Archive for Fulton Street

New signs for Fulton St. await at Transit’s sign shop. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

While I was musing on the MTA’s capital construction credibility problem yesterday, the MTA decided to open a big-ticket project. At the Board committee meeting yesterday, the agency revealed that the Fulton St. Transit Center finally has an opening date. On Sunday, November 9, the politicians will gather for a largely undeserved photo op, and the building will open to commuters on Monday, November 10 at 5 a.m.

For MTA Capital Construction, this is a good moment. It’s only the second project, after the short-lived South Ferry station, that MTACC has opened, but like South Ferry, this one is a few months late due to some issues with the finishes and occupancy permit. The MTA will also open the Dey St. Concourse early. The passageway, outside of fare control, provides an underground walkway between the Fulton St. subway complex and the R train’s Cortlandt St. station. It may one day connect to the E train and wasn’t supposed to open until the PATH Hub is finished next year. But after months of delays, the MTA is just opening the whole thing at once.

So what are we getting for $1.4 billion? Well, most of the work we already see. The passageways and fancy LED screens are lit up; the hallways are as straight as they can be considering the layout; and everything just looks refreshed. But we’re also getting our headhouse, and for now, it’s simply the system’s fanciest Arts for Transit installation. Westfield is working to bring retail to the Transit Center, but no stores will be open on November 10 when politicians cut their ribbons. For now, the Transit Center is an empty building with lots of natural light and lots of empty space.

But cynicism aside, opening the Fulton St. Transit Center is a big day for Lower Manhattan. Some construction will wrap, and a new building, promised as part of the post-9/11 rebuilding effort a decade ago, will reopen. Onward and upward.

Categories : Fulton Street
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As Monday dawns, the MTA Board Committees will gear up for a full day’s worth of meetings. Despite the fact that the fare is set to rise in March, we won’t hear hand-wringing over the fare hike amounts or even new proposals as, by a few accounts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting pressure on MTA leadership to delay public announcement of any fare hikes and toll increases until after Election Day. There’s nary a mention to be found of the looming rate increases in this month’s Board materials, and usually, the MTA announces the plan in mid-October.

What’s done is done — or better yet, what’s not done isn’t done — on that front, and for now, we’ll move on to other things such as what’s up with these never-opening capital projects? October will end this week, and the Fulton St. Transit Center, once expected to open in late June, will remain shrouded in construction. This week’s Board materials offer few clues to the project’s opening. A note in a presentation to the Transit Committee states only that “the Fulton Center Opening date is currently under review” while the opening date is projected to be some time in Q4. Work started, by the way, in December of 2004.

The presentation to the Capital Program Oversight Committee offers a little bit more information. The Transit Center building contract is expected to be completed before the end of December, and it seems that only a few items remain outstanding. But a few items are enough to delay the whole thing. As the materials say, “Substantial completion of this contract has been delayed due to extended testing and commissioning and subsequent punchlist items.”

Information regarding the 7 line is even harder to find this month. The MTA isn’t offering its Board any further information on the problematic elevators and escalators that have delayed the project, and although we’ve heard February 2015 as an opening date, the latest MTA docs give the agency some leeway. Currently, revenue service is projected to begin during the first quarter of 2015 — which runs through the end of March. The one-stop subway extension was once supposed to be open by the end of 2013, the first quarter of 2014, fall 2014 and then Q4 2014, but now it seems, one way or another, we’ll wait until late winter or even early spring.

All of which brings me to the Second Ave. Subway. Construction on the three-stop East Side extension of the Q train is continuing apace, and the MTA still believes they have approximately 26 months left on this project before revenue service begins. The Board materials confidently state a December 2016 ribbon-cutting, and although a few years ago, the feds disputed this projection, the MTA has vowed to open the subway on time. That said, the MTA has also vowed to open the Fulton St. Transit Center on time and the 7 line on time. Given the betting line, wouldn’t you take the “over” on December 2016? I know I would.

On a more immediate level, though, as the MTA wants political support for its $30 billion, five-year capital plan, the agency needs to show that they can deliver something somewhere on time or at least learning why they can’t. The aspect of the Fulton St. project that’s being delayed is a fancy headhouse while, seemingly, the complicated underground work has largely wrapped; the 7 line hasn’t opened because of vent fans, inclined elevators and long escalators — hardly technology unique to New York. We won’t know what happens with Second Ave. for another 18-24 months, but whatever remains of the MTA’s capital project credibility is riding on it.

The Fulton St. Transit Hub, seen here last February, will open eventually. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

With three months left in a seven-year project, you’d think that the company — or in this case, agency — managing the project would have a good handle on how much time would be needed for completion. You would think that by announcing very publicly an opening date, the agency would do all it could do to meet that opening date. You would think that yet another delay in a project that was once expected, far too optimistically, to be completed six or seven years ago for 50 percent less than its current budget would be cause for major concern. And perhaps, in some circles it is. But right now, it’s just business as usual.

During its board committee meetings earlier this week, the MTA let slip that the Fulton St. Transit Center will not have its official opening on Thursday as planned in March. Instead, as I speculated last week, the opening will be delayed another 60-90 days. As components to this project open, completion then will come by the end of September.

So what is holding up the project? It couldn’t be that, as with the 7 line, the MTA can’t get a bunch of elevators to work, right? These aren’t even incline elevators; these are your typical up-and-down escalators that are in every tall building and were invented in 1852. Well, lo and behold: If we consult the materials released after Monday’s meetings, one of the outstanding items concerns the elevators. Six elevators have yet to be tested. The MTA also needs to obtain its Code Compliance Certificate and wrap up testing of its fire alarms and communications systems.

In its short assessment of the state of this project, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant doesn’t have much to add on a specific level. The project has simply not met the requirements needed to be permitted to open yet, and it is but one of many outstanding MTA projects facing this issue. As a result, the IEC has urged the MTA to conduct a coordinated review of its megaprojects to “ensure resources can support their current schedules.” Even a cursory review — showing a three-month delay at Fulton St. and at least a year-long delay for the 7 line — cast more than just a shadow of doubt over any other schedules. A review could help shed light on the MTA’s finish line problem.

So we’ll wait for the politicians to slap their backs over a project with a tortured history. It began as an idea with a quick timeline for build out and a $700 million shortly after 9/11, and it has turned into a $1.4 billion transit hub across the street from a $4 billion transit hub at a time when building up would have made more sense fiscally than building a three-story mall. The station is nicer; the ADA compliant elements were badly needed; and transferring throughout Lower Manhattan is easier. Stumbling to the finish though is in line with the rest of this project’s problems. After all, the MTA’s house ads promising the opening of the Dey St. Passageway back in 2012 still hang in subway cars throughout the city.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Soon, riders will pass through the Fulton St. Transit Center. For now, we have only renderings.

In late March, as part of a presentation to the its Board committees, the MTA announced an opening date of June 26 for the Fulton St. Transit Center. Years in the making and nearly 100 percent over its initial budget, the post-9/11 project — one of two massive retail/transit centers opening near Ground Zero — become the poster child for MTA construction mismanagement and the project Michael Horodniceanu vowed to deliver on time. Well, June 26th is eight days away, and the Fulton St. Transit Center’s opening date remains shrouded in mystery.

A few days ago, a few readers emailed me concerning the state of the Fulton St. hub. Since I’ve switched to the Brighton Line for my daily commute, I no longer pass through Fulton St. and haven’t had a chance to check out the project in some time. It’s clear that it will open soon, but just how soon is an open question. SAS readers have speculated that the project still has more than a week or two left, but the MTA can and has opened projects that are substantially complete with finishing work still required.

So yesterday, I asked the MTA if the Transit Center is going to open on June 26th — next Thursday — and received a non-committal answer. “The date,” I was told, “will be firmed up next week during committee meetings.” Now, that doesn’t mean the center won’t open a few days after the committee readings, but if I were a betting man, I’d probably take the over.

In the grand scheme of transit history, when the Fulton St. Transit Center opened will quickly become irrelevant. Five months after it opens, we won’t care that the MTA missed its initial promised date, and in five years or five decades, no one will remember. But this deadline bleed isn’t unique to Fulton St. After nearing completion, the South Ferry station opened a few months late, and the 7 line will be nearly a year late. All of these projects struggled to pass that finish line on time, and that’s a little bit of a problem as the MTA needs to retain its credibility to gain more funding. It’s the same problem that plagues staircase repairs, escalator installation and station rehabs. Now who thinks the Second Ave. Subway will start revenue service on time before the end of December 2016? Anyone want to place a bet?

Categories : Fulton Street
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As time marches on and the subways enjoy record-setting crowds (more on that later), various capital construction deadlines are fast approaching. As we know, two megaprojects — the 7 line extension and the Fulton St. Transit Center — are due to wrap this year, after nearly seven years of construction. Due to the delays plaguing the escalators and elevators at the deep 34th St. station along 11th Ave., the Fulton St. ribbon-cutting has leap-frogged the 7 line. According to MTA Board documents released yesterday, Fulton St. will open to public on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Save the date.

Meanwhile, mitigation work and acceptance testing continues on the Far West Side, and the MTA is still committed to delivering the 7 line in the fall, nearly 11 months later than scheduled. For now, the official word is still “November,” but according to an engineering report contained within the MTA’s materials this week, that date could hit December if problems aren’t resolved. The winter solstice is December 21. So the MTA has three weeks in December in which it is still technically fall to deliver the project. Hold your breath.

Finally, over on the East Side, the Second Ave. Subway continues to be on pace for a December 2016 revenue start date, but the documents detail some slippage. Construction crews have burned through approximately half of the project’s planned contingency days, and a few delivery dates have been pushed back. Still, until we hear otherwise, December 2016 it is. That’s only 33 months away, and the real estate market is responding in turn.

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With the Fulton St. Transit Hub set to open within the next six months, the MTA has chosen the Westfield Group, an Australian mall developer will annual revenue over $4 billion, to serve as Master Lessee for the space. Westfield will now be responsible for subletting the ample commercial space in the new facility and overseeing ad sales. It will also have to maintain and clean the leased portions of the Fulton St. Hub, and the MTA will share in a split of revenues. The company will sign a twenty-year lease with two ten-year renewal options.

“This master lease structure will unite risk and reward in a single, highly qualified and experienced private sector operator, while relieving the MTA of ongoing capital and operating costs and expenses and generating revenue for our operating budgets,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said earlier this week. “We are confident that Westfield will be motivated to maximize the revenues from the facility while maintaining in accordance with standards befitting the substantial investment the public has made in creating this wonderful new landmark.”

The lease will commence in June when the building opens to the public, and Westfield’s responsibilities include nearly all of the non-station areas in the transit center, Corbin Building and Dey Street Headhouse. The space encompasses approximately 180,000 square feet including 63,000 square feet for commercial uses. The MTA anticipates retail in approximately 42,000 square feet, and I’m sure everyone would love a Lower Manhattan Apple store. The so-called “public circulation areas” account for 60,000 square feet, and the remainder is back-of-house. Now, the pressure is on Westfield to turn this new station complex into a shopping destination as well.

Categories : Asides, Fulton Street
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For everything that goes wrong during the MTA’s latest capital projects — missed deadlines, blown budgets, leaky stations — the Arts for Transit installations seemingly always go right. What originally grew out of New York City’s Percent for Art program has grown into a nationally recognized showcase for artists, both established and otherwise, that lends an air of civic appreciation, levity and culture to the New York City subways. From Tom Otterness’ figures that live in the 14th St. station at 8th Ave. to a permanent Sol LeWitt installation at Columbus Circle, the subway is the cheapest art museum in New York City.

With a bunch of new subway stops set to open over the next three years, Arts for Transit has the opportunity to draw headlines, and they’ve been doing just that. With just one percent of the budget for the MTA’s capital projects, Arts for Transit can spend on local artists. Back in 2011, the Wall Street Journal profiled some art for the Second Ave. subway, but more immediate is the opening of the Fulton St. Transit Hub. Set for this upcoming June, the hub features an oculus with an installation called “Sky Reflector-Net.” Designed by James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), Grimshaw Architects, and Arup, this work features 112 tensioned cables, 224 high-strength rods, and nearly 10,000 individual stainless steel components. It will move over time as well.

This week, the MTA released a video about the installation, and I am fascinated by this. It’s not transit ops or anything sexy, but it makes the subway more livable and enjoyable. It makes people pause for a second and appreciate what’s around and above them. So check out the short video above on the piece. I’ll have more later today, including a new episode of “The Next Stop Is…” and some thoughts on Select Bus Service, BRT and transit innovation in New York City. Where are the people advocating for light rail and more comprehensive transportation solutions anyway?

Categories : Fulton Street
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The Fulton St. Transit Hub, seen here in February, will open in June, and real estate developers are eying properties in the area. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

Here’s an interesting bit from Crain’s New York on the impact the Fulton St. Transit Center is having on Lower Manhattan real estate. It’s transit-oriented development at its finest within the five boroughs of New York, and it makes me wonder if the MTA is leaving some opportunities on the table. Daniel Geiger has this to say:

As the Fulton Center, the oculus-topped financial district transit hub and shopping destination nears completion, and as lower Manhattan gains in popularity among budget-conscious tenants, investors are seeing opportunity on William Street…

Real estate experts say that the area’s mix of both potential and value are driving the sales activity. The Fulton Center promises to bring in new retailers when it opens next year and convenient access to the neighborhood’s myriad subway lines—amenities that could pull in office tenants. Despite those prospect, commercial real estate values along the corridor have hovered in the $300s per square, at least a third of what office buildings go for in other neighborhoods, including midtown, where prices per square foot top $1,000.

“William Street is increasingly becoming recognized,” said Brad Gerla, a broker with CBRE Group who specializes in downtown leasing and is the leasing agent for 156 William St. “You’re very close to the new transit hub, it has an incredible residential community in the area and it’s an easy hop to the FDR. Tenants are attracted to all of those attributes.”

The Transit Center will open in June after years of setbacks, budget increases and construction, and already, it’s serving as an anchor in an neighborhood low on anchors. Although the Lower Manhattan area isn’t lacking for transit access, it hasn’t had a cohesive focal point, and the Transit Center seems poised to deliver. We’ll know at some point what the retail spaces will deliver, and the MTA has simplified getting to and around the perplexing Fulton St. complex.

So what’s the missed opportunity? For one, the Fulton St. Transit Center will be a sight to see, but it’s going to be all of four stories tall in a neighborhood surrounded by giant skyscrapers. The MTA could have pursued a development deal that led to the creation of a much bigger building at the spot, but held back in favor of what amounts to a fancy headhouse for a subway station. Imagine the revenue that could have been realized with a comprehensive plan to develop a Time Warner Center-like building with high-end retail on the lower levels and residential higher up atop a very popular subway station.

If this sounds familiar, well, perhaps it is reminiscent of what Jay Walder said of Hong Kong a few weeks ago. In a speech at the Kennedy School, Walder spoke of the MTR’s approach to development. “The development of Hong Kong’s rail system,” he said, “has largely been supported by the granting of development rights for the properties that are adjacent to the railway.” For an agency short on cash, the opportunities are staring it in the face.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Following yesterday’s revelation that the Dey St. Passageway won’t open for a few years, the Daily News took the space to remind its riders of the folly of the Fulton St. Transit Center. In an editorial calling the project a — wait for it — boondoggle, the paper questions the project on an overall basis.

Two transportation projects are eating up more money than you could ever imagine without adding one bit of new service or expanding the subways by a single foot of track. First, the Port Authority will spend at least $3.74 billion on a grandiose World Trade Center PATH station, double the size of Grand Central, complete with a strikingly elaborate above ground entranceway. Originally budgeted at $1.5 billion, the terminus, now running 9 years late, will replace a half-billion-dollar “temporary” station that has been quite well accommodating PATH’s comparatively small number of riders.

Not to be outdone, the MTA set out to untangle the joinder of the Broadway-Nassau station, serving the IND’s A and C with the Fulton St. stations of the BMT’s J and Z and the IRT’s West Side 2 and 3 and East Side 4 and 5. Never mind that riders have negotiated the convolutions for 64 years; the MTA budgeted $400 million to simplify transfers — a cost now risen to $1.4 billion and includes an oculus roof that will allow light to penetrate as at the Roman Pantheon. The plan is seven years behind schedule.

The projected tab for the PATH station and the Fulton Center totals $5.1 billion — money that could have been spent, for example, on extending the Second Ave. subway farther downtown…Now, the agency has built a walkway that does not allow free transfers and will largely be vacant until the office buildings rising at Ground Zero are filled with tenants. And then it would simply be a place to walk between Broadway and Church St. in bad weather. For $200 million.

This is a drum I’ve been beating for years. Even though the money is all federal, this project’s aims were tied more to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan than it was about improving train service. The PATH Hub as well suffers from similar problems with only a small percentage of the expenses going toward increasing train service.

We can ultimately discuss the merits of building Great Public Works to improve train service. There’s a cogent case to be made for spending on architecture and design in order to make travel more appealing, more comfortable and more convenient. But in an era where $5.1 billion isn’t easy to come by and pressing transit capacity concerns are far more important than making a subway station look good from the outside, these projects are federal boondoggles. Better planning would have incorporated design improvements with transit capacity upgrades.

The News says Joe Lhota has asked his staffers to reconsider restoring the free transfer via the Dey St. Passageway. That would be a real start even if few customers need it. Just the illusion of paying attention to transit demands would be a good first step here.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Renderings for the Dey St. Passageway do not include the throngs of homeless people the MTA fears may camp out there.

In two years or so, the MTA should be ready to open the Fulton Street Transit Center, and already, at parts, the construction is looking a little tidier. The oculus is taking shape above the main building, and the underground work is progressing apace. There is, however, a rub. According to the Daily News, the Dey St. Passageway may remain shuttered long past the Transit Center’s opening.

Pete Donohue has the story. As the Dey St. headhouse gears up for a looming opening, the concourse between the R and the rest of the Fulton St. station could remain closed for years. Writes Donohue:

For years, Metropolitan Transportation Authority construction and planning schedules have pegged November 2012 as the time for the opening of a new underground connection between the Fulton Center subway complex at Broadway in lower Manhattan and the Cortlandt St. station on the eastern edge of the World Trade Center site…

Yet transit officials now say they plan to keep the Dey St. Concourse padlocked — for several years. The official reason: Few riders will make use of the free transfer. The demand, officials say, will come when the new office towers being built at Ground Zero are completed and occupied, and the Port Authority finishes its permanent — and extravagant — PATH hub. That’s will be in 2015. Maybe. “The small number of people we believe would use the transfer . . . does not justify the expense of opening, maintaining and policing the passage,” MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg explained.

Incredibly, the MTA says an analysis concluded that if the tunnel were to open as initially planned, just five people an hour would want to use the walkway and make a free transfer between the R train at Cortlandt. St. and the many lines running through Fulton Center. So, then, who will come? The homeless — at least that’s the MTA’s fear. The concern is that the brand-spanking-new concourse might become an encampment for the poor, unmoored souls you see huddled in doorways in the city or standing outside soup kitchens.

We’ve seen this move before played out throughout the system. Sometimes, the problems involve disputes between the MTA and the private entities contracted to open or maintain entrances. Sometimes, the problems focus around maintenance work that, for some reason or another, just isn’t completed in a timely fashion. Sometimes, the problems center around security concerns that are seemingly forgotten to time.

For now, though, as Donohue writes, the MTA will have a passageway to nowhere on its hands. It’s a $200 million provision for the future. Try telling that to all the businesses forced out of their shops above ground as this pristine concourse sits unused for the next three or four years.

Categories : Fulton Street
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