The dome has been saved! Long live the dome!
Rejoice, all ye Lower Manhattanites! The Dome of Fulton Street has been saved by stimulus cash heading the MTA’s way straight from Congress.
Finally, after an eternity of delays, hundreds of millions in cost overruns and 15 months of “we’ll decide next month,” the MTA can finally see a very faint glimmer of light at the end of the Fulton St. tunnel. To think, just three days ago, I was bemoaning the fact that this project will be well over half a decade late if it ever gets completed. It’s still going to wrap up late, but at least, there’s money for it again.
Anyway, joyous sarcasm aside, this is good news for the MTA. According to the agency’s CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander, New York’s transit authority stands to gain between $1.5-$2 billion from the stimulus, and $500 million of that will head to Fulton St. Nearly William Neuman has the story:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to spend $497 million in federal economic stimulus money to complete the stalled and over-budget Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan, the agency’s executive director said on Thursday. The money would bring the project’s cost to as much as $1.4 billion, nearly double what was estimated when it was conceived in the wake of the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001.
The additional financing would allow the authority to move ahead with plans to erect an architecturally dramatic glass building atop the transit hub, said Elliot G. Sander, the authority’s executive director. However, it was not clear if the final design would include the project’s signature feature, a conelike skylight, known as an oculus, that would channel daylight into the lower areas of the station. Mr. Sander said the oculus could add about $40 million to the cost.
“The pavilion has to be many things to many people,” Mr. Sander said, referring to the glass structure. “It has to be a building of vibrant design with as much new retail activity as possible.” He called it “a highly visible portal to a modern transportation complex.”
Originally, this project was slated for a completion date around now and a budget of $750 million. It will far exceed those expectations and not in a good way.
Meanwhile, we have to consider a few things — political and planning — to this announcement. First, Sander issued it while testifying before Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The Man who Killed Congestion Pricing again holds the keys to the MTA’s financial future. If he can shepherd a strong bailout plan through the Assembly, there’s hope yet. In return, Silver, long an ardent supporter of the Transit Hub at Fulton St., will finally get that hub. It’s a political tit for tat.
But on the other hand, I’m a little skeptical of this is a good use of stimulus money. While this money cannot go to operation budgets, couldn’t the MTA use $2 billion for the Second Ave. Subway? It is, after all, arguably a more important piece of the city’s future than a ritzy hub on Fulton St. Sure, they had to build something. Sure, they had to placate Silver. But that’s one expensive political bribe at the cost of better projects.
Either way, though, I can’t complain too much. This is an infusion of some much-needed cash to get a long-delayed project off the ground, and that’s good transit news.