Archive for 7 Line Extension
Every few months, the long, lost 7 line station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. makes an appearance in the news, and we can all hope for a few minutes that everyone will come to their senses. Today, this station — a victim of a game of political chicken between the MTA and New York City that saw everyone else lose over a matter of a few hundred million dollars — made waves when NYC’s Economic Development Corporation released an RFP for the Covenant House at 41st St. and 10th Ave. With scenic views of the Port Authority Bus Terminal ramps, this spot is primed for development, and it would seem to be an ideal vehicle through which a second stop for the 7 line extension could arrive. Don’t get your hopes up.
The story broke first on Curbed on Wednesday afternoon. Buried in the RFP for the site (pdf) is a brief reference to the MTA and its work assessing the area around 41st St. and 10th Ave. As you may recall, the 7 line extension originally included two stations, but when costs climbed, the city refused to cover the overruns. Since the MTA wasn’t going to spend a dollar more than it needed to of its own scarce capital money on a project entirely funded by the city and the city didn’t need to spur development in a neighborhood already being developed, the station was axed from the extension. Over the years, a few half-hearted, 11th-hour attempts by, variously, the real estate industry and Sen. Chuck Schumer went nowhere, and the extension opened last year with just one stop.
The MTA didn’t foreclose on the idea of a station there and left provisioning in place for a station with two side-platforms at this spot in Hell’s Kitchen. Now, we see that the agency, at a low level, is doing its diligence with regards to this station. Here’s what the RFP says:
The MTA is in the process of preparing the conceptual design study of the Tenth Avenue Station for the No. 7 Train Extension. The goal of the study is to arrive at a conceptual design of the station facilities and infrastructure on the Project Site to a level of specificity that will assist in determining the dimensions of any required MTA Easements, volumes of space, impositions or encumbrances. At the time that the study is complete, the Developer will be expected to work with the MTA to finalize the MTA Easements and adjust its Proposal accordingly. The Developer is encouraged to design and incorporate the MTA Easements so that the MTA Easements appear uniform with the overall Project. The Contracts of Sale will require that, as a Condition to Closing, the Developer shall have coordinated with the MTA, and shall have accepted and accommodated within its site plan the MTA Easements as set forth in the abovementioned conceptual design study.
That paragraph is dense with legalese and real estate-ese, but ultimately and unfortunately, it urges us not to hold our breaths expecting a station at 10th Ave. any time soon. While the MTA may be preparing a conception design study, the purpose of this study is simply to ensure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed with regards to the Covenant House spot. The easements are future considerations. Should the MTA eventually decide to build the station, whatever development grows at this spot would have to support the necessary land grab and construction work without sacrificing the integrity of the mixed-use development that will soon rise there. It’s nothing more than a hedge against future uncertainty and not a true conceptual design that will see the light of day.
The reality is that, despite Dan Doctoroff’s come-to-Jesus moment seven years too late, we missed the best chance we had of seeing a stop at 10th Ave. Instead of a $500 million project, a new station built around an active subway line is likely to cost upwards of $800 million, and the MTA has no plans to fund this station. It’s not a part of the 2015-2019 capital plan, and based on the agency’s short- and long-term needs, it’s not likely to be a part of the 2020-2024 plan unless someone else fronts the dough.
So ultimately, the MTA and NYCEDC are doing what they have to do to preserve the slight hope that someone will fund a station in the future. Whoever builds something at 41st will have to plan for some work underneath the building that’s unlikely to begin any time soon, and that’s all this RFP is about. As frustrating as it is, the 7 line stop at 41st St. and 10th Ave. is no closer to reality today than it was a week, a month or a year ago.
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.
For the first time since the last 1980s, the MTA yesterday opened a new station. The long-awaited 7 line extension from Times Square to Hudson Yards at 34th St. made its inaugural ride shortly after 1 p.m., but for a few hours during a bright blue morning, as politicians commemorated the day, the debate over the MTA’s future took centerstage. In the end, just about everything about Sunday’s opening ceremony for the 7 line extension was weird.
For now with infrastructure projects, New York is stuck in a weird place. Yesterday’s opening celebration was much ado about one new subway stop, something that would barely register a blip in cities around the world with developed transit networks, and yet, Sunday seemed like a release. Twenty-one months after then-Mayor Bloomberg held a pre-opening ribbon-cutting to slap himself on the back, the MTA finally let the public loose on its latest station, and except for a street-level elevator outage, with that new train station smell permeating the air, amidst a sunny day, everything seemed to run smoothly.
An R188 7 train, jammed with rail fans and locals, left Hudson Yards at 1:06 p.m. en route to Queens, and that was that. But underneath the clear skies and before the afternoon’s rain came, tensioned simmered. MTA CEO Tom Prendergast challenged Mayor Bill de Blasio, sitting a few feet away, to find $2.3 billion for the MTA’s capital plan over the next five years while de Blasio pushed back forcefully. Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Jerry Nadler, both citing Mayor Bloomberg’s push to see the 7 line extended to the West Side, urged the city to pay up, and Schumer echoed a Sunday Dan Doctoroff Daily News column in calling for a station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. When their turns came, Albany pols seemed to want some resolution to the MTA’s capital debate, and TWU President John Samuelsen also used his turn at the mic to lay into the city’s lack of capital contributions. Governor Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t, after all, his party.
After the pols spoke, Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, head of the MTA’s capital construction unit, spoke on the design of the station. At one point, he mentioned how inclined elevators were first installed by Americans as part of the Eiffel Tower in the late 19th Century. It was an odd parallel to draw considering how the inclined elevators were one of the reasons why the station opened nearly two years late, and only City Council Member Corey Johnson noted that “it took long enough” to finally open the new stop.
I’ll take a look later this week at the evolving soap opera behind the capital campaign, But now, let’s journey underground into this vast, expensive new station. It’s very nice, and it’s very large. The inclined elevators are there for ADA compliance, and they’re so slow that the escalators are always a better option. The mezzanine reminds me of the giant, empty spaces that mark the IND stops in Brooklyn and Queens. There will never be enough people at the station to fill all the space, and as now, there’s no clear indication that the mezzanine will be anything more than just for show. The lack of columns leads to open views, and the lack of Transit Wireless service leads to more questions regarding cooperation among MTA contractors. (Reliable sources tell me the general contractor at Hudson Yards wasn’t keen to give Transit Wireless early access to the station. So cell and wifi service won’t be available for a few months.) All in all, though, it’s a subway stop. Take that for what you will.
Ultimately, this project will be known for what New York City got for its money. It’s a needed subway extension to an area of Manhattan previously inaccessible, but it cost $2.42 billion to get there. Sunday featured a lot of self-congratulatory speeches without a nod to the excessive costs or any indication that the MTA will have to rein in these price tags if it wants to realistically expand the subway system. In other countries, the opening of a new subway line is expected and a regular happening. In New York, it’s a monumental and costly undertaking that takes seven years to build 1.5 miles of truck and one subway station. Take that too for what you will.
Now, after months of waiting, the bulk of this saga is behind us, and New York City’s subway today has 469 stops, a temporary number on the way to at least 472. It was a beautiful day for a subway ride; the band played on; the art looks great; and there were cookies.
Following Thursday’s G train derailment, the MTA restored full service to the line by mid-afternoon on Friday, and then the fighting began. I’ll have much more on this next week, but in announcing restored service, MTA CEO and Chair Tom Prendergast let loose on the city and Mayor de Blasio for their lack of support for MTA financing.
The G, Prendergast noted, derailed when it came into contact with a deteriorated section of bench wall. The incident, by the way, was around 300 feet away from where Thursday’s earlier rail condition had occurred. Prendergast viewed this as a clear sign that support for the MTA’s maintenance is lagging, and he urged action. “I am tired of writing letters to City officials that result only in vague calls for more conversations,” he said. “The sooner we can end these games and get to work on rebuilding our transit network, the better we can serve the 8.5 million customers who rely on the MTA every day.”
Earlier in the day, TWU President John Samuelsen had issued a similar statement asking the city to pay more. Clearly, Gov. Cuomo had sent his allies to put pressure on New York City. Whether NYC should fund more of a state agency’s capital plan has become a hotly contested debate of late. More, as I mentioned, next week.
7 line opens Sunday
Until late last night, the MTA’s website had barely any mention of the opening of the 7 line extension stop at 34th Street, and it seemed weird. They should be plastering everything they own with this news, but they could be wary about drawing too much attention to the 21-month delay. Still, the 7 line is opening at 1 p.m. Sunday, and it’s the MTA’s first new subway stop in a generation. I’ll be on hand earlier in the day with photos. Be sure to check out my Instagram and Twitter accounts for updates. Unfortunately, Transit Wireless was unable to complete service installation for day 1. So the new station won’t be wired. I’ll have updates as soon as I have cell service.
For recent coverage of the 7 train extension, check out my posts. I look at the long lost stop at 41st and 10th, the now-bisected lower level at 42nd St. and 8th, the messy updates to the map, and future extensions to Chelsea or New Jersey.
Weekend work advisories for 14 subway lines
Now, after the jump, this weekend’s subway advisories, straight from the MTA. If anything looks wrong, take it up with them. Read More→
Even though the 34th Street-Hudson Yards stop on the 7 line won’t host passengers until next weekend, it’s never too early to look ahead to the future. After all, if we’re not planning for what’s next, nothing next will ever arrive, and no recent NYC infrastructure project has seen more discussion about potential future extensions than the 7 line. On the western side, we’ve talked about New Jersey and Chelsea, and an Eastern or northern extension into Queens has always been a tantalizing proposition.
New Jersey: The 7 to Secaucus
Sending the 7 train to Secaucus was one of those ideas that came out of nowhere following Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC tunnel. As I’ve been told in the past, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg essentially scribbled the idea on the back of a cocktail napkin, and his nascent idea has become a steady part of the conversation of some unknown future. It’s not a bad one really.
The driving idea behind the 7 train to Secaucus is that it can alleviate some of the pressure on trans-Hudson rail and road capacity while allowing for a direct connection to the subway. For an idea with no funding and no immediate future, it has some staying power, and in 2013, the New York City EDC issued a feasibility study (which included plans for that in-fill station at 41st Street). The report concluded that the subway extension would be massively popular and provide a 16-minute ride from Secaucus to Grand Central.
Of course, to say there are challenges is an understatement. It’s not unheard of for a subway to connect New York and New Jersey; that is after all what the PATH train does. But those tunnels were built over 100 years ago, and funding for a 7 train to Secaucus just isn’t there. No one on the New Jersey side has really picked up this argument, and even in New York, Staten Island representatives, for one, have raised objections to building a subway to New Jersey before anyone builds a subway to Staten Island. It’s not clear how much this would cost or would it would take to get an FRA waiver to ensure that 7 train rolling stock doesn’t need to comply with over-the-top federal standards.
For now, no one is actively fighting for this project, but it’s out there, just like many other ideas. It’s also farther along in the planning stages than most, but without dollars, it remains just a PDF report and a map. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of it.
Chelsea: The 7 heads south (or back east)
As part of the new extension, trail tracks for the 7 line head south from 34th Street to around 25th Street. Transit is going to use these tracks to improve terminal operations for the 7, as trains can now enter the station at higher speeds, and for storage since the Corona Yards can’t handle the additional rolling stock needed to maintain 7 train service. The tail tracks also allow the MTA to boost Queens-bound service immediately during rush hour rather than waiting for trains to make the slow crawl from Queens. And yet, there’s something about the tail tracks that seem like a missed opportunity as they reach into a neighborhood underserved by the subway without opening a stop there.
The ideas for sending the 7 into Chelsea are less well-formed than the ones for New Jersey. Long-ago plans never really developed proposed sending the 7 to meet up with the L train along 14th St. to connect two disconnected lines, and when he was in charge of the MTA, Joe Lhota discussed a station at 23rd St. and 11th Avenue. “It’s something that I think would make sense because if you look at the demographics of the West Side, we shouldn’t just make one stop,” he said in 2012. “It’s important to have plans, to have a wish list. [But] I’m not sure it can be done. I’m not sure about how close you can get to the Hudson River.”
Queens: Looking eastward
While an eastward extension doesn’t seem in the cards, Queens beyond Flushing is an area clamoring for better transit service. The infamous Second System plans called for extensions of the Flushing Line into Queens with branches heading either to College Point or Bayside. As Lhota said, “it’s important to have plans,” but this one seems more like a dream from the past than a future we should expect.
With the 7 line extension‘s Hudson Yards spur set to open next weekend, not only is the subway system heading west but the subway map is too. Based on a variety of design choices, on the current map, 8th Ave. and 7th Ave. look farther apart than 8th Ave. and 11th Ave. do, and the new station, one would hope, could force the MTA overhaul what has become a very crowded map. With Transit getting ready for the big day, the new subway maps have started popping up in 7 trains, and, well, see for yourself:
To say that this addition ain’t pretty is an understatement, and it may also violate some central tenets of the current map. First, what is going on here? The purple line showing the 7 line extension cuts through the word “Terminal,” which itself is part of the name of the stop at 42nd St. and 8th Ave. Plus, it’s now not immediately clear what’s happening at Times Square as the white dot only sort of touches all four of the lines that stop there. It’s not too clear that there’s a direct transfer from the 7 to the A/C/E, and it now looks as though the 7 doesn’t provide easy access to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. While you and I may know how Times Square works, a subway map isn’t supposed to be designed for people who know the system; it’s supposed to be designed for those who don’t. This purple line isn’t helping.
Meanwhile, if you look at the normal markings for a terminal, the colored block with the line’s route designation usually appears right near the white circle designating the terminal. You can see it above for the L train at 14th St. and at right for the 7’s eastern end in Flushing. Here, the purple square is underneath the word “Yards” and next to the handicap symbol and another 7 that’s just sort of floating there. It should be under the black circle denoting the station (and that black circle should be white since both local and express 7 trains will service Hudson Yards). Yet, placing the purple block would cause conflicts with the designation for the 8th Avenue’s Penn Station stop since the avenue spacing here has been distorted for design purposes. Instead of adjusting a geographical inaccuracy, the map designers just shoved this thing wherever it could fit.
The debate over designing a better map can fill volumes, but one way to present the information, at least for a mobile-optimized experience, comes to us via KickMap.
Eddie Jabbour and I had a back-and-forth about the design on the Second Ave. Sagas Facebook page, and he presented the idea of showing the 7 connecting to 42nd St. via a “T.” The avenue distances are still distorted but are closer to reality than the MTA’s design. His map also incorporates the Javits Center, a key destination for the 7 train, rather than a ferry terminal floating somewhere between 34th St. and 42nd St., as the MTA’s map shows. It’s a better presentation with more relevant data than the MTA’s map has.
The MTA will have a second chance over the next year and a half to redesign the map when three new stops open underneath Second Ave. I hope they take the opportunity to do so; this thing is in bad need of a rethink and a better design.
Yesterday, as part of the countdown to the opening of the 7 line extension, I took a look back at the lost opportunities at 41st St. that will plague this project until and unless the MTA builds the omitted station. Today, we look at something else the new 1.5 mile tunnel had to cut through to reach the Hudson Yards: an abandoned subway platform underneath 8th Ave. at 42nd Street.
The IND’s stop at 42nd St. and 8th Ave. is a funny little quirk of history. It hasn’t seen passenger service March of 1981 and was most famously featured in the movie Ghost in 1990. It’s a one-track, one-platform nearly unique in the system and once served as the staging ground for special Aqueduct service and as a staging ground for certain rush-hour E trains. It’s an odd duck in a system filled with odd ducks.
So what’s the story with this Lower Level platform? We’re long on theories for this one. When the IND opened in the early 1930s, the city had built a shell of a lower level at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., but the station remained unfinished until the 1950s. Why they even bothered with finishing it is a very good question. My favorite theory on the murky origins of the lower level comes to us via the station’s NYCSubway.org page:
An oft-repeated story offers this as a reason the lower level was built: The Independent subway was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The #7 crosstown IRT line terminates at Times Square; it is said that the bumper blocks of the #7 are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd St. IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the #7 line to the west side of Manhattan. If this is true, it would have been done only in the spirit of crushing the competition, for the IND had no plans to construct a competing crosstown line.
It is, of course, that same 7 crosstown IRT line that signals the death, in part, of the lower level at 42nd St. To build out the train to 34th St. and 11th Ave., the MTA had to construct the tracks directly through the old platform. You can see the tunnel box in the photo atop this post, and I have a few other shots of the old platform from my 2012 tour of the 7 line. You can see where new constructed bisected the old station and where new systems are attached to old. The station is a weird ghost platform that looks like a dystopian version of the platform above it, and it will never see train service again. At least, after over 30 years of sitting fallow, trains will soon begin to pass through this abandoned and barely understood piece of New York City history, albeit more literally than the IND’s builders ever intended.
Considering how rare it is these days for the New York City subway system to gain track mileage and new stations, next month’s long-awaited opening of the 7 line extension at Hudson Yards is a moment to celebrate. The MTA expects the new station at 34th St. and 11th Ave. to one day be among the most popular in the city, and the stop opens up the new development at the Hudson Yards, the Javits Center, part of the High Line, the Bolt Bus staging ground and an otherwise marginalized area of Manhattan to the subway system. The costs were exceedingly high though; the only reason the 7 line isn’t the most expensive subway project in the world is because the Second Ave. Subway is even more costly. But besides the dollars, the city and the MTA sacrificed an opportunity for even more, and the decision to cut the stop at 41st and 10th Ave. isn’t one easy to overcome.
The history of New York City’s subway system is filled with broken promises and grandiose plans that never came to be. Now and then, remnants of what never was crop up in unexpected ways. The 2010 Underbelly Project in the South 4th St. station shell reminded the city of grand plans for a Second System that were pushed aside over the years due to the Great Depression, a World War and the rise of the automobile and Robert Moses. The history of a cross-Bronx subway echoes through the tail tracks north of the D train’s Norwood – 205th Street terminus. The IRT’s dead end at Flatbush Ave. speaks of a Nostrand Ave. subway Sheepshead Bay still yearns for today. Now, we can add the 7 line to this list.
When the one-stop extension opens on Sunday, September 13, riders won’t notice the provisioning for a station at 41st and 10th Ave., but it’s there. The slope of the tunnels have been flattened out through the area where a train station would be to allow for future construction. Once planned as a station with an island platform, provisioning would allow for an in-fill, side platform station with no cross-overs or transfers to be built one day if money materializes. The costs of any future construction are expected to be significantly higher than the price tag attached to the station had it been built over the last few years, and after a burst of activity a few years ago, no one is talking about funding it anymore. It may just be lost to time.
So what happened? The history is a lesson on understanding what “on time and on budget” in MTA-speak really means. When the Bloomberg Administration first proposed funding the 7 line extension, the plans called for two stations — one at 41st St. and 10th Ave. and another at 34th St. and 11th Ave, and the MTA and city agreed on a $2.4 billion budget. Nearly immediately, it became clear that the MTA couldn’t deliver on this budget, and plans for a station at 41st St. turned into plans for a shell of a station at 41st St. The finishes would come later when the money materialized, but even that idea was in jeopardy.
As I noted back in 2006 in the fourth post in this site’s history, the MTA would likely to have to cut the plans to construct even a shell at 41st St. when costs became untenable. In late 2007, the move became official when the one project bid came in at around $500 million over budget. The MTA refused to spend a dime on Bloomberg’s pet project, and even an offer to split the bill for the shell 50-50 went nowhere. Chuck Schumer made some noises about resolving the dispute, but federal money was tied up in the 9/11 recovery funds and the Second Ave. Subway grant. In the end, in a game of political and economic chicken, no one blinked, and the opportunity to build the station at the time disappeared. A few years ago, costs were estimated to be at least $800 million for the station, up significantly from the $500 million price tag eight years ago.
So why wasn’t it built? Words from the city in 2008 that have been repeated as talking points by Dan Doctoroff speak volumes for what was the guiding philosophy behind the subway extension. “Unlike the extension to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which the city is funding, a 10th Avenue station is not necessary to drive growth there,” a spokesperson for the deputy mayor for economic development said. “A Tenth Avenue station would be nice, but it’s really a straight transportation project versus an economic development catalyst.”
To those who live in those new high rises in the West 40s on the Far West Side (or those who will move into the 1400-unit building now going up right where the station should have been, sorry. It’s “just” a transportation project isn’t a good enough reason for a new subway station that would have been around for the subway’s next 110 years. To the team funding the subway, “economic development” was the driving argument and not the need to improve mobility.
So we’re finally getting the new train stop. As the project was supposed to wrap in late 2013, it wasn’t on time, and as the project was supposed to have two stations, or at least a shell of a second, it wasn’t on budget. Instead, we have a badly needed and much appreciated subway stop and a reminder yet again that New York City failed to take full advantage of an opportunity to address holes in its vital subway system. The MTA isn’t fighting for the 10th Ave. station, and it’s just a blip in their 20-year plan. I don’t think I’m going out a limb when I say we won’t see it in any of our lifetimes, and that’s a huge missed opportunity.
After promising to open the new one-stop extension of the 7 line to the Far West Side by September 13, the MTA made it officially official today: The 34th Street-Hudson Yards stop will open for service at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 13. The first train in revenue service to arrive at the new station will be the 12:26 out of Flushing, coming in at 1:03 p.m., and the first to leave the station is scheduled to depart at 1:07 p.m.
— MTA (@MTA) August 27, 2015
The station was originally supposed to open by the end of 2013, but various problems with inclined elevators and fire safety systems, among others, continued to plague the project as it neared the finish line. We will forever mourn too the loss of a station at 41st St. and 10th, the victim of shortsighted political squabbling over $500 million. Now who wants to bet that the Second Ave. Subway will open by the end of next year?
On an unseasonably warm Friday toward the end of his 12-year tenure, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg took a celebratory subway ride on the 7 train from Times Square to the station in progress at 34th St. and 11th Ave. Although the mayor had pushed to see the one-stop extension, funded nearly entirely through city money, open before he left office, the MTA couldn’t finish the project on time, and so his ride and subsequent press conference became a celebration in symbolism. The 7 line was supposed to open soon after Bloomberg rode off into the sunset, and he was content to smile for the cameras during his valedictory lap around the city.
“Today’s historic ride is yet another symbol of how New York City has become a place where big projects can get done,” Bloomberg said at the time. “This project is the linchpin of an ambitious transit-oriented, mixed-use development that is already transforming Manhattan’s Far West Side, and it demonstrates our Administration’s commitment over the past 12 years to invest in infrastructure that will allow our city to grow for generations to come.”
Since then, no one has gotten to ride on the 7 train since the MTA hasn’t been able to move past a few key problems. The long wait for revenue service, we learned today, should be over before summer ends. The MTA expects to open the 7 line extension by September 13 — presumably of 2015. As the agency has no plans to host a ribbon-cutting during the dog days of August, it’s possible that the new stop will open before September 13, but as they did with the Fulton St. Transit Center, it seems likely that Sunday, September 13 — Erev Rosh Hashanah — will be the big day for the mayor’s pet project.
It’s hard to view this as anything other than a relief. The MTA has the proverbial egg on its face due to its inability to get this project across the finish line until nearly 21 months after Bloomberg’s ride, and the project itself is marred by a costly game of chicken in which neither the city nor the MTA blinked over the $500 million cost-saving measure to cancel the plans for a second station at 10th Ave. and 41st. Though provisioning is in place for a side-platform station should the money materialize, there are no immediate plans in the works for anyone to fund or build this station.
In honor of the eventual opening, let’s take a look back at all the times the MTA promised to open the 7 line extension starting with the plan to build the Jets a new stadium atop the Hudson Yards and bring the Olympics to New York City. In 2005, as those plans percolated through MTA Board actions and various lawsuits, the MTA promised to open the 7 line extension before any potential Summer Olympics in 2012. Obviously, they missed that deadline.
In mid-2010 as work continued on the project, the MTA’s deadline had already slipped to June of 2013, but that was a short-lived target. By early 2012, MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu said the 7 line would likely be in testing by the end of 2013 and open for revenue service in 2014. In early 2013, Mayor Bloomberg threatened to push the 7 train himself if it meant running trains before he left office, and that is basically what he did.
During Bloomberg’s press conference, the MTA stated that they expected a summer 2014 opening date, but as we know, that too proved elusive. In January of 2014, the MTA predicated a late summer/early fall opening; in February of 2014, the MTA predicated a November opening; and in June of 2014, the MTA predicted an early 2015 opening, a timeline later firmed up in September.
It didn’t stop there. In December, the MTA discussed an opening during the second quarter of 2014, and in April, the agency pushed that back to the third quarter. And that’s where we stand now. Despite this tortured history, I wouldn’t bet against a September opening. The MTA is performing the final tests, and officials don’t usually set a firm date as they did today without ample faith in that decision. Still, stranger things have happened.
Ultimately, in a year or five years or ten years, no one will care that the MTA couldn’t open the 7 line extension on time, but residents along 2nd Ave. are rightly skeptical the MTA will deliver on promises to open that project by the end of 2016. Furthermore, politicians too are also skeptical — rightly or wrongly remains an open question — on the MTA’s ability to deliver. While delays are ultimately temporary, city pols are happy to use them as an excuse to keep badly-needed funding out of the MTA’s hands. Thus, as we did with the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave., we all lose. It’s just a few things to keep in mind as we hurtle toward September 13, the 7 line extension’s latest do-or-die day.