NIMBYs, NIMBYs, wherefore art thou, NIMBYs?
While not quite the question posed by Juliet to Romeo, I often find myself asking why NIMBYs are constantly opposing any new public transit projects in New York City. A Transitway on 34th Street? That’ll cause a wall of buses. A train to LaGuardia that skirts around the edges of Astoria? That’ll disrupt a peaceful residential neighborhood. Subway entrances on 86th Street and Second Avenue? They’ll interfere with our precious driveway.
The final excuse was, as you may recall, one of the drivers behind a lawsuit filed earlier this year by a group of residents from 86th St. near Second Ave. These residents claimed that the MTA had “arbitrarily and capriciously” chosen to place new subway entrances on their blocks. The influx in pedestrians — who would be pointed away from the driveway — would harm Yorkshire Towers and its inhabitants, and the MTA, they claimed, did not properly assess the environmental impact of the entrances as they failed to consider new information as it emerged.
Luckily for the MTA and those eagerly awaiting better subway access, a judge earlier this month granted a motion to dismiss the complaint. Judge Thomas Griesa’s 16-page decision is available here as a PDF. Essentially, he granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on a legal technicality. The Yorkshire Towers residents had 180 days from the government’s finding of no environmental impact on the MTA’s decision to locate the station entrances along 86th St., but they filed their lawsuit eight months late.
In reply to such an argument, the Yorkshire Towers plaintiffs attempted to claim that the MTA had an obligation to consider new information. As Judge Griesa dryly noted, however, the plaintiffs failed to present this new information in their complaint. Had the complaint not been time-barred, though, it seems as though Griesa would not have been too sympathetic to the claims set forward by Yorkshire Towers. But it matters little; they waited eight months beyond the statute of limitations, and the station entrances will go ahead as planned.
So the MTA can now move forward with work at 86th St. for these station entrances, and that happens not a moment too soon. A recent report to the MTA has found that the project is inching ever closer to its contingency timeline. Right now, the MTA has only 66 days’ leeway but five years of construction remaining until SAS Phase 1 hits revenue service. With the lawsuit out of the way, the MTA and its contractors can move forward at 86th St. without further delays.
Meanwhile, the NIMBYs lose. It’s a battle in a bigger fight for better transportation, and it’s part of living in a city. People will walk down your block, and the subway — a truly desirable thing — will open its doors down the street. Life will go on.