Sep
17

Doctoroff: Actually, now let’s build that 41st St. 7 train station

By

A 7 train station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. is likely nothing more than a dream today.

As Mayor Bill de Blasio and a pair of surrogates for Gov. Andrew Cuomo engaged in political sniping over the MTA’s capital plan during Sunday’s opening of the 7 line extension, a few feet away and well out of the fray sat former NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. The one-time Bloomberg side man could bask in the belated success. After all, the 7 line extension was one of his pet projects, originally attached to Doctoroff’s doomed 2012 Olympics bid, and while Michael Bloomberg served as the public face of the city’s funding commitment, Doctoroff did all the dirty work behind, and sometimes in front of, the curtain.

Some of Doctoroff’s more notable performances came in mid-2007 when it became clear that the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. would not survive the budgetary axe. As I explored a few weeks ago, losing that second stop represents a big missed opportunity for New York City, and that is, in no small part, thanks to Doctoroff.

In late 2007, when the city could have afforded the $500 million extra it would have cost to build the second station, Doctoroff disingenously offered a 50-50 split with, well, anyone. The MTA had held firm on the idea that they weren’t going to spend significant dollars on the 7 line extension, and the feds had prioritized the 2nd Ave. Subway over the 7 line, a move Doctoroff would not easily forget. When Bloomberg’s administration offered to go in on half the cost overruns, these officials knew no one would take them up on this offer, and the station died a painful death.

Now, Doctoroff has had his “come to Jesus” moment. As he and James Meola, another long-time Bloomberg ally and appointee, wrote in this Sunday’s Daily News, they now feel it’s time to fund and build this station. There is nothing quite like closing the barn door eight years after the horse escaped. Wrote the pair:

The challenge, then, was to find the money to pay for the subway extension and related amenities. The city developed a novel plan: It would issue bonds but ask bondholders to accept repayment only out of incremental tax and other revenues generated from the district over and above the amount the city collected in the year before the project began. While the city agreed to pay the amount of any difference between new tax revenue and the $153 million in annual interest payments, that was the extent of its obligation. The bondholders accepted the risk that there wouldn’t be enough development and tax revenues to pay them back. In a way, it was the ultimate expression of faith in the future of New York.

A casualty of the financing plan was a second subway station at 42nd St. and 10th Ave. Without a track record, we just couldn’t raise the money to pay for the cost of the second station and the parks that would serve the northern section of the District…

Based on our calculations, if we just take into account the buildings that have been completed, are in construction now, or are in the advanced stages of planning, over the next 30 years Hudson Yards will throw off $30 billion on that investment of $353 million! Now that it is clear that the financing structure has become so successful, the city should expand it by borrowing an additional $1 billion and using the proceeds to pay for the 10th Ave. station, which could be completed in about five years, and the additional parks. The total cost is but a small fraction of the profits that the city already is expected to generate from the original Hudson Yards financing structure.

Doctoroff, of course, has nothing to lose here, and he can even restructure history. The city knew Hudson Yards would be an economic development success story and could have foot the bill, through a variety of financial means, years ago. Instead of a station for $500 million built contemporaneously with the rest of the project, Doctoroff now proposes a station built for over $800 million that would likely be severely disruptive to the 7 train operations.

That’s not even the most interesting part of Doctoroff’s about face. A few years after calling the 2nd Ave. Subway, a “silly little spur that doesn’t generate anything,” Doctoroff now claims to see the benefit of “provid[ing] subway service to the currently underserved areas around it, including northern Hudson Yards and parts of Hell’s Kitchen.” The station, he argues, would also help alleviate congestion at Times Square — hardly the same grounds he used to build the 7 line to Hudson Yards and certainly not new arguments put forward by those who have long wanted that second stop.

Ultimately, Doctoroff’s change of heart is a big nothing. We can wallow in his hypocrisy or we can view it as progress. But either way, no one — not de Blasio, not Cuomo, not the MTA — is rushing to fund a station at 41st and 10th, and despite a lackluster call yesterday from The Times editorial board to build the station, most people I’ve spoken with both in and outside of the MTA don’t believe we’ll ever see this station become a reality. The time to build it was eight years ago. That ship sailed, thanks to Doctoroff and his boss, and no amount of Daily News columns can right that wrong.



Categories : 7 Line Extension

59 Responses to “Doctoroff: Actually, now let’s build that 41st St. 7 train station”

  1. Caelestor says:

    The only way this station will ever be built is if a 10th Ave line is built.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      I think it’s slightly more probable than that. But the most likely scenario is where a private party kicks in some of the cash. You can see the argument for that, since any land within a couple of blocks’ radius of that intersection goes WAY up in value if the station gets built.

      • Tower18 says:

        I’m not sure it goes WAY up. Values at 41st/10th are not exactly depressed to begin with, and are only a 2 avenue walk from the train as it is. It’s not quite the same situation as when 2nd Ave Subway goes into effect, because residents at 41st/10th can easily walk to most of Midtown today, whereas someone at 96th/1st cannot.

        It will raise values, sure, but not astronomically.

  2. Phillip Roncoroni says:

    Walking an extra avenue isn’t the end of the world. That money would be much better spent extending subway lines into eastern Queens, which are transit starved. Not that either scenario will happen anytime soon anyway.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Walking an extra avenue isn’t the end of the world.

      It’s not just an extra avenue, since that station would also be 8 blocks north. Eleventh & 34th to Tenth & 41st is a pretty long hike. Try it sometime. (The avenues are farther apart on the west side than they are in midtown.)

      That money would be much better spent extending subway lines into eastern Queens, which are transit starved.

      You’re talking between 20x and 50x cost difference between building a whole new subway line, and completing a station along an existing ROW where the provision for it is already there.

      On top of that, the Tenth Avenue station could be built now; to construct a new line, the environmental studies and design would take at least a decade before you could turn over the first shovel full of dirt.

      • Bolwerk says:

        WTF are you talking about? The 7 was proposed a little over a decade ago and it’s finished now. Most of that time was a ridiculously slow construction time.

        • Marc Shepherd says:

          What part of my comment did you disagree with?

          • Bolwerk says:

            …at least a decade before you could turn over the first shovel full of dirt.

            Just not true. Granted, it might be closer to the truth if there is inter-agency involvement or federal funding – or worse, both. But the city was able to get the MTA to build start construction on the extension quite quickly.

            • Marc Shepherd says:

              The #7 project was a one-station extension. The earlier poster referred to “extending subway lines into eastern Queens.” I think it is safe to assume that he meant more than just adding one stop. If you look at the typical approval cycle for that sort of project, you’re talking a good 10 years from idea to shovels in the ground, and that’s if you’re lucky.

              There’s a long history of major transit projects in this region, so there’s no shortage of precedents if you want to know how long the analysis, design, and approval typically takes. The #7 project was unusually speedy, for a number of reasons, and that was just to add ONE STOP.

              • Bolwerk says:

                One stop with a bigger “environmental impact” than any feasible expansion in Queens? Not sure it matters. You can usually identify why other projects take longer to approve. Most other projects do involve other agencies and/or the feds, including ESA and the SAS. Something like the new Hudson tunnel could involve waiting for action by two legislatures and Congress!

                If expanding the subway into eastern Queens involves the feds or state or anyone else, expect a long wait. Otherwise, at least in theory, it could happen relatively quickly. If the 7 extension does nothing else, it proves that much.

                • Marc Shepherd says:

                  I agree that if you have a single-agency project with no others involved, you can get it done FAR more quickly. If you could find another subway extension project like that, then yes, it could happen. The trouble is, try to name that project.

                  If I recall correctly, the mayor’s latest chew toy is a subway extension along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. That is a considerably more expensive proposition, more than the city would pay for on its own, and so you’re into the situation I referred to: an analysis and design that would chew up roughly a decade, more or less.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    Rockaway seems pretty obvious, both for its relatively low price tag and high density. The state legislature may need to approve it if the ROW is considered parkland though. But the city probably could afford it.

      • Desk Jockey says:

        I’m going to pee in your wheaties a touch: the avenues closer to the river are closer together than those in the center of Manhattan.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Actually, the avenues west of Fifth Avenue are further apart than the avenues east of Fifth Avenue. Though it seems First Ave. is further from Second Ave. than Second Ave. is from Third Ave..

          • Jeff says:

            If you disregard Madison and Lexington… And call Park Ave by its former name, 4th Ave, basically all of the avenues from 1 to 12 are equidistant or very close to it.

        • John says:

          Actually, 6 through 11 Avenues are all equidistant. I just measured them using a ruler on my screen, but I’m imagining Google maps is pretty damn accurate. The distance between 5 and 6 Avenue is slightly longer, and then of course the avenues to the east of 5 Avenue are much closer together.

    • John-2 says:

      Due to the massive amount of vehicles headed for the Lincoln Tunnel it’s an annoying two avenue blocks to walk, since you’re forced to traverse the Great Wall of Exhaust Fumes from the Port Authority over to 10th Avenue. That’s one of the main reasons why the Hudson Yards area remained so undeveloped for so long — even compared to other areas of Manhattan with poor subway access, walking there was unpleasant, especially during AM or PM rush hours.

      The 7 extension gets people past the Lincoln Tunnel access/exit areas without having to deal with that, and a 10th Avenue-41st Street station would serve the same purpose. The main thing the Doctoroff piece does is to keep the idea of the station in the public consciousness, but it won’t mean anything unless people with political clout continue to push the possibility of a new station (and even then it would likely take far more development west of 10th Avenue as a result of the new subway stop to validate the financial cost of digging out side platform stations at 10th Avenue to create even more $$$ for the well-connected).

    • Rob says:

      True. After looking at the map above, disoriented as it is, I see less need for the station than I did before: it is not that far! And if the walk is unpleasant as others here say, I suggest than an elevated walkway, perhaps enclosed/with moving sidewalks would be a much more cost effective solution.

  3. eo says:

    Ben is right. This station will never happen. For it to be built they will need to interrupt the service to the new station that just opened. You cannot blast with explosives next to the operating trains. Drilling it mechanically is way, way too expensive. The only way this could have happened would be if they had built the shell and now only needed to provide for the entrances. It is not going to happen. Ever.

    This is not the 4/5 at 59th where they probably routed the trains on the local tracks above while they built the station on the express tracks. There are no local tracks to use here and once ridership gets established at the new station go try telling people that you would close their station at 34th and terminate the trains back at Times Square for 5 years while you build the infill station. It is a game over.

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      “This station will never happen.”

      It would happen if it cost $200 million. At $1 billion per station, the entire system could never have been built. And when it was built, most of the workers were using hand tools, compared with the power equipment available today.

      What is wrong with this picture?

    • Anonymous says:

      Use the Blackfriars/Cortlandt St method (so no ‘what works elsewhere doesn’t work in NYC’ bullshit, NYC is using it as we speak). Dig down to the tunnel, shut it down for a month tops, open it up and construct a concrete box around it after which trains can start running again while a station is constructed around it. Yes, it’s cut and cover but street shutdowns can be limited by placing construction equipment underneath the street. And because you’ve dug down to track level you also have a shaft for lifts, escalators, a mezzanine, etc.

  4. Peter says:

    It was a huge blunder to eliminate this station in the first place, but at least some powerful people are talking about it again. If there’s any remaining chance for this station to get built, it needs to happen soon.

    Redevelopment of the block bounded by 10/Dyer and 40/41 is imminent (article) — a block that would be useful as a staging area for station construction. Coordinate with the developers of that site to facilitate the station work (they could be awarded greater density or some other lucrative zoning variance to incentivize their cooperation).

    Presumably the new tunnels would need to be taken out of service for some period while construction is ongoing. Shut down one tunnel at a time, cut the 7 terminal back to Times Square, and run a shuttle service between Times Sq and 34th using the single open tunnel. This is feasible while Hudson Yards is still under construction and demand for travel to 34th is light.

    If you wait until the area around 10th Ave is fully redeveloped, and the towers at Hudson Yards are occupied, you’ll never push this through. The disruption would be too great. This is probably the last possible window to get it done. Doctoroff is a hypocrite for not pushing this through when he had the opportunity, but his about-face is better late than never.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Doctoroff is a hypocrite for not pushing this through when he had the opportunity, but his about-face is better late than never.

      He’s not a hypocrite, because when he was in office, he couldn’t get it done. Obviously, people like us on a transit-oriented website may question his priorities, but what you are referring to is politics, not hypocrisy.

      Doctoroff follows a long line of politicians who take very different policy positions, once they no longer have the authority (or responsibility) for actually carrying them out. In fact, you will find that this is almost always the case.

      • Tower18 says:

        Also keep in mind Doctoroff’s new role as CEO of Sidewalk Labs, a Google-owned startup focused on using technology to solve problems of city life. So in true political revolving-door fashion, his interests now are not necessarily the same as his interests then.

        Remember politicians, like lawyers, don’t necessarily personally believe in the stands they take. They are paid or elected or morally bound to take those stands.

      • Subutay Musluoglu says:

        Doctoroff is indeed a hypocrite, and here is why – when it started to become apparent that the 10th Avenue Station could not be built, one of his statements at the time to justify the cancellation was that the station was no longer necessary because the development in that area was already taking place, presumably referring to the residential towers that were starting to rise at that time. Apologies for not having the exact quote handy.

        Nevertheless, his critics leaped on this statement, pointing out that under his logic, we should be building subway lines only in areas where development needs a spark (i.e. Hudson Yards) and not in areas that are already developed or even overcrowded, which in a bizarre way may explain his ridiculous past statements questioning the need of a Second Avenue Subway. For him to say today, 8 years after the fact, that the station is now needed to address the growth of residential development in the vicinity and relieve the congestion at Times Square Station is precisely the meaning of hypocrisy.

        Furthermore, he is trying to deflect his role in this unfortunate decision in two ways. He blames Sheldon Silver and his advocacy of the Second Avenue Subway, which left no money in the MTA Capital Program for the 7 Line Extension. How easy it is to blame someone under criminal indictment. The real reason there was no money at the MTA for this project was because building an Olympics / football stadium and a new neighborhood on the Far West Side with a new subway line to serve it was not on the MTA’s list of priorities. At the time Bloomberg took office, the MTA had already spent close to a decade studying, establishing the need for, and lining up funding for the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access. That was more than enough effort for the MTA to chew on, notwithstanding Silver’s advocacy, or Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s, or Senator Alfonse D’Amato’s, or the many other elected officials that were championing these two projects.

        And if I can pile on Mr. Doctoroff just a little more, he attempts to complicate matters further when he talks about bondholders, and interest payments, and incremental tax revenues, and saying that “Without a track record, we just couldn’t raise the money to pay for the cost of a second station…” That same logic could have been applied to the Hudson Yards development itself, since there was no guarantee what the economy had in store, and how long it would take to build out the sites. The city took a risk, as did Related, as did bond buyers. It took several years, but the development is now in full swing. The irony in this situation is that the residential development was already happening around 10th Avenue, just as Doctoroff said. That wasn’t enough for bond buyers?

        In my opinion, it’s actually quite simple – the city said to the MTA: we will give you $2.5 B for the line. If you can build a 10th Avenue Station within that budget, great. If not, we won’t give you a penny more, not even for cost overruns on a line without a 10th Avenue Station. The station shell discussion didn’t go anywhere either, because the city was offering to put up only half the cost of the shell, and asking the MTA to put up the other half, once again putting pressure on an agency that already had its hands full.

        So what’s the answer? It pains me to say this but I have to agree that this station will not be built in today’s climate, while the MTA’s countless other needs are so pressing. It needs a champion and the only candidate I see is the real estate industry. They too closed the barn door after the horse had already left, with their half-hearted attempt a few years ago to try and spark a conversation with their “Build A 10th Avenue Station” website. The station needs money, not a web presence. The condo towers at 10th Avenue will fill up even without the station. We have ample evidence that people will endure long walks to a station or overcrowded lines just to be able to live in NYC. The real estate industry continues to profit handsomely in a city with such a great transit system. They need to become a true funding partner with the city, state, and the MTA, increasing their contributions above and beyond the current taxing mechanisms. It’s clear that the MTA’s needs, for both state of good repair and for system expansion, are growing far beyond the ability of the state’s and city’s and the public’s ability to pay for them.

    • aestrivex says:

      To run a temporary, single track shuttle to times square would also require to use one of the tracks at the 7 terminal in times square for full time shuttle service to hudson yards. That leaves only one track for the 7. At rush hours, on 3 minute headways. Just how is that going to work?

      • John-2 says:

        Probably 7 AM/PM locals terminate and turn on one track at Times Square, while the 7 expresses continue on the other track at TS and then single-track to Hudson Yards. Not a great solution, but workable.

        • Brooklynite says:

          It will not be workable with NYC operations. It is theoretically possible to run the service as if Times Square was the terminal but have every other train on one of the tracks continue west, but it ain’t happening. We don’t have the dispatching competence for that.

        • Andrew says:

          Workable at what headway?

          Using ballpark figures for the single-track area (mostly a bit optimistic, I think):

          30 seconds to clear the interlocking at Times Square
          30 seconds dwell at Times Square
          3 minutes running time to Hudson Yards
          1 minute dwell at Hudson Yards
          3 minutes running time to Hudson Yards
          30 second dwell at Times Square
          30 seconds to clear the interlocking at Times Square

          That’s nine minutes during which only one train can occupy the single-track area, limiting Hudson Yards service to a 9 minute headway, or 6.67 tph. So clearly running all of the expresses to Hudson Yards on a single track wouldn’t work.

          The 7 currently runs 27 tph. In order to keep Queens service at current levels, that leaves 20.33 tph to turn at Times Square, on one track. Does a single track at Times Square have enough capacity to turn 20.33 tph? I highly doubt it – until last week, two tracks at Times Square turned 27 tph (13.5 tph per track), and it was a pretty tight operation.

  5. Larry Littlefield says:

    “Based on our calculations, if we just take into account the buildings that have been completed, are in construction now, or are in the advanced stages of planning, over the next 30 years Hudson Yards will throw off $30 billion on that investment of $353 million!”

    Economic development math is, shall we say, a little questionable in these tax increment financing deals. What is forgotten is that the residents and businesses of Hudson Yards will also require public services, which will make a claim on some of those taxes. And those located there will not be located elsewhere, with some of elsewhere perhaps being in NYC anyway.

  6. wise infrastructure says:

    A 4 station dedicated lane light rail with stops at:
    -the passenger ship terminal,
    -the Intrepid
    -10th ave/42nd Street
    -Times Square

    would:
    -serve many more people including those at 10th Ave,
    -bring a higher level of development to the far west side
    -would cost in the same range as the one station
    -would not add significant time to most travels given street level boarding.

    • BoerumBum says:

      – Be used exclusively by tourists, just like the Seattle Central Monorail

      • Alistair says:

        Possibly, but what if you dedicated a lane in each direction on 42nd Street and had it continue via Grand Central to the United Nations, replacing the M42 bus? Even if it’s just SBS on steroids, it could make a big difference — and yes, tourists would be a large part of the loading, but that’s probably a good thing financially, especially when there’s no unlimited one-day Metrocard any more.

  7. JEG says:

    I’ve repeatedly found Doctoroff’s comments on mass transit priorities to be inane, and no longer look at him as knowledgeable voice on mass transit issues.

    • Bolwerk says:

      For something with supposedly such an amazing managerial/data bent, Bloomberg’s administration really was full of people with this strange childlike naivete about economics, community relations, and urban planning.

      Still, I say fuck it. The time to worry about this station is past. If the feds ever offer an 80-20 funding split, or if a future (competent) mayor/governor can bring costs down, then go for it but otherwise we’d be better off focusing on other projects.

  8. Brian Power says:

    I know they dropped the plans for the station but I think they put a provision there to build the station later.Probably meaning that they built it wide enough just to put in the platforms,I need clarification?

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      I think the only provision is that they leveled out the track for approximately one train length. They didn’t carve out the whole station shell, so digging / blasting would be required to create the platforms, mezzanine, stairs, etc.

      • This is correct. The length of the station has been leveled out so that building a station is technically feasible. But there’s no shell or any other station infrastructure in place. Their plans would involve a side-platform in-fill station.

  9. Christopher Leonard says:

    As a contingency they should have at least constructed the shell for the 10th Ave Station. This would be disruptive. With the Highline and development in Chelsea maybe the 7 should go down to 23rd Street. The tracks already go to 25th and are meant for storage. The L could go up to meet the 7.

  10. Christopher says:

    Coming here from DC, where infill stations and subway routing, was championed and paid for by property owners (NY Ave infill station and the routing of the silver line through Tysons), It’s a little surprising to me that we don’t see more of that here. Maybe developers here are more spoiled and they know they don’t need those changes to be profitable. But still surprising.

    • Bolwerk says:

      How much infill station construction could you want? Many NYC subway stations are so close to another than you could shoot a bow and arrow between them if you have a clear shot. And, well, if you’re ever in the mood for an assassination attempt, sometimes you do. 😀

      I believe the F stop on Roosevelt Island was infill. 41st & 10th aside, I can’t think of many other places where it really makes sense in NYC.

      The infill we need is for higher population density.

      • Tower18 says:

        Yeah the only places where infill stations are needed here are places where it’s impossible to do so…ie. Avenue C/D on the L, Columbia St on the J/M/Z. Maybe you could make an argument for 104/CPW on the 2/3, but given the costs involved, it seems not worth it.

        Otherwise, the NYC system was built with human-scaled stop spacing, partially allowed by having express and local services.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Ah, yeah, I had forgotten the L.

          I’d think a relatively cheap solution to that would be a mezzanine from Avenue A to Avenue B or so with a fast moving floor, sort of like in LIC. It could feed the east side of the First Avenue station. May or may not be worth it, but definitely cheaper than a new station.

        • Brooklynite says:

          I would argue that the stations are too close together. 14-18-23-28-34 on the West Side IRT is a bit ridiculous, and most of the IRT in general isn’t very good with local train speed. The IND had the right idea – putting an exit at each end of each platform lets stations be much farther apart.

    • g says:

      Infill stations (and an equalized fare structure) are needed on LIRR not NYCT. The subway needs whole new LINES and extensions.

  11. William Ma says:

    The fact is. When they do build the station it will cost as much as the extension itself.

  12. ARR says:

    “Instead of a station for $500 million built contemporaneously with the rest of the project, Doctoroff now proposes a station built for over $800 million that would likely be severely disruptive to the 7 train operations.”

    I’ve been reading this blog and the comments for years. I’ve been enduring the mess on 2nd Ave.
    I must be too old for this. I used to think that a half a billion dollars is a huge amount of money. Apparently, it’s peanuts.
    Corporations don’t pay their fair share. Small business is taxed and fee’d to death.

  13. lawhawk says:

    The infill station on the 7 will happen at some point – likely when they decide to extend the 7 below 34th. Whether that includes additional stops in NYC, or a shift over to NJ (destination Secaucus or Hoboken) doesn’t matter, but I would figure that if an extension is funded, they’ll figure a way to include the additional infill station at the same time.

  14. Spendmore Wastemor says:

    What’s the average speed from 42nd to 34th + 11th? That looks like a large enough radius curve that the train could take it at 30mph.

    I have a feeling that MTA has the thing crawling after 42nd street, so as to use (waste) more equipment and staff.

    • Brooklynite says:

      The curve radius is 500′, and it is posted as GT30 (timers that clear at 30mph). Whether or not they actually reach 30mph I’m not sure, but what’s there currently is very slow for a new-build tunnel.

  15. ConfusedOutsider says:

    If this whole area is going to be rebuilt with shiny towers within the next decade why not do what Montreal did in the 60s and implement measures to encourage these builders to build an underground mall?

    Building an integrated underground mall or overground skywalk system would seem like an effective solution that allow pedestrians to avoid the clogged avenues and mitigate the need for the extra station. Hell, they could make it part of the High Line if they really felt like it.

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