Home 7 Line Extension As Related deal nears, REBNY pushes for federal assistance for 7 line

As Related deal nears, REBNY pushes for federal assistance for 7 line

by Benjamin Kabak

With the city and the MTA at an impasse over the fate of the 7 line station at 41st St. and 10th Ave., real estate lobbyists and politicians are making a last-ditch effort to secure a federal grant for the badly-needed station. As Michael Howard Saul of The Wall Street Journal detailed today, officials from the Real Estate Board of New York and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are going to meet with Vice President Joe Biden in the hopes of convincing the rail-friendly veep to find some of the $500 million the city needs to build this station.

“I don’t expect we will be leaving the White House with a check in our hands,” Steve Spinola, president of REBNY, said. “But it would be nice if we can identify a structure to move forward that will, in effect, make sure this station actually gets built.”

As we know quite well, the city is ponying up the $2 billion it costs to send the 7 line from its current terminus along 41st St. between 7th and 8th Aves. to 34th St. and 11th Ave. Original plans called for a station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. that would service the crowded Hell’s Kitchen area, but when costs spiked, the city scraped plans for even a shell station. It took REBNY nearly two years to grow interested in this project, but now the real estate board — which announced its support for this second station in February — calls the no-build plan a “terrible, terrible mistake.”

Meanwhile, the city and REBNY are at odds over the project’s timing. Saul has more:

Mr. Spinola said a report commissioned by the board suggests supporters have roughly a year to secure funding before it’s too late. But the city believes the time frame is closer to two weeks.

The administration plans to move forward with the next set of contracts on the project, and turning back to build a second station after these contracts are issued, would result in tens of millions of wasted dollars, an official said. “We’re open to talking about what happens if someone finds additional funding, but we’re certainly not going to hold up the project hoping that happens,” said Andrew Brent, a spokesman for the mayor. “A 10th Avenue station would be nice, but the MTA and state budget problems are well-known, and the city is in no position to step in to pay for that, too.”

If federal funds can be secured, Mr. Spinola said, officials in the Bloomberg administration told him there’s a “strong desire to find another $250 million” in city funds.

Somehow, someway, the $250 million should materialize. In the grand scheme of development in New York City, that’s not a significant amount of money, and both the MTA and the city are making an expensive and nearly uncorrectable mistake by not building this station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. Hopefully, smarter heads will prevail.

I also want to note that REBNY has dropped the ball on this one. The city killed the station in August of 2008, and the powerful real estate board sat on its hands for nearly 18 months. Now, time is of the essence, and it’s unclear if the money will come through. Had the lobbying begun when the station was shelved, the funding would have been easier to secure and could have been in place already.

A Related deal — but no payment — nears

Meanwhile, as REBNY races against the clock, Related and the MTA seem ready to announce a deal for the Hudson Yards development rights. The new deal seems to have a catch though. Michael Grynbaum reports:

Under a deal unveiled Monday, Related would commit to the project with a $21.7 million down payment. But the company would not have to close on the project — and therefore start paying the 99-year lease — until after the city’s real estate market improves…

Under the plan, Related would commit to a 99-year lease on the 26-acre railyards for $1 billion, the original price. But three specific measures of the real estate market, including average prices for Manhattan co-op and condo sales, must be met before the company would be forced to close on its contract; in the earlier plan, Related would have had to close within 150 days of signing…

After signing the contract, Related will still have to post another $21.7 million in the following 12 months. But the new plan allows the developer to post a promissory note in lieu of cash.

The MTA praised the restructured deal because it maintains the price tag negotiated during better times. Yet, I still fear that Related isn’t actually going to build much for a while. The area will benefit from the station at 34th St. and 11th Ave. eventually, and the city should be encouraged to build out transit to underserved areas. But for now, this is still a very expensive project at a time when funds are tight, and the fate of the station that could have an immediate impact on the surrounding area is very much in doubt. Still, misguided subway expansion is better than none at all, and one day, the MTA will get its $1 billion.

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Mike April 27, 2010 - 12:48 pm

I agree with Ben on all fronts …however…where he and others point out that it would be a mistake to not build this station— to that I say– the city and specifically Mayor Bloomberg has been derelict of duty when it comes to transportation….so why would his admin. care if they skip the 41st and 10th station? Sorry for the ramble but my point is that the city and the MTA don’t care if they are making a terrible mistake

Mike April 27, 2010 - 12:49 pm

I also want to know if any readers actually think cooler heads will prevail and this station will get built?

Marc Shepherd April 27, 2010 - 2:06 pm

With the city and the MTA at an impasse over the fate of the 7 line station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. . . .

Actually, is there any impasse? They seem to be in complete agreement.

John April 27, 2010 - 2:12 pm

2 billion dollars ???? ?? ? ? ??? ?

That is insane. “misguided transit is better than no transit at all”… ummmm I would much rather the city spend the 2 billion on keeping its budget in order than building a one-stop rail expansion I’ll never use.

Benjamin Kabak April 27, 2010 - 2:14 pm

This made me laugh a bit. Just because you’ll never use it, you think the city shouldn’t build? I never ride the 6 to the northern reaches of the Bronx, but that doesn’t mean the MTA should just stop service there.

When Related manages to build its complex of buildings, this extension will be a popular one, and it should be built. It’s ridiculously expensive, and the money could be spent on other projects – Second Ave. for one – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be built.

SEAN April 27, 2010 - 6:23 pm


If you read the comments in the Journal News on transit issues you will find most of them have the same narrowminded point of view.

If I don’t use it, then I don’t want my taxes wasted on it. Those who do use the service should bear the entire cost, NOT US TAXPAYERS! Honistly I find that really anoying.

petey April 28, 2010 - 11:03 am

ben i’m sure you know that john’s point was the cost – “I would much rather the city spend the 2 billion on keeping its budget in order than building a one-stop rail expansion” – not the throwaway words at the end.

Marc Shepherd April 27, 2010 - 2:18 pm

Actually, I would much rather see the 2 billion spent on a permanent asset than just frittered away, as government spending usually is.

Would I have chosen this asset? No, I would not, but the decision point has passed.

Alon Levy April 27, 2010 - 9:50 pm

I would much rather see the 2 billion spent on 5 miles of subway, anywhere, in line with the standard construction costs in other dense, high-income cities.

Boris April 27, 2010 - 2:20 pm

They should simply built the 41st and 10th (where there is already development) instead of the 34th and 11th. And build the 34th and 11th at the same time Related is building its buildings, i.e. “when the economy improves.” Beat Related in its own game.

Rich April 27, 2010 - 3:19 pm

The problem isn’t that it’s too much. It’s not enough.
The 7 extension should be the beginning of a comprehensive west side subway expansion to match the T on the east side. Build a line down 10th Avenue from the PA GWB terminal (tying into the A) to WTC, with crosstown connections to all lines @ 145th (extend the 3), 125th (extend the T), 86th (a new shuttle across to the T), 42nd (the 7), 14th (extend the L), and WTC (tying into the Fulton St. Project). Also expand NJT’s THE Tunnel into a 4 track tunnel similar to the LIRR/F tunnel under the East River, and extend the 7 into NJ, connecting to the Hudson-Bergen LightRail at Lincoln Harbor and the Secaucus NJT station.
And all of it must happen faster. Why is the T expected to take 4 times as long as the original IRT? 2020 or beyond? Really? Isn’t anyone embarrassed by how much more was built in less time 100 years ago with none of today’s tech?

Alon Levy April 27, 2010 - 9:53 pm

A 10th Avenue Line is not necessary: the IRT West Side Line is not at capacity, and serves the center of Midtown perfectly. 145th barely justifies SBS, let alone a subway. It would make sense for there to be an SBS or light rail corridor going crosstown on it and continuing to the Bronx, but that’s not the same as just east-west in Manhattan. 125th I can get behind, and maybe 86th as a very, very long-term thing, but the others are just lines you’d draw on a map.

The T is expected to take until 2020, but won’t materialize until decades later. The reason is that the city builds a kilometer of subway at $1.7 billion, whereas the standard first-world cost is $250 million. At seven times the normal cost, it’s not cost-effective to build so much.

Bruce April 27, 2010 - 3:23 pm

The good news is that the majority of the subway system was planned and built long before the MTA came into the picture. The bad news is that the MTA doesn’t think it’s important to make the 7-Line extension accessible to people who need to ride it. I hope some powerful politician wakes up and makes obtaining the funding a real cause. For that matter, it would appear that construction for the tunnels begins as far down as 26th Street. Why not just go a couple more blocks and build a station at 23rd Street which would serve West Chelsea? Again, the idea of providing service to the public anywhere close to where they live has never surfaced at the MTA.

Benjamin Kabak April 27, 2010 - 3:25 pm

Why the digs at the MTA? This is a project that was never an MTA priority. It was conceived, proposed and funded by the Bloomberg Administration as a favor to its real estate developer buddies. If the city had guts, it would make other real estate companies and Related pony up some of the dough for the extra station. Blaming the MTA for what is squarely the city’s fault just isn’t fair to the an organization that should take heat for real problems and not Bloomberg’s shortcomings.

Marc Shepherd April 27, 2010 - 3:33 pm

Ben nails it: the fault is the city’s, not the MTA’s.

To your specific question, there are two answers. First, to build a 23rd Street station, they’d need to tunnel more than just two more blocks: tunneling needs to go farther than the actual station, which is the very reason why the current project is going farther than the proposed 34th Street terminus.

More importantly, the cost of adding a station is much more than the cost of tunneling. In fact, tunneling is the easy part. The fit-out and finishing of the station cavern is a very large expense, and it also means you have to acquire more rolling stock.

And once you’ve reached 23rd Street, why not continue to 14th Street?

Alon Levy April 27, 2010 - 9:55 pm

You can tunnel right up until where the station is and stop there. Not every terminal needs tail tracks.

Andrew April 27, 2010 - 11:04 pm

During rush hours, the 7 needs tail tracks, or else the terminal can’t handle the throughput needed on the line. (Although that might not be the case with CBTC.) The Flushing terminal, which doesn’t have tail tracks, only gets by because many of the locals terminate at Willets Point.

Outside of rush hours, the 7 needs a storage facility at the Manhattan end of the line, or else more trains will need to deadhead to and from Queens, and Corona Yard might need to be expanded.

Alon Levy April 28, 2010 - 10:44 am

The Times Square terminal turns back about 24 tph without tail tracks. And Tokyo Station turns back 30 tph on the Chuo Line without tail tracks. When the turnouts near the station minimize conflicts, you do not need tail tracks to ensure high capacity.

The only use of tail tracks is to avoid having bumpers at the end of the station, which restrict capacity by restricting train speed. However, this does not require extending the tail tracks down to 26th Street; 33rd is enough. Both Tokyo and Times Square have those stubs of tail tracks.

Marc Shepherd April 28, 2010 - 2:45 pm

The Times Square terminal has tail tracks. That is what allows trains to enter the station at full speed.

Alon Levy April 28, 2010 - 3:08 pm

The tail tracks extend a few tens of meters out. The Chuo Line has about 30 meters’ worth of tail tracks, too. There’s a big difference between digging an extra half-block of tunnel and digging an extra eight blocks. At average 7 extension construction costs, it’s about the same as the cost of a station shell at 10th Avenue.

Brmnyc April 29, 2010 - 1:26 am

Subway stations are also several blocks long. If there were to be a 23rd St. station added, it could begin at 26th St. and end probably somewhere between 23rd & 24th Streets, and the entrances, at the top of probably fairly long escalators could be built at 23rd. Moreover, the L-train terminal at Eighth Avenue has no tail tracks, just a tiled wall. And as for a dig at the MTA, the 2nd Avenue Subway–the promised salvation for East Siders (such as myself) completely bypasses the East 60’s (55th straight through to 72nd). Can’t blame the City for that decision. And I don’t count the 63rd/Lexington station, where the 2nd Avenue line will connect, as an “addition” as it’s two (long) blocks west of 2nd Avenue.

Alon Levy April 29, 2010 - 7:54 am

There’s nothing but railyards on 11th Avenue immediately south of 34th; this means that the most sensible location for a 34th Street stop there is one where 34th is the southern end, with the northern end at 36th.

Bypassing the East 60s isn’t that big a deal – they have Lex service, as well as direct east-west service to Queens. The proposed average interstation distance on SAS is 870 meters, which isn’t that high. The proposed interstation on the 7 Extension, 1,760 meters, is an entirely different ballgame.

Bruce April 29, 2010 - 12:17 pm

If you don’t think bypassing the East 60s is a big deal then you obviously don’t live on York Avenue…in the East 60’s.

Alon Levy April 29, 2010 - 3:52 pm

Just walk to 72nd. Or 55th.

Andrew April 30, 2010 - 7:24 pm

There are going to be two interlockings in the 60’s. There’s probably no room in between to put a station.

The Lex/63 station is going to have a new entrance on 3rd. That should help somewhat.

Benjamin Kabak April 30, 2010 - 7:25 pm

The only problem with the station at 63rd and 3rd is that, if the souther portions of the SAS are built, that station won’t include the T stop. So the Second Ave. Subway trains that aren’t Brooklyn-bound Qs won’t stop there.

Al D April 27, 2010 - 4:02 pm

In other neighborhoods, bypassing them without building a station on a new line would result in all sorts of community protests, so much so that the station would be built. I don’t understand what happened here? Generally, how can you build a subway line and bypass an entire neighborhood? And this from a city that is attempting to be green?

Rhywun April 27, 2010 - 9:20 pm

It needs to be stated much more forcefully that the whole point of this extension was, as Ben did state, for the city to give “a favor to its real estate developer buddies”. Several things follow from this. One, it’s obvious the real estate interests couldn’t care less about a station in an already-established neighborhood. All they care about is our generous gift which will help put millions in their pockets with the new construction that’s envisioned. Two, it follows that the city doesn’t give a damn about the missing station, either; at least it didn’t until people woke up and started complaining about it. Three, it’s pretty clear that this extension would never have gotten off the ground (or even been envisioned) were it not for the powerful real estate interests’ wishes. Who among us was not totally caught off guard when this extension was announced? Therefore, it’s a bit disingenuous to pile on someone’s statement that they won’t use the extension – because the implication of such a statement is that few will use it, i.e. the extension is not justified.

Andrew April 27, 2010 - 10:59 pm

No station right now? Fine, no big deal.

But no station shell? That means the station can never be built without shutting down the line and rebuilding a large section. That is a big deal.

The city needs to find the cash for a station shell. Now.

City’s tab for 7 line extension coming due :: Second Ave. Sagas April 28, 2010 - 1:07 pm

[…] bonds have come in the form of revenue from developer fees and investment income, but with Related yet to sign a deal, the development dollars have tried up for now. Instead, the city will have to put between $31-$46 […]

Brandi April 29, 2010 - 9:01 am

I think that they should get the city to through in some money, get some money from the feds, and also ask for a few throw ins from real estate companies whose land values would go up. Or maybe those real estate companies could just donate the station entrances or something. Anyways I hope they get their act together and start pushing for this. It just seems like otherwise they will be making a huge mistake. I mean not building a station in a built up area that is transit needy when you have the chance seems stupid.


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