Jun
11

Photo: A glimpse inside a marble-lined subway station

By

After fits, starts and budget overruns, Santiago Calatrava’s $4 billion monument to himself PATH station is finally starting to emerge from the below-ground depths of the World Trade Center site. The spikes of the stegosaurus are peeking up above the construction fence, and photos from the work are flying fast and furious. Nikolai Fedak over at New York Yimby posted some ground-level photos, but the one I want to focus on comes from the Port Authority itself.

Via the @WTCProgress account, PATH has been posting photos of the work at the World Trade Center mostly so that New Yorkers can see something is actually happening there. Here’s what they published on May 31:

A subway station encased in marble for some reason. (Via @WTCProgress)

The accompanying text said, “Workers install marble floors at WTC Transportation Hub East West connector that will be lined with retail.” No wonder this thing’s cost has more than doubled from $1.9 billion. The Port Authority is building a marble-plated subway station and underground mall that’s going to put Moscow’s Metro to shame.



Categories : PANYNJ

83 Responses to “Photo: A glimpse inside a marble-lined subway station”

  1. Alex says:

    Also up there with Pyongyang’s showpiece subway station.

  2. Mark Lyon says:

    When I look at that floor, I keep hearing the words “low coefficient of friction” for some reason.

    • Jerrold says:

      In other words, you mean that commuters who are in a hurry, and therefore running, will be falling down on their asses!

    • Andrew says:

      Especially if it’s mopped every hour in an attempt to keep it clean.

      (There’s a reason station platforms are usually dark colors.)

  3. alen says:

    but will marble soak up the smell of piss after the homeless people start to use it?

    • Jerrold says:

      SHHHH!
      Say something about homeless people, and you might scare the MTA into keeping that place closed up for a long time after it’s finished, just like they’re doing with the Dey St. passageway. lol

      • Berk32 says:

        1) MTA has nothing to do with this

        2) Dey St passageway is closed because it has no function right now. It’s an out-of-system transfer tunnel from Fulton St to the WTC. There is no WTC – and there isn’t a major need for an out-of-system underground tunnel to the R station.
        (plus they’re still making temporary use of part of the tunnel to keep one side of the R station open until they can open staircases to the street)

        • Jerrold says:

          I don’t know if there WILL BE staircases to the street, or just an entrance into the WTC “Transportation Hub”.
          In either case, I believe that the use of that segment as an underpass will be permanent, and that there will be turnstiles where the temporary wall now is.

      • Kai B says:

        The ads in the subway from last year that say that the Dey Street passageway is “coming later this summer” are still up!

  4. SEAN says:

    If that is a glimpse into the PATH station, oh boy. The retail complex better be completely leased with top flight tennents.

    • Jeff says:

      They’re asking for $500/SQ rent for the retail spaces. These are high end spaces for sure.

      • Nathanael says:

        It will be embarassing when the spaces are mostly vacant.

        The demand for high-end retail is smaller than the Port Authority thinks, *and* this is not the sort of location which high-end retail wants to be in.

  5. Rob says:

    Nice marble, but no way that’s beating Moscow or St. Petersburg.

  6. Adirondacker12800 says:

    Marble is very very durable. Hanging tile versus hanging marble isn’t the problem with the costs.

  7. Dean says:

    If it was a monument to himself it would have taken the firm of his original amazing plan.

  8. Jerrold says:

    Is it possible that only the FLOORS are marble?
    AND, are we sure that it’s REAL marble?

  9. Ned says:

    Ben, I know this isn’t the right place to post this, but your site’s home page is showing your weekend Jun 7 post at the top, at least for me. I can only get to this post (and other recent ones) through your twitter feed. Not sure if it’s my browser but I’ve noticed this in both IE10 and Safari.

  10. Ace says:

    Yea, no way this can compete with Moscow or even Kiev. The have stations (plural) lined with marble and they made it look magnificent. Maybe this is not finished yet, but it looks like a glorified Apple store. And, absolutely, a waste of money.

    • alen says:

      moscow and kiev are in the middle of a continent and don’t have to deal with the moisture issues we have here in NYC

      people i know who live out west think the humidity is crazy here

  11. Michael says:

    Santiago Calatrava’s $4 billion monument to himself PATH station

    Seriously? He’s a very well-regarded architect that the PANYNJ hired to design this project. If you have a problem with the fact that it’s a big monumental expensive piece of architecture, take it up with PANYNJ for hiring him, not him for doing what he was hired to do.

    I’ve been a subscriber for years but every mention of architects on this blog is dismissive and offensive. I’m done.

    • You’re done with my coverage of the PATH Hub or with the entire site? Seems entirely reasonable to give up reading because you disagree with me on one issue. 🙂

      Plus, he was hired to build a $2 billion train station that now costs $4 billion thanks directly to his desires to change the design and meddle with the process all the way through. I’m not making that up. That’s what my sources who have worked closely on this project have been saying for months. It’s a real mess whether Calatrava is well-regarded or not. He wanted something like this for his first New York project, and taxpayers and transit riders are paying far more than they should have for it.

      • Bolwerk says:

        And…well-regarded or not, his work is rather ugly. Not even sure how I would describe the ugliness: maybe reactionary post-modernism that is more ugly than it is boring? (Because modernism wasn’t ugly enough, and was more boring than ugly. And still very fucking ugly!)

      • Subutay Musluoglu says:

        Ben – You give Calatrava way too much credit when you state that the station’s $4B is directly attributable to him. No single architect, no matter have much of an ego they may have, and how well regarded they may be, has that kind of sway over a public owner in this day and age. Most architects working on a project for a public agency today would consider themselves quite lucky if any semblance of their original design intent is left over after “value engineering,” bureaucratic interference, community boards, NIMBYs, and everyone else extracts their pound of flesh.

        As I have said before, the ballooning costs of the WTC Hub can be laid directly at the feet of the PANYNJ Board, former Governor George Pataki, and to an extent, the general public, because they all contributed to the dysfunctional rebuilding process that has permeated the WTC or over a decade. If Calatrava was truly getting his way, the station would not look like a stegosaurus (I prefer turkey carcass actually), because that was not his original design intent, and unless everyone has forgotten – he was adamant that the roof was to open to the sky. That’s not happening, so that can’t be an example of Calatrava getting his way and us paying for it. The changing design and meddling you are referring to is actually the endless “value engineering” and other supposed “cost cutting” exercises that others have demanded of the project, which in reality do nothing to contain costs, but instead contribute to endless delays and budget overruns. It is the same thing that is happening on ESA and SAS, and it will happen on Tappan Zee and Kosciusko because the flawed culture in our region’s approach to public works has not been addressed.

        I do not have the figures handy to back this up, but I am willing to venture that possibly up to half of the PATH terminal’s costs have nothing to do with the station itself, but everything to do with holding up the memorial plaza, providing a comprehensive subterranean pedestrian network tying all the buildings together, and other WTC site associated items.

        Is the marble excessive? Maybe, but then again the original WTC concourse contained a fair amount of travertine and marble. Should $4B have bought more transit capacity? Absolutely, but that’s flawed public policy, not an architect’s ego. The PANYNY Board and the governors of NY and NJ had it in their power to truly implement a visionary hub that would have provided for access by other rail services such as the LIRR and even NJT, as well as one seat airport access. The blame lies with them, not with Calatrava. And if you say that the $4B left no ability to do any of that, I will argue that a serious conversation never even took place, because this issue goes way beyond the walls of the WTC bathtub. It is about this region’s fundamental inability to contain megaproject costs, as well as the inability to work together on regional solutions to our transit problems.

        • john b says:

          now this is a good post. i find that most people who are not involved in design and construction have a very hard time understanding the complexity of the relationships involved. if a project is over budget the reason for that is always dependent on who you ask. the contractor will blame the designer, the designer will blame the client, the client will blame the government, the government will blame the public and the public will blame anyone else. maybe ben’s sources aren’t the most impartial, we don’t know since he hasn’t specified where his source comes from.

          i’ve never read anywhere if calatrava’s firm is the architect overseeing the construction or if there is another architect. often the big name starchitect is the design architect with another firm that executes the design and oversees the more day to day operations. while calatrava may be fighting to keep as much of his design intact as possible in reality the architect has very little power in making any decision that increases cost. final decision always lies with the client.

          • Subutay Musluoglu says:

            A joint venture of AECOM and STV are overseeing the overall engineering/architecture design execution and managing the project on a day by day basis.

      • Michael says:

        It’s not just this article. There’s a pattern of dismissing architecture as something vain, superfluous, and wasteful, and architects as out-of-touch egomaniacs. I completely agree that grand architecture should not take place at the expense of infrastructure improvements, but there is a place for architecture in public works projects. There are few opportunities for great works of design that belong to the public, rather than a private company. Why not capitalize on them?

        • Nathanael says:

          I think some people at this blog would be a lot happier if we were getting a PATH station in the Arts & Crafts, or Richardson Romanesque, or Art Deco, or Beaux Arts, or Victorian Gothic, or Spanish Revival, or Rococco, or Art Nouveau, Italianate, or any of several other architectural styles.

          For a train station, perhaps the best style is the City Beautiful style. Highly functional designs with decoration everywhere, where the decoration is still functional for its communication value — the style used by the original IRT.

          Instead, we’re getting some very expensive designs which are *also* kind of ugly, *and* aren’t particularly functional.

          And I actually *like* Modernism. And Post-modernism. And even the best examples of Brutalism (Hirschhorn Museum in DC). And Calatrava has made some pretty stuff in the past.

          But this is just… bleah. For this they are paying millions? I’m all for glorifying the hallway between the PATH terminal and the R train with beauty. Everyone prefers to arrive at a station with the dramatic decoration of a classic IRT station, rather than a bare concrete box.

          But this is both garish and dull, a fatuous combination which speaks of too much money and not enough sense.

          • dungone says:

            Style isn’t merely a question of aesthetics, but the materials and technology available to build things. Older styles pushed the envelope for what could be done then. Newer styles do the same. That’s never going to change.

      • Michael says:

        Plus this article is uninformed and sensationalist. You don’t know how much the marble would cost relative to alternative materials, or what the potential functional benefits are (relative durability and maintenance costs). You just see the word marble and leap on it, because you’re looking for any way to portray aesthetic considerations as asinine and superfluous.

        • Fair enough, Michael. I hear your criticism and appreciate the feedback. I’ll be more mindful of my PATH coverage here and try to focus more on the actual project flaws than sensationalistic coverage.

          • Michael says:

            I appreciate that. I’m not an architect but I did go to school for architecture, so I obviously am not completely unbiased. But hopefully there’s a happy middle ground. Thanks.

          • llqbtt says:

            I think that I disagree. I think you published your article this way for a reason, and that reason is to call attention to the fact that in these times of limited public resources, $4 billion is being on a single subway station, OK a single subway station terminal stop, with providing for no or very little actual transit improvements.

            And I don’t disagree with Micahel’s point either about an architectural aesthetic, but $4,000,000,000?

            I mean c’mon!

            • Michael says:

              I would be interested to see what the breakdown of that cost is. If we went with something completely barebones like Penn Station, what would that lower the cost to? $3.5bn? $2bn? I find it hard to believe that the aesthetic components of the architecture cost $2bn when the entire budget for the Bank of America tower was $1bn.

              • Alon Levy says:

                The Bank of America Tower was private-sector, and also not above train tracks. When the government gets involved, things get hairier. Fear Tower Freedom Tower One World Trade Center cost twice as much as the BoA Tower per unit of floor area, and the same is true of the first major Hudson Yards project.

                When you combine everything that can go wrong – public works in a country where public works is expensive, unlimited government guarantees due to 9/11, active train station, emphasis on monumental architecture – you get WTC PATH. And Penn is a lot bigger than that station.

  12. D in Bushwick says:

    Ben, I know the ridiculous cost of this station bugs you to no end, but marble tile didn’t add $2+ Billion to the cost. Marble isn’t really that expensive but they should have used granite if they really wanted durability.
    The station will be the most beautiful subway station in America and why the hell not? The $600 million (at least) to rebuild South Ferry Station proves whatever the MTA touches doubles or triples the price.
    Once this station is finished, people will forget (not you) about the cost and it will become an instant landmark for NYC.

    • Becoming an instant landmark in no way excuses profligate government waste and the inanity of this project.

      • BBnet3000 says:

        Is the inanity based on the cost or on the architecture you dont like? Did Calatrava make the Second Ave subway the most expensive subway ever for only 2 tracks and 3 stations too? How about the Tappan Zee?

        • The focus on architecture at the sheer exclusion of any upgrades to transit capacity and the way costs have doubled with no checks on the program.

          I’m not a supporter at all of the Tappan Zee replacement proposal, and I’ve written extensively and skeptically of SAS and ESA costs. At least we’re getting added capacity there. Here, we’re getting a two-platform subway stop that its creator believes will be the next Grand Central.

          • Terratalk says:

            Beautiful for sure, but they have sealed this right? You know someone won’t be able to resist trying to put their tag on this pretty white wall … so I hope it’s fully washable …

          • Adirondacker12800 says:

            Five platform station.

            • lawhawk says:

              Technically, it’s a three platform and five track setup that will allow 10-car units to embark/disembark. The layout and platform configuration are similar to the original WTC PATH station, and are similar to the existing temporary station.

              Currently, the temporary station has two platforms and three tracks in operation as the East side tracks and 1.5 platforms are under construction.

              The cost for the new station is out of line for what we’re going to be getting. The cost and the benefit do not line up. That’s Ben’s big problem with this – for the amount of money we’re spending, we’re not getting more capacity – there’s no new tunnel being built to conenct NJ and NY for instance. Instead, the money is being spent on an edifice and passageways between the WFC and the transit hub.

              The rest of the money is being spent on the mall spaces, which will be leased to higher end retailers, much in the same way that the pre-9/11 mall was operating as one of the most profitable malls in the country. It’s a space that will generate significant revenues down the line.

    • Spendmore Wastemore says:

      “Once this station is finished, people will forget (not you) about the cost and it will become an instant landmark for NYC.”

      People may forget, but the numbers do not.

    • Nathanael says:

      The PATH station as constructed is actually looking pretty ugly to me. It’s all that white (which will get dirty, by the way).

      I nominate the (closed) City Hall station on the IRT for “most beautiful subway station in America”.

      If closed stations don’t count, frankly any of the original IRT stations could be nominated for “most beautiful” if cleaned up and maintained.

  13. David Brown says:

    One big problem with this Station, is it may actually be too beautiful for the good of the City of New York. Why? Because if it becomes a tourist attraction, and is beloved by Art critics, you will see increased demands by the Artsy crowd (such as the Municipal Art Society and the New York Times), to make the next complex (such as Penn Station), be better looking (And of course, more expensive) than this one). When I see theoretical $9.5b price tags, without any regard for the most important thing any train depot should be about (getting passengers and (or) freight from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible), you know trouble is on the way (either through too much expense, or it not getting built (at least for many decades)).

  14. JJJJ says:

    Having nice things isnt such a bad thing. Especially as a station that acts as a transit ambassador to the world.

    Remember, most of the country still thinks “nobody” rides transit because its “so filthy”. Add some marble and suddenly its cool.

    • The Fulton St. station is far more of a transit ambassador than this. It’s a glorified PATH station that will be used by far more daily commuters than tourists traveling through New York City.

      • Nathanael says:

        The Fulton St. station is going to be pretty nice, from a decorative and architectural perspective.

        Walk down through a relatively boring modern glass building– but with lots of natural light, so that’s nice… and look at the revealed back wall of — or walk straight into — a grand, classic 19th century building!

        And then walk down into classic IRT architecture, or walk through a modern passageway to classic BMT architecture, or walk through classic IND architecture and possibly continue to other classic BMT architecture or other classic IRT architecture…. encountering a set of rescued mosaics from other classic bits of architecture along the way.

        It’ll be practically an architectural museum, blossoming with variety and decoration. The sterile, white PATH terminal will feel like an addendum by comparison.

  15. Patrick says:

    I agree totally with Mr. Kabak’s assessments of this projects and its wastes. New York does not need a showcase subway station–we have one of the most complex and intricate subway systems in the world, that should be a showpiece in it of itself.

    This project is just a $4 billion head house. There is little to no improvements being made to the actual track-level infrastructure itself. The NWK-WTC line is very near, if not at, capacity. Money would be much better spent developing some sort of solution to that.

    A couple years from now the NWK-WTC line will have no more room for new passengers. But hey, at least they’ll have a pretty station to look at as they wait for a train that isn’t crushloaded to arrive.

    Maybe the Port Authority should look into getting some platform pushers for the WTC station.

    ~ Patrick @ The LIRR Today

    • lawhawk says:

      The key difference between the planned station and the original station is that the new station will accommodate the 10-car trains that PATH hopes to begin running from Newark – that is once they expand the platforms along that route. That will expand capacity further, and after that, it will take upgraded signal systems to allow the trains to run closer together to eke out additional capacity.

  16. John-2 says:

    In the future, when opponents of mass transit spending make their case that the people who are getting the money are profligate over-spenders, you will see lots of pictures of the PATH platform.

  17. tacony palmyra says:

    Thankfully this station will be maintained by the Port Authority, who keep the PATH clean, as opposed to the MTA who, for some odd reason, is allowed to basically never clean its stations. (Except for Grand Central, which I assume is cleaned under a different, private contract?)

    • Grand Central effectively closes for a few hours each night. That’s how the MTA is able to clean it.

      As to PATH’s cleanliness, New Yorkers don’t like the answer: food ban.

      • Shabazz says:

        I don’t think it’s the food ban. I Honestly am SHOCKED when I ride the PATH. The agency just has a different attitude toward station cleaning.

        The MTA is an outlier, not the norm. Other cities like Boston don’t enforce food bans. I haven’t been to any other Subway, even the heavilly used ones in London and Paris that are as dirty as the MTA’s stations.

        What’s also noticable is how quiet the PATH trains are. It’s a reminder as to the maintenence of each system. While the PATH was well maintained and it’s tracks are smooth and quiet, the MTA’s tracks rattle and creak.

        • lawhawk says:

          That too is a function of use. The PATH system runs a fraction of the trains – and has a fraction of the destinations of any of the MTA subway lines. They also shut down service and eliminate direct HOB to WTC service during nights and weekends, enabling more maintenance than the MTA does even with FASTRAK.

          Still, it is interesting to watch the PANY employ workers to clean the WTC – wiping down pretty much every surface, which is something we don’t get to see all that much when the MTA cleans stations.

        • Nathanael says:

          Shabazz is correct. Other cities allow food on their subways, though they will fine people who are slobs (for littering).

          They simply have much more aggressive cleaning schedules and operations. In other words, they employ more people to clean for more hours and so the people do more work.

      • llqbtt says:

        PATH has a more cleaning minded culture and they have also outsourced their station cleaning too. I worked for a time at Pavonia/Newport and often times there was a station cleaner there (and yes, actually cleaning!). He would be wiping down walls, mopping floors and so on. I would say the station was cleaned regularly, at least a few times a week.

      • tacony palmyra says:

        No way. Food waste is an issue, sure. But I can wipe the grime off the walls and poles in my station with my finger. The “yellow” platform edge strips turn black with grime. This has nothing to do with food, it’s just that they don’t clean the stations. The PATH is squeaky clean despite heavy use and 24 hour service. Sure, it’s every 30 minutes instead of every 20 minutes during the late night non-peak hours, and it’s a smaller, simpler system, but I don’t think this is some big excuse for the MTA’s negligence.

  18. Jeff says:

    Let’s see…

    The rents are between $450-$500 square foot a month.
    There will be 460,000 sqft of retail in the WTC concourse, with the vast majority in the Hub.

    That’s $218,500,000 per month in rent income.
    $2,622,000,000 in rent per year.
    Even assuming a fraction of that makes it to PA’s coffers they are going to have no problem recovering their investment in the long run.

    So why the outcry about this station again?

    • Michael says:

      Also a good point. $4bn sounds like a lot of money, but the Zoo highway interchange in Milwaukee is going to cost $2.3bn. I think we’re getting a lot more bang for our buck in terms of something New Yorkers can be proud of.

      • Here’s the big issue though: If there are limited funds available for a giant pool of transit projects, shouldn’t we prioritize “things that improve access” over “things New Yorkers can be proud of”? Especially when the price tag is so high. Especially when we’re building another new subway station for $1.4 billion directly across the street.

        • Jeff says:

          No, because they needed to rebuild the WTC. And most of that money would be spent building out the WTC bathtubs regardless of who was designing the station.

        • Henry says:

          Well, the $4B came out of a pot of money specifically destined for Lower Manhattan. The only viable transit project they threw around was an Atlantic Branch extension to (guess what) the WTC complex, and that was part of a technologically impossible vision of a LIRR/Air-Train hybrid vehicle.

          There’s also a lot more than just the complex itself in the cost for the WTC Hub – I’ve read that there are some unrelated items included in the tab (presumably to get the feds to pay for it), and a lot of the cost also has to do with the fact that the various entities involved (LMDC, PANYNJ, NYPD, etc.) all requested various change orders to the Hub and the larger site, all of which cost extra money to commission.

          I mean, maybe you could’ve somehow used the money on SAS Phase IV instead, but a) Port Authority wouldn’t budget a dime for it and b) Phase IV is sort of useless on its own.

    • al says:

      The sticker shock and very minimal improvement in capacity.

      I’d assume much lower rents for mall. $150/sq ft is more like it until the complex is complete.

    • Nathanael says:

      Jeff: if they can rent all the space, then it’ll probably pay for itself. I have my doubts.

  19. paulb says:

    I think there were fairly good and understandable reasons to build a showpiece in this particular spot. I loved the twin towers and so far I’m not feeling the same toward 1 WTC, though I hope that will change. The extravagant cost of public works here is mostly to do with our codes and project management, not radical aesthetics.

  20. Marble floors?

    So, how long until someone shatters their kneecap because the marble is slippery from rain?

    • Nathanael says:

      Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with marble floors, but they seem to have chosen slick marble (you’re supposed to use rough marble for floors, though it’s annoying to clean).

      Ugh. You’re right, they’ll get lawsuits over how slick the floors are.

  21. paulb says:

    Marble is used in subway stations and public buildings everywhere. It’s not hazardous.

  22. Willy says:

    Wow, as a marble restoration contractor, I would love to get the contract to maintain and restore that marble. It is a site of beauty!!

  23. Jonathan says:

    I’m repeating what several others have said, but I think the marble (and architecture in general) is a bit of a red herring here. There are plenty of subway stations that have been built around the world with marble and other similar materials that cost one fiftieth or one one-hundredth of this station’s budget. South Ferry has no redeeming architectural features and it’s still one of the most expensive subway stations on the planet. The causes of the outrageous cost of infrastructure construction in New York lie elsewhere, and I’m sure that the people/institutions that are actually responsible are more than happy for the blame to fall on someone like Calatrava.

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