Home 7 Line Extension A faint glimmer of hope at 10th Ave. and 41st St.

A faint glimmer of hope at 10th Ave. and 41st St.

by Benjamin Kabak

It is the phantom subway station that just won’t fade away. It is the the phantom subway station that, for the sake of a neighborhood and New York City’s future, has to be built. And it is a phantom subway station that just might be inching one step closer to a return to reality.

I’m talking, of course, about the on-again, off-again station at 10th Ave. and 41st St. that will nearly make or break the way we judge the 7 line extension. To recap: The original plans for the extension called for a stop to serve Hell’s Kitchen and the developments near the Hudson River in the low 40s, but as cost overruns became steep, the city — which is funding the entire extension — dropped its plans to build this station. Only the new terminal at 34th and 11th Ave., the lynchpin to the Hudson Yards development, would see the light of day.

First, the city promised to build a shell station at 41st and 10th Ave. so that the MTA could later build a full station, but when that became too expensive and the economy went south, those plans were scraped. At one point in 2007, then-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff offered to go halfsies with the MTA, but the cash-starved authority with bigger capital fish to fry declined. Then, nearly three and a half years after rumors of the station’s demise first emerged, the Real Estate Board of New York, under new leadership, decided to launch a last-second effort to save the station at 10th Ave., and that is where we find ourselves in 2010.

The news today is guardedly optimistic. Eliot Brown of The New York Observer rehashes recent history and finds that REBNY’s efforts could be paying off if only Mayor Bloomberg weren’t such an obstructionist. He reports:

Now, REBNY feels it has a plan that could keep the station alive, but the Bloomberg administration rejects it as unfeasible. Still, the administration, which initially resisted entertaining the late-in-the-game effort, is itself examining other funding options.

Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, said he had a consultant produce a report that recommended about $100 million in work to move utilities, an amount that could keep the option open for later funding to finish the station. The full cost of the station is estimated by the city to exceed $800 million.

“What we’re looking to do is preserve the ability that the station will eventually be built,” he said. “Nobody ever really expected the station to be built immediately–$800 million was not ever going to just come from some add-on in a bill in Washington. But can we do something so that over the next five, six years, money can come in from Washington?” …

A spokesman for the Bloomberg administration, Andrew Brent, dismissed Mr. Spinola’s plan as something that would disrupt the current project, which anticipates a line to 34th Street and 11th Avenue by 2013. “We’re not going to entertain any plans that add meaningful time or cost to the subway extension,” Mr. Brent said in a statement. “If a plan can be worked out that preserves the possibility of a station getting built in the future without delaying or adding cost to the project, we’re open to it. That remains a big if.”

Bloomberg’s line of reasoning is utterly spurious. The city has gone this long without 7 service to the Hudson Yards area, and considering that real estate development won’t take off for years in that neighborhood, if New Yorkers have to suffer a delay of a year to ensure that something forward-looking is built at 41st and 10th, the subway-riding public would be better off for it.

Vaguely, Spinola, whose organization didn’t realize for years that the station at 41st and 10th had been axed, ended with some words about the city’s trying to “find a solution.” He said, “At the moment, I think they are taking the concern seriously that the station will not get built unless they do something about it, and I think they are exploring the possibilities.” How comforting.

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Michael June 10, 2010 - 12:30 pm

Bloomberg is infuriating. He has told so many fibs especially relating to transit. It’s too bad the public won’t hold him accountable for his billion dollar subway stop to nowhere.

AlexB June 11, 2010 - 10:54 am

billion dollar? that’s an understatement.

tacony palmyra June 10, 2010 - 1:03 pm

Can some sort of tax increment financing be used to fund part of the station shell (and the eventual build-out of the station)? I’d think this would be a perfect use for such a scheme, and the Real Estate Board would be in a position to push for it. After all, we’re very directly talking about an amenity that will produce a huge increase in the value of surrounding real estate in the future.

kvnbklyn June 10, 2010 - 1:19 pm

Tax increment financing is already being used to build the extension. The city has argued that development around the 10th Avenue station wouldn’t contribute much to the TIF scheme since it’s mostly residential development and does not pay as much in tax. I don’t know how true that is, but that’s the argument. See this story: http://www.ny1.com/?SecID=1000&ArID=64913

rhywun June 10, 2010 - 1:21 pm

Bloomberg is obviously concerned about getting this gift to his real estate buddies online in time for him to leave office so he can take credit for it. Otherwise, he’ll have to mount another bothersome battle against the will of the voters to break term limits.

PS. $800M for one subway station. And that’s before the usual doubling or tripling. Wow.

Westsider June 10, 2010 - 1:52 pm

Ben Kabak, how much are developers paying you to shill for their schemes? I live at 41st and 10th and I can tell you almost everyone I speak with does not want the number 7 extension, period.

Benjamin Kabak June 10, 2010 - 1:55 pm

That’s funny. You think I’m shilling for real estate schemes? I’ve called the 7 line extension the Train to Nowhere for years. It’s a huge waste of limited subway expansion money.

That said, the ship has long since sailed on that, and we’re stuck with the extension. Since we have the rare opportunity to extend the subway to an area without it, why wouldn’t we? And do tell why no one wants subway service in a neighborhood woefully underserved by transit. I’d love to hear that one.

My guess is that long-time residents don’t want to be priced out when the better transit service brings rent increases, and that’s just NIMBYism at it’s finest. Perhaps I’m wrong.

Westsider June 11, 2010 - 7:27 am

Nimbyism is a bit more petty than hoping not to be priced out of one’s home. Seriously, you’re dismissing real and legitimate concerns. Families have lived in this area for generations and stayed here despite the rough times. Should they be forced out just to accommodate college kids who will move out anyway in less than five years? And when our supermarkets are forced out to accommodate some overpriced noisy bar, is that nimby? If you think it’s Nimby, then you’re a lot more clueless than I realized.

Brandi June 11, 2010 - 10:42 am

Real estates cost in Manhattan are always rising and have barely fallen despite a recession. This is directly related to it being a desirable place to live. A different demographic moving is not because of someone being forced to leave but of the consequences of desirability in a free market economy. Yes increased transit options will make the area a more desirable place to live. Thus the property values will probably go up. The fact that you are saying prices goes up probably means in your subconscious you relate increased transit options as desirable. If you actually thought it was something you did not want you would not think the prices would go up.

Bolwerk June 13, 2010 - 1:11 pm

Wait a second, does every neighborhood that gets transit magically get drunk, loud “college kids”? I realize increased property values (and THEREFORE, increased property taxes) could be problematic, but demographic changes are a flimsy excuse.

Although, this is an improvement in one way. NIMBYs used to resort to claiming that if the train comes into their neighborhood, inner city blacks would ride in to steal their TVs!

Mike B June 14, 2010 - 6:27 pm

Yep, that’s NIMBYism at its finest. That exact wording delayed rail transit here in Seattle for nearly 30 years. Let alone the delays caused by those very same concerns when they were laying the rails in the ground.

Jerrold June 10, 2010 - 1:56 pm

Maybe that’s because they don’t want the temporary disruptions in their daily lives that the people of Second Ave. are now putting up with.
Are you sure that you and your neighbors would NOT benefit from having a subway station right at your doorstep?

Westsider June 11, 2010 - 7:36 am

A lot more than that. First, Bloomberg has lied about the cost. Remember its was $2 billion in 2003, then $2.1 where it’s stayed since then. They created the fiction by taking out the 2nd station … and many other things. The interest on the bonds are being paid directly by the city’s general fund, or by a diversion of taxes and fees that were supposed to pay for other things (like schools, police, etc).

For existing residents, we have buses if one needs to go cross-town. If I need to go uptown or downtown, the No. 7 won’t help at all. It won’t stop on 8th Ave, so forget connections to the A/C/E. It’s easier to walk to Eighth Ave. And if you’re north of 45th St, chances are that the Eighth Ave. subway is closer.

Alon Levy June 11, 2010 - 5:49 pm

Yes, so let’s forget about the Javits Center crap and build a station where it’s going to be useful, at 10th Avenue.

Marc Shepherd June 10, 2010 - 2:15 pm

It is a little surprising that you cannot find anybody at all who would welcome a subway station at their doorstep. I suspect there is some selection bias in whom you talk to.

It may have to do with how you phrase the question. As presently conceived, the 7 extension would disrupt their lives without giving them any benefit. If it is being built regardless, I suspect they would like it better with a station in their neighborhood than without.

Eric June 10, 2010 - 4:13 pm

Call me crazy, but the neighborhood seems to have already been built without the need for a 10th Avenue station.

Alon Levy June 11, 2010 - 4:03 am

Stretch it back further, and you could argue that the city didn’t need a subway in 1900, either. After all, it had already been built without one.

Eric June 11, 2010 - 8:43 am

In 1900 the subway was built by private men who saw a way to make money from it – you can and probably have already read about it at the Transit Museum. Much of the land that surrounded the subway in the outer boroughs were wide open tracks of mainly open land that had estates and quaint communities dotting along it. The subway brought the bigger, more dense neighborhoods that we see today with its arrival.

But if you want to think of it in terms of the 1900 to present day growth the city has gone through, build an extension or two through the underserved portions of Queens instead of worrying about adding a station in the already densly packed Midtown that will cut a short walk from five blocks down to two blocks.

Marc Shepherd June 11, 2010 - 9:57 am

While it is true that the IRT and BMT were originally built for profit, the IND was not, nor were any of the various transit expansions since then. Of each, one could have said, “The city was already built without it, so why do we need it now?”

Then again, why do we need roads and bridges, either?

Eric June 11, 2010 - 4:45 pm

I’ll take the bait and agree with you. We should all get about by way of taking the old cow paths.

Alon Levy June 11, 2010 - 5:53 pm

I’ve read about it, thank you very much. There were steam-powered els before, which contributed to the first wave of development in Upper Manhattan. The subway was supposed to be like the els, only faster.

I think the extensions to the underserved parts of Queens are a great idea. They should be cheaper, for one. But 2010 isn’t 1900; we’ve learned more about good transit operations since. One of the things we’ve learned is that it’s okay to build lines to inner urban neighborhoods.

Bolwerk June 13, 2010 - 5:20 pm

By the same token, many denser neighborhoods once had rail transit and now don’t. The 9th Avenue El helped build the west side. The Lexington Avenue El created a dense neighborhood in what is now an impoverished part of Brooklyn stuck only with buses. Ditto for the Myrtle Avenue El.

What we have evidence for is what happens when rail-dependent urban neighborhoods lose their rail transit, and it’s not pretty. Regardless, I can understand opposing els, but I see very little reason why any neighborhood should think underground electric rail transit is an imposition.

John Paul N. (JPN) June 14, 2010 - 1:22 am

Another question to ask: does the short-term disruption of constructing an underground rail system outweigh the perpetual benefit of having it? If cost is not an issue and the answer is yes, I would be surprised.

Bolwerk June 14, 2010 - 11:42 am

Well, the construction time is an issue. Is it just me, or are these things built much more slowly these days? We know from the SAS that businesses do take a hit while construction is ongoing.

As a general rule, however, it doesn’t make sense to me to treat underground rail as a burden under any circumstances. After construction is complete, there will only be benefits. There may be really specific exceptions, like destruction of historical neighborhoods or artifacts – but the latter is more a problem in a place like Rome than New York City.

Kid Twist June 11, 2010 - 10:28 am

I’m still not sold on this. This station would be really useful for the four or five Mets fans who live in Hell’s Kitchen. Almost everyone else who’ll use the stop is going to change trains to get up- or downtown. A good number of them will be transferring at Times Square. Is it worth it to spend $800 million to shuttle a couple of thousand people from Tenth Avenue to Eighth Avenue? They already have the No. 42 bus.

AK June 11, 2010 - 4:07 pm

The M42, especially going Eastbound in rush hour (and thus, having to deal with Lincoln Tunnel run-off off of Dyer Avenue) is, by a good margin, the slowest crosstown bus in the system. It is easily preferrable (for most) to walk (hence, the bus is utterly useless)…

Westsider June 11, 2010 - 8:06 pm

I use the bus all the time and it really isn’t any slower than any other bus (I use the 34th as well, not much difference). It’s hardly useless. But the walk isn’t that bad either.

Kid Twist is correct, not only does it go nowhere, it comes from nowhere … nowhere most are going unless it’s a Mets game.

AK June 11, 2010 - 10:14 pm

“Really isn’t any slower than any other bus.”

Facts indicate otherwise. M42 the slowest in the system.


Alon Levy June 11, 2010 - 5:43 pm

Don’t think about it as a 10th-7th shuttle. Think about it as a 10th-GCT shuttle, or a 10th-Queens train.

Jerrold June 12, 2010 - 5:38 pm

And also don’t forget about the transfer at 5th Ave.-Bryant Park from the #7 to the B,D,F, or M.

Brandi June 11, 2010 - 10:37 am

What other country in the world would build a new mass transit expansion with the longest station gap in the most densest part of the country? It just down right illogical. Why would you build a subway line through anywhere in a dense part of a city without making stops?

Jerrold June 11, 2010 - 11:19 pm

As for unreasonably long gaps between stations, I have also pointed that out more than once about the Second Ave. subway.
Phase 1 will have a long gap between 72 St. and 86 St.
If they ever do build Phases 3 and 4, and they stick to the current plans, there will be unreasonably long gaps between
Houston St.-14 St., 42 St.-55 St., and 55 St.-72 St.

I know that some people argue that long gaps will permit trains to go faster.
But if you have to walk further in the street to get to your destination, then you are not saving time anyway.

Bolwerk June 13, 2010 - 6:35 pm

The SAS should have been a four-track line with express and local services.

Alon Levy June 14, 2010 - 3:53 am

Tel Aviv’s doing the same. Its just-canceled subway line would’ve had its longest interstation in Bnei Brak, which is the densest area served.

While Tel Aviv’s plan was sheer incompetence, there are reasons for well-designed systems to have the longest station gaps in dense areas. For example, if the line is an express bypass of an existing line, you might want to run the trains fast through the central part of the line in order to avoid slowing passengers down too much. If the line runs suburb-to-downtown-to-suburb this means few stops through downtown; for more local serving people would switch to the older line.

With SAS, the planners probably figured that they should build longer interstations and tried to work from a number. I’m honestly not sure how concerned to be about it, since the Lex is already there and since SAS has far bigger problems to worry about. By the standard of the other crap they’ve sold New York on – subways to nowhere, half a kilometer of tail tracks, deep-level caverns, oculi, one-way BRT, buses that sit still while fares are being inspected – the omission of 79th is minor. I’d personally let it go if even one of the other issues were resolved.

AlexB June 11, 2010 - 11:18 am

If the station is built, we will be feeling its benefits decades after the bonds have been paid off. Not building it will not stop gentrification in hells kitchen, nor would the money saved necessarily go towards the police or schools.

The lack of a subway at 10th Ave has not kept people from living there, nor has it stopped any of the condos being built west of 10th Ave, nor has it stopped the huge increases in rent. There is only so much a subway can do.

That being said, every minute of transportation time that can be saved in a tremendously dense city like New York provides enormous economic benefits for everyone. The older residential areas of hells kitchen are further north. People in those areas would use this station, but it would also be used by people going to the waterfront, or people living in the new condo towers on 10th and 11th aves. 10th Ave and 41st St is not a neighborhood yet, it’s the port authority’s backyard, and is not exactly being put to it’s “highest and best use.” This station could change that.

Peter June 12, 2010 - 8:47 pm

The projects that caught Bloomberg’s fancy (the West Side Stadium, 311) received tons of attention from the City. Otherwise, oh well.

To pass up the opportunity to even construct a shell of a station, is a mistake that the city will be paying for, for 25, 50 years? It’s akin to when when Robert Moses refused to put in a provision for a subway when he built the Van Wyck Expressway.

I write more about this, on my blog, here .


Nathanael June 13, 2010 - 2:56 pm

Sigh. Everyone *knows* the Hell’s Kitchen station shell should be built — except, apparently, Bloomberg and the people he’s hired to build the Subway to Nowhere.

Bolwerk June 13, 2010 - 5:27 pm

Joseph D. Korman wrote an excellent critique of the extension a few years ago. For those who are intereted: http://www.thejoekorner.com/fl.....avits.shtm

A big problem might be capacity at Times Square.

Andrew June 13, 2010 - 11:34 pm

Without taking a position on his overall point, I’ll just point out that the L is much more crowded than the 7.

Bolwerk June 13, 2010 - 11:46 pm

First of all, look at the dates. But also, it’s more than just crowding. The L has more room for additional capacity in the form of more trains. The 7 probably does not.

John Paul N. (JPN) June 14, 2010 - 1:05 am

Is that statement true for the entirety of the L and 7 lines or for part of both? In theory, short-turn L trains at Myrtle-Wyckoff (or Atlantic Avenue in its previous configuration) should alleviate crowding, but implementation of such is poor now when it’s done during the middays.

John Paul N. (JPN) June 14, 2010 - 1:14 am

From the link above, “Now take [the Times Square station] and essentially cut the capacity in half, since one track will be Javits bound trains. The passengers to Queens will have to wait for a train from Javits to arrive. While this goes on, the passengers to Javits will be waiting on the same platform.

The Times Square platform, if I recall, is larger than a typical island platform and handles crowds adequately. And if the passengers worry about crowding, do as I and some other commuters do on the L: ride the train to Javits Center and then ride back. Longer commute, but your comfort level should be high.

Alon Levy June 14, 2010 - 8:07 pm

No, Times Square is not at capacity. The terminal tracks are well-designed, allowing high train throughput at minimal footprint, and the platform is wide and optimizes passenger circulation. Ideally there would be more staircases and escalators, but the platform itself is not a problem. If I remember correctly, the limiting factor to the 7’s capacity is at the Flushing end, where the terminal has conflicting train movements.

However, the proposal had some merit, precisely because Times Square is a good terminal. The L’s western terminus is not as well-configured: it has no tail tracks, at all. This cuts train capacity. A new extension would correct this error, creating its own capacity.

(Another reason the L would have been better is that it’s a good idea to preserve the 7 for a future New Jersey extension.)

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