Home Fulton Street And now it’s gone: the Fulton St. Transit Hub dome

And now it’s gone: the Fulton St. Transit Hub dome

by Benjamin Kabak


You get the point.

Originallly, plans called for it to be 50 feet tall. Then, rising costs pushed the height down to 30 feet and then 20 feeet. Now, the glass dome that was supposed to sit atop the Fulton St. Transportation Hub is gone from the plans, the victim of inflation and rising construction costs, according to the MTA.

Not only will these rising costs result in a drastically altered Fulton St. plan, but they could impact the other big-ticket MTA Capital Construction projects current in various stages of completion. According to MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander, the MTA will soon begin a review of their skyrocketing capital budget in an effort to cut $1 billion from their four big projects — the Fulton St. hub, the LIRR East Side Access plan, the 7 line extension, and, yes, the Second Ave. Subway.

William Neuman of The Times has more on what is sadly an unsurprising and familiar story for those of us waiting for the Second Ave. Subway:

Soaring construction costs could force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to scrap plans for an architecturally ambitious glass-domed subway station in Lower Manhattan and lead to more than $1 billion in cost overruns for the authority’s major expansion projects, officials said Monday.

The rising costs could slow progress on the three so-called mega-projects needed to expand the capacity of the public transportation system, including a Long Island Rail Road link to Grand Central Terminal, a westward extension of the No. 7 subway line and the first leg of the Second Avenue subway.

The news represents another setback for the subway station project, known as the Fulton Street Transit Center, which was envisioned as a central element in the recovery of Lower Manhattan after the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We’re just in the middle of a construction inflation crisis,” MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger said. “And from our point of view as an agency that spends an awful lot of money, this is not good news.”

While the future of the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway is ensured — the MTA, according to Sander, has the money from federal sources to finish the project — these budgetary problems may cause delays in all four major construction efforts, and the future of the Fulton St. hub’s outside appearance is very much in doubt. This fiscal crisis reached a head at the end of 2007 when the MTA put out a call for bids for the contract to build the ornate entrance to the hub including the dome. The contract, budgeted at $370 million, received one bid for $870 million. Back to the drawing board went the MTA.

Now, the authority plans to chop that contract into smaller pieces. They anticipate finishing the underground work at Fulton St. by the end of 2009, but the completion date for what once was touted as Grand Central South is anyone’s guess. “I’m sad to say that we cannot build the transit center as currently envisioned in this market with the budget that we have,” Sander said.

Yesterday, in the comments to my piece on the anticipated cuts to the Fulton St. dome, ScottE wondered if the MTA is overshooting on its plans. Does ever new project really have to be the crown jewel of the MTA, he wondered.

Scott raises a very valid question, but in this case, I don’t think the MTA was aiming for the stars only to miss. The Fulton St. Hub, when completed, will be one of the most trafficked stations in the subway system, and it was, as Elizabeth H. Berger, head of the Alliance for Downtown New York, told The Times, supposed to be “center of our future.” But with a recession on our hands and constantly rising construction costs, the MTA is nearly back at square one. Now they just have to figure out how to design a new symbol for downtown while staying at or near budget. That is no easy task for an agency long beset with fiscal problems.

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Boris January 29, 2008 - 9:37 am

After all the grandstanding about rebuilding Lower Manhattan, now it appears it all crumbles. Rather than simply accepting (a) the cost overruns and (b) the broken promises, let us insist on an accounting of *why* their projections were so inaccurate. Why, exactly, was there “inflation?” We are all perfectly capable of understanding the numbers.

Why is construction so inefficient here? Is it simply corruption? Why can the whole country manage to launch and finish large projects, whereas in New York, glacially slow progress — followed by collapse — is acceptable?

Let’s see some heads roll, on the city and state level.

Marc Shepherd January 29, 2008 - 11:17 am

It all crumbles? Have you been to Ground Zero lately? There’s tons of construction going on there. The cause of the overruns is pretty easy to understand; the article comes right out and explains it.

Benjamin Kabak January 29, 2008 - 11:38 am


You’re asking two different questions. Why is there inflation? Because our economy is going down the drain, and fuel and material prices are spiking. To be fair, the MTA couldn’t have predicted this economic downturn or inflationary spike when they budgeted for this project, and the increased costs in that regard have little to do with the agency.

But the second question – Why is construction so inefficient here? – is a good one. I think it hearkens back to the days of Robert Moses when he would ram construction projects through New York regardless of their potential impact. New York City today now suffers from the opposite reaction; projects stagnant. A better governor – not George Pataki – could have pushed this along, but Pataki hated New York City. We suffered from it.

Marc Shepherd January 29, 2008 - 11:57 am

Actually, a lot of the “inefficiency” was introduced as a direct reaction to the Moses era. He Got Things Done, but often without much scrutiny, and often with social and environmental costs that were later judged to be unacceptable.

Gary January 29, 2008 - 8:54 pm

One of the major factors has been the cost of acquiring land/rights in an incredibly inflated market.

The other has been vying for labor and materials in the tightest market in our lifetimes due to an unprecedented building boom.

If they are delaying the structure, and not scrapping it altogether, I have a feeling we’ll see much more competitive bids next year as the housing and CRE markets continue to circle the drain.

The building industry is about to see some major pain outside of infrastructure projects.

Todd January 29, 2008 - 9:05 pm

I also read that they’re thinking about eliminating a third “back-up” tunnel from the SAS to trim costs. Is this true?

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