together.”
Staten Islanders, meanwhile, had far more to say about the project, and none of it involved much praise. Already smarting over Port Authority fare hikes that they said unfairly impact their constituents, Staten Island politicians banded together to oppose the project. Calling upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help improve Staten Island’s transit options, the bipartisan group bemoaned the focus on New Jersey in a letter to Albany.
“”This is a project that is worthy of consideration in the future. Now is not the time to explore more ways to get from New Jersey to Manhattan when it’s our toll money paying for it,” the letter said. “We would also encourage you to have your appointees on the Port Authority Board reject any funding for exorbitant projects until we have reached an agreement on how we can lessen the overall financial impact for residents of Richmond County. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey simply must find alternative means of revenue, then off the backs of Staten Islanders.”
Allen Cappelli, an MTA Board member from Staten Island, expressed his concern that the 7 line extension was targeting the wrong folk. “I applaud the mayor for his vision of connecting part of the region to the transit system. I’d hoped that his vision would include Staten Island and its 500,000 residents,” he said. “We ought to be talking about connecting Staten Island too. hat’s regional interconnectivity. It’s fine to give lip service to the world’s greatest parking lot – the Staten Island Expressway – but words are not good enough.”
The keys though are demographics, geography and politics. If the Mayor’s goal is to increase the region’s interconnectivity while alleviating congestion across the Hudson and shepherding people to the Hudson Yards development and Midtown, the 7 line extension to Secaucus makes far more sense than a subway to Staten Island. The population density in Hudson County is nearly double that of Staten Island, and the New Jersey county, separated from the city by only a river and a state border, is closer to Midtown than the borough of Staten Island is. It is also is home to more people who work in Manhattan than Staten Island is. Finally, a subway to New Jersey could draw on funding from two states and the Port Authority while New York would likely have to foot the entire bill for any Staten Island-centric improvements.
Of course, that bill remains problematic. No one knows how much this will cost and who’s going to pay. One commentator though has found the perfect donor. If Mayor Bloomberg is so concerned with building his legacy, Stephen Smith writing at Forbes says, why doesn’t he just cut the check for construction himself? It would indeed be a groundbreaking public/private partnership.