Staten Island pol sounds off on 7-to-Secaucus plan

By · Published in 2013

Albany: Home to a bunch of crooks, stool pigeons and politicians who are adept at cutting off their noses to spite their face. We know that Albany’s relationship with sensible transit planning isn’t a particularly strong one, but Diane Savino, a State Senator from Staten Island takes the cake this week. In response to the EDC endorsement of the 7 line to Secaucus, Savino has vowed a war. She will do all she can to block any state funding for such a subway extension until and unless Staten Island gets a subway connection to the rest of the city first.

“Are they out of their minds?” Savino said to the Staten Island Advance. “We are part of New York City, we are a borough of over half a million people, it is past time we have similar transportation alternatives that are provided to the other boroughs. The NYCEDC would be better served by following their mandate, serving the people of the City of New York.”

Savino’s attitude is beyond provincial and focuses far too much on state borders instead of the proper measures of use, efficiency and economic development. Would a subway from Staten Island to Manhattan (or even to the R train along 4th Ave.) be feasible, cheaper and, most importantly, as heavily utilized as an extension into Secaucus? Without much further study, we don’t know, but the Hoboken/Secaucus area has a much higher population density than Staten Island. Were Savino to make good on her threat, it could seriously impact a project that could be of great benefit to all of New York City.

Meanwhile, if Savino is serious about a subway to Staten Island, she could start by being a better transit advocate. Over the years, she has voted to reduce MTA subsidies without reading the bill at hand, she has urged for a repeal of the payroll mobility tax, and she has was disproportionately outraged over a request for information the MTA issued two years ago.

61 Responses to “Staten Island pol sounds off on 7-to-Secaucus plan”

  1. Berk32 says:

    It would be great if people actually understood that NY/NYC wouldn’t be paying much (in theory) for this work. The whole point is to piggyback on the federally funded tunnel – and let the fed+NJ pay for the NJ side. NYC has already paid for its portion with the 7 extension.

    (and this line would provide a major commercial benefit for NYC in the long run… the sort of thing Bloomberg cares about)

    • al says:

      The whole 7 to Secaucus is asinine. Send it to Hoboken where a transfer station with NJ Transit and PATH can be had. Then send it south on a modern elevated concrete structure along Railway and Highway ROW to Staten Island. Use the Hudson Bergen Light Rail as local train. 7 runs express and superexpress.

    • Jim says:

      No one from NJ has volunteered to pay for this. At best Christie has said he’s “intrigued”. After the ARC fiasco, it’s very difficult to imagine the FTA trusting NJ to pay its agreed share of a project. Unless NYC pays for the bulk of this, it isn’t going to happen.

  2. Bolwerk says:

    Their mandate? EDC never saw a parking space that it didn’t think was worth its weight in bricks of other people’s cash. This is an agency that should be abolished, and its resources given to subway capital construction.

    I concur (not agree) with Savino though. The political obstacles to a subway to Staten Island shouldn’t be there. But then, a lot of the political obstacles the NIMBYs on Staten Island like shouldn’t be there either.

    • Boris says:

      Well said. If the NYCEDC built transit projects with the same fervor it builds road and parking projects, we’d be buried up to our neck in new subway lines, with Savino or without.

      This is all pretty much irrelevant though. A realistic proposal for a subway line to SI would almost certainly connect it to SIR, which runs through mostly single-family home areas. It would meet such a wave of NIMBYism, Superstorm Sandy would look like a drop in a bucket.

    • AG says:

      not sure what you mean…. EDC has been selling off city owned parking lots and those that hold gas stations for years now…

  3. SEAN says:

    Dianne Savino is a prime example of why SI gets treated like a red headed stepchild. with an atitude like that, noone is going to take her seriously. It comes off as god dam it, pay atention to me, I am Staten Island.

  4. Phantom says:

    A subway to Staten Island would over time lead to much higher population density there.

    It would ruin what many residents like about it – the low rise, almost suburban feel.

    All of NYC doesn’t have to be Queens Boulevard and apartment houses.

    • Ryan says:

      On the contrary, all of NYC doesn’t have to be parkland, either. SI could easily be changed into affordable, inhabitable houses. Besides, SI has poor transit already.

    • FedDude says:

      not with current zoning laws it wouldn’t. Even without rapid transit, the demand is there right now to make Staten Island higher density. But NIMBYs keep pushing zoning regulations to downzone more of the island.

      • Ryan says:

        Those laws actually are pushing people out of Staten Island and turning it into something like Detroit.

        The same NIMBYs CAVEpeople are opposing any kind of transit in the borough. There are at least 5 abandoned expressway plans on the island that would have built up the area and greatly increased its population and density.

        • Justin Samuels says:

          If people in Staten Island like living in a low density area, that’s perfectly fine. As it stands, the MTA will not build a subway line to Staten Island. There is no demand to do so from the public, and no pressing real estate need to do so either. Other projects take greater priority, including a full length Second Avenue Subway.

          This one State Senator from Staten Island is irrelevant.

        • Nick says:

          Detroit? What are you talking about? S.I. has the lowest crime rate in the city. It is a thriving middle-class community.

    • BBnet3000 says:

      You can have high density single family homes.

      What you cant have is low density single family homes and a decent subway line. Hence the SIR.

      • SEAN says:

        What is the density of SI? Is it more or less than 5000 psm. There are small suburban communities close to NYC that are way dencer than that such as Bronxville, Ridgewood, Larchmont & Fort Lee.

        • FedDude says:

          Hudson County, where the 7-train stop would be located, has 650,000 people and a density of 14,000 people per square mile.

          Staten Island has 470,000 people and a density of 8,000 people per square mile.


          • Ryan says:

            So, there’s only one 7 train stop in Hudson County? With a population like that, Hudson needs more stops.

            • SEAN says:

              I agree. Infact Weehawken near River Road could be an ideal spot depending on placement. Remember there’s a HBLR station & bus stop right there next to the ferry terminal along with numerous housing complexes a block or two away north on River Road.

          • Billy G says:

            There’s more to it than local population density, in fact I’d say that population density within walking distance is irrelevant to the purpose of the exercise. FRL Secaucus is already a significant multi-modal collector, having the 7 terminate there would drive yet more traffic to and through there. That place is surrounded by loads and loads of ($$) parking. Why wait a long time to get into Manhattan by car when you can park at Secaucus and take the 7 in. If you work on the East Side, why get out at NY Penn?

      • SEAN says:

        What you describe in other words is the open space arguement often herd when an area is on the redevelopment agenda. NO! we want more open space & it doesn’t matter, it’s the same reaction to what ever gets proposed. White Plains went through this 15-years ago. A small group of NIMBY’s made the same fullish arguements over & over for every project including the number of unwanted outsiders that flood the city with traffic.

    • Bolwerk says:

      That can be debated, but once you start tolerating the noise and fumes of the kind of roadway buildup SI has, the idea that you can’t stand some crowds of people starts looking ab it like hollow suburban narcissism.

      I think it’s fair to say parts of SI can be safely built up to high or at least medium densities without actually hurting SI’s character, especially along the North Shore and near SIRT. The degree to which that is desirable may be open to debate.

      • SEAN says:

        That can be debated, but once you start tolerating the noise and fumes of the kind of roadway buildup SI has, the idea that you can’t stand some crowds of people starts looking a bit like hollow suburban narcissism.

        That’s because it is. Staten Island maybe part of NYC, but it has the functionality of almost any mega sized suburban subdivision you’ll find across the country & the atitudes to go with them, hense Dianne Savino’s comments.

        • Ryan says:

          That’s because it is. Staten Island maybe part of NYC, but it has the functionality of almost any mega sized suburban subdivision you’ll find across the country & the atitudes to go with them, hense Dianne Savino’s comments.

          There was a scheme in the 1990s for Staten Island to secede from the rest of New York City, to become its own municipality, in part because of those reasons.

          Both geographically and technically, Staten Island is closer to New Jersey than it is to New York. Hence, the un-New-York-like character.

          • SEAN says:

            And yet, Hudson County is more like NYC with a multi cultural population, concentration of office development, high density & rapid transit including both railroad & subway. Staten Island is more like Suffolk. Heck even Middlesex has more rail transit than SI.

      • Henry says:

        The transit benefits of SIRT are overhyped. I thought it was a great idea for a subway connection as well, until I actually rode the line on a trip to Staten Island.

        Connections to the pedestrian environment suck. Connection to the larger transit system sucks. It’s a mile away from the primary commercial corridor in the area (Hylan Blvd). Stations are short and stubby, and almost impossible to retrofit for ADA and turnstiles at reasonable expense.

        SIR is fare-free for intra-island travel, yet only fills trains halfway at fifteen minute intervals at the busiest times. If it wasn’t so horribly integrated with the environment around it, it’d be a great candidate for densifying the area around it, but the way it is now, I just don’t see that happening.

  5. Ryan says:

    Hopefully, New Yorkers wil understand that it would ultimately be NJ that is paying for that tunnel.

  6. Stu Sutcliffe says:

    I’d like to see subways built into Southeast, Eastern amd Northeast Queens before going into New Jersey, regardless of who is paying for it.

    • Berk32 says:

      I hate it when people think this way.

      In the real world you can’t prioritize like that.

      “Who is paying for it” is a HUGE FACTOR.

      • SEAN says:

        Calm down. I would love an easier trip from Westchester to Long Island, but it’s not a high priority. That doesn’t mean I cant express those feelings & get feedback, right?

  7. Chris says:

    Heck, it’s all pie-in-the-sky anyway, so why not do both? Run the 7 south from Secaucus through Jersey City and Bayonne, under the Kill Van Kull and along the SI North Shore. just a simple line drawing/political bargaining exercise, I have no idea what the actual implications of this would be…

  8. I truly doubt that more than a handful of Staten Island residents would want a subway connection to the rest of NYC

    • g says:

      Yep. I can only imagine the overwhelming lack of support and flood of apoplectic NIMBY responses that would result from proposing direct subway access.

    • BrooklynBus says:

      They were against the building of the Verrazano Bridge for the same reason and believed it “ruined” the borough. The old timers still talk of the “good old days”. Now there aren’t too many left however.

  9. IsaacB says:

    Isn’t Staten Island the borough whose pols do everything in their power to water down any progress in public transit (witness killing the flashing blue lights on Select Bus Service).

    Note that Savino also represents Brooklyn.

  10. JMB says:

    I wonder how much money the city would save if it actually built some type of transit connection to SI. I mean if done, the DOT could scrap the entire ferry fleet and save on labor, maintenance and fuel which has to be in the multi-millions per year. So while this would cost a bit to make happen, it may end up paying for itself in the long run.

    To further save, just build (or extend what little is there already) a branch off the 4th ave line and connect to SIR. If the bellmouth around 59th isn’t feasible, they can go with the provisions built in that would allow an expansion of service south of 59th from 2 tracks to 4. Maybe leave the current 2 as a strictly Bay Ridge service and the new tracks would be an express of sorts that would skip everything until it hit 59th. That would both save time for SI’ers and utilize existing infrastructure thus lowering costs. I don’t think its remotely feasible to extend the 1 from South Ferry across the harbor.

    I hate to say it, but we really need a transit version of Robert Moses. Someone who has the power, clout and audacity to say FU to special interests and just get shit done. We have been hijacked by this mentality for far too long and we all suffer as a result. I’m no fan of SI but it seriously needs to be developed. More housing and better services would benefit us all. But the catalyst has and always will be transit development.

    Ben, you ever ponder taking the helm over at the MTA to make things happen?

    • Justin Samuels says:

      The chairman of the MTA is not a powerful position, per say. The money has to be allocated from either Albany, City Hall, or Washington.

      Mass transit projects get build in other cities when you have mayors or governors who want them to happen.

  11. Henry says:

    Short term, the DOT needs to invest in some high speed catamarans for the ferry service, because the current boats are like tortoises – they’re huge, but slow.

    Longer term, the R should be extended via the current S53 routing from Bay Ridge – it is either the highest or second-highest used bus line in Staten Island, and the SIRT has poor connectivity and would be expensive to retrofit.

    At the very least, it would allow the MTA to cut down significantly on the express bus routes, and those routes cost $10+ per rider, so any reduction in express bus service in favor of subway service ($1.40 a rider) would be a blessing for transit services in the city.

  12. Frank B says:

    Staten Island, the forgotten borough remains forgotten because its subway line, the Staten Island Railway, which use R44 Subway cars and 3rd rail, does not connect to the rest of the subway system; this tunnel, The Staten Island Tunnel, was cancelled by Mayor Hylan in the middle of construction in the early 1920’s.

    The North Shore & South Beach Lines have since 1953 been closed due to drop offs in ridership on the island that came with the proliferation of the automobile. The South Beach line has had its right of way irreversibly built over. The North Shore line, as of this writing, is planned not to become a new subway line like the rest of the SIR or Light Rail, like Hudson Bergen Light Rail, despite so much hot air from politicians; but a busway. While I applaud that much progress, I also shutter to think that a right of way that was once a train is merely turning into a bus line. Not much of an improvement. While Bus Rapid Transit can be quite helpful in speeding up times, I really rather the line be restored to the heavy-rail rapid-transit subway line it once was.

    The main line was built in the 1860’s, by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The Transit Authority took controls in the 1970’s. It serves 23 stations and many neighborhoods along Staten Island’s South Shore.

    In this proposal, there is the presumption that one day, the Staten Island Tunnel will be completed at last, and through service to Manhattan via Brooklyn will be implemented. It is merely a matter of when.

    Under this proposal, the North Shore line would be reopened at its $400 million dollar cost as a standard subway line and both lines would operate through St. George through the now-finished Staten Island tunnel; it would travel under Owl Head Park, and join the BMT 4th Avenue Line as a 4th Avenue Express train.

    The services would have to be scrambled as follows:

    The W Train, last used before the service cuts of 2009, would again be reactivated. The W would operate from Tottenville Terminal, run up the SIR Main Line, (Possibly skip-stop during rush-hours) and into the BMT 4th Avenue Line as originally planned in the 1920’s.

    As the BMT 4th Avenue Line has some meticulous track set-ups, the D train will no longer run express up 4th Avenue, stopping at all stops between 36th Street and Atlantic Terminal. (Which will probably make the Park Slope and Gowanus Populations much happier.) It will also stop at DeKalb at all times. However, as a consolation to D Train riders, peak-express service on the BMT West End Line will be reactivated, to make up for lost time for those riding from the end of the line.

    The BMT Sea Beach Riders can still have a express trip up 4th Avenue, however, due to track capacity on the Manhattan Bridge, all N Trains will run through Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan through the Montague Street Tunnel, along with the R Train. N train riders will still have cross-platform transfers at 59th & 36th Street Stations & Pacific Street for W Train/Manhattan Bridge service and express service up the BMT Broadway Line. The N train will also stop at DeKalb for cross-platform transfers to the Q train. The W Train will not stop at DeKalb.

    The W Train will only stop at 59th Street, 36th Street, and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, before going over the Manhattan Bridge. This is to provide speedy service between Staten Island and Manhattan. The W Train will stop at all express stops on the BMT Broadway line, restoring service lost during the 2009 budget cuts. Canal Street, 14th Street Union Square, 34th Street-Herald Square, 42nd Street, and 57th Street – 7th Avenue. It will terminate there, and the Q will terminate in Astoria (or 96th Street on the IND Second Avenue LIne) full-time.

    This, in conjunction with skip-stop service on Staten Island will make the ride speedy, and far more cost-effective than a ferry. Congestion will drop, density will increase, and the 5 boroughs of New York City will be truly united at last.

    Thoughts? I realize the complicated interlocking situation between Atlantic and DeKalb will raise some eyebrows, but I think it can be done, if we fully implement CBTC throughout the BMT.

    Sigh… I make so many plans, as we all do, for our beloved subway system. Few visions become reality, but a man can dream…

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      “The main line was built in the 1860’s by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.”

      Actually it was built by Cornelius Vanderbuilt (and others) to connect with The Commodore’s ferry service to Manhattan. It was always a rural short line and was only bought up by the B&O in the 1890s so that railroad could have a connection to NY Harbor and the mainland via the SIR North Shore branch to Elizabeth, NJ.

      Amazingly, the B&O ran the line until it was bought up by the MTA in 1971. It had been heavily subsidized by the city prior to the MTA purchase. When the line was electrified in 1925, it was rebuilt to BMT standards so the SIR could run along the BMT 4th Ave line. Unfortunately, that connection never materialized.

  13. AG says:

    the irony is that many brooklynites moved to Staten Island to be separate from the mass transit density of most of the city.

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      True, but that was 30-40 years ago. Many Islanders today are from outside NYC, and an increasing number are from outside the US completely. For better or worse, SI is a lot less expensive place to live because of its terrible transit connections. Although Savino is being heavy-handed, I can see her point. The MTA makes millions from V-N Bridge tolls while it builds lines in Manhattan; meanwhile other NYC/State agencies dream of connections to NJ while seemingly ignoring their own backyards (namely SI and Queens).

      • Brian H says:

        The V-Z is certainly subsidizes a Manhattan-centric transit system, and the mass transit options across the Verrazano are nearly non-existent, but Savino is hardly the right person to complain about it, or any of the other SI reps. Staten Islanders get more than 50% off the $15 toll, and at least they have a slew of express buses to Manhattan to show for it.

        If you live in Brooklyn, on the other hand, and you’re trying to get to Staten Island, you’re choices are to either pay full freight on the toll, or go on a subway+bus adventure that will probably require you to transfer three times.

        • llqbtt says:

          Yes, that’s the odd thing. The bridge actually connects 2 boroughs, but only 1 gets the discount. In reality, there are no convenient transit options for the vast majority of Brooklynites trying to access SI (or NJ or points west and south in the USA).

      • Justin Samuels says:

        That’s one reason why SI typically will oppose better transit connections to the rest of the city. if you had better transit, real estate in Staten Island would skyrocket. Overall, SI benefit from the status quo.

  14. Michael K says:

    I think you may be overlooking something important.
    On the NYS tax return, a NJ resident files as a non-resident and pays a significant amount of tax to NYS, not NJ!
    By creating this connection, the Bergen, Main and Pascack Valley lines can easily see their usage increase 1000% over a decade since the train may actually end up going somewhere people want, and not just Hoboken.
    In my personal experience, the Train from Hackensack takes 15-20 minutes to get to Secaucus. It takes 10 minutes to make a transfer to a NEC train to NY Penn. That train take 15 minutes to get to NY Penn. It takes me another 10 minutes to walk upstairs, get to the uptown E platform and actually get on a train. Add 10 more minutes to get to my stop.
    That is a 65 minutes trip – involving 3 inconvenient transfers if nothing is delayed on the NEC- (never!).
    (Changing at SEC or NYP is no cross platform transfer – its long corridors, multiple stairs and escalators.)
    Now compare the trip!
    Walk/drive to station
    Train to SEC
    Train to NYP
    Subway to 53/Lex
    Walk to Office
    Or instead of working in AND paying taxes to NYS, one could seek a lesser paying job in Bergen County, NJ.
    Therefore, this is a win for:
    1. NYC tax revenues on commercial property.
    2. NYS tax revenue on income earned by non-residents in NYS.
    3. NJ Transit Rail, since this will cause a ridership boom on Bergen, Main and Pascack Valley Lines.
    4. NJ Transit Bus, since it will take pressure off the overcapacity PABT and allow them to provide a reliable service that can actually make the trip from Northern NJ to PABT in under 60 minutes.
    5. PANYNJ – their terminal will not be overcapacity.
    6. It would be the best use of existing infrastructure – i.e. the massive Secaucus Junction Complex can be put to use as a major transfer point without any modification.

    • Eric says:

      All NJT inbound trains go to either Penn Station or Hoboken. If your train is bound for Penn Station, there is little point to transferring at Secaucus. If your train is bound for Hoboken, a 7 subway which goes to Hoboken is as good as one that goes to Secaucus. And if the 7 goes south to Hoboken, it can then easily continue to Jersey City, Staten Island, etc. So there is little advantage to a Secaucus subway connection.

      • Michael K says:

        You assume that the extra ten minutes from SEC to Hoboken is not worth anything.

        You underestimate how annoying it is to transfer twice – look at ridership on the Far Rockaway, Hempstead & Oyster Bay branches of the LIRR compared to the Babylon Line and see what a difference a one-seat ride makes.

        (AND then consider how easy it is to transfer at Jamaica with TIMED cross-platform transfers compared to SEC, where you have to use 4 escalators to go up one level.)

        The areas in Bergen and Passaic Counties that the trains pass through have an extremely high population density and are extremely underutilized. A 7 train at SEC would mean that most commuters would have a 15-30 minute train ride to access the 7 train, instead of a 50 minute train ride to access the E train.

        That would make a tremendous difference. How many people would enjoy transferring from the Q to the D at Altantic – Pacific?

  15. dave says:

    Let’s just give Staten Island to New Jersey

  16. llqbtt says:

    Not only is she provincial, she’s just plum out of her mind! For how many decades has SI been deeply allergic to having a subway!?

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