As Mayor Bill de Blasio and a pair of surrogates for Gov. Andrew Cuomo engaged in political sniping over the MTA’s capital plan during Sunday’s opening of the 7 line extension, a few feet away and well out of the fray sat former NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. The one-time Bloomberg side man could bask in the belated success. After all, the 7 line extension was one of his pet projects, originally attached to Doctoroff’s doomed 2012 Olympics bid, and while Michael Bloomberg served as the public face of the city’s funding commitment, Doctoroff did all the dirty work behind, and sometimes in front of, the curtain.
Some of Doctoroff’s more notable performances came in mid-2007 when it became clear that the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. would not survive the budgetary axe. As I explored a few weeks ago, losing that second stop represents a big missed opportunity for New York City, and that is, in no small part, thanks to Doctoroff.
In late 2007, when the city could have afforded the $500 million extra it would have cost to build the second station, Doctoroff disingenously offered a 50-50 split with, well, anyone. The MTA had held firm on the idea that they weren’t going to spend significant dollars on the 7 line extension, and the feds had prioritized the 2nd Ave. Subway over the 7 line, a move Doctoroff would not easily forget. When Bloomberg’s administration offered to go in on half the cost overruns, these officials knew no one would take them up on this offer, and the station died a painful death.
Now, Doctoroff has had his “come to Jesus” moment. As he and James Meola, another long-time Bloomberg ally and appointee, wrote in this Sunday’s Daily News, they now feel it’s time to fund and build this station. There is nothing quite like closing the barn door eight years after the horse escaped. Wrote the pair:
The challenge, then, was to find the money to pay for the subway extension and related amenities. The city developed a novel plan: It would issue bonds but ask bondholders to accept repayment only out of incremental tax and other revenues generated from the district over and above the amount the city collected in the year before the project began. While the city agreed to pay the amount of any difference between new tax revenue and the $153 million in annual interest payments, that was the extent of its obligation. The bondholders accepted the risk that there wouldn’t be enough development and tax revenues to pay them back. In a way, it was the ultimate expression of faith in the future of New York.
A casualty of the financing plan was a second subway station at 42nd St. and 10th Ave. Without a track record, we just couldn’t raise the money to pay for the cost of the second station and the parks that would serve the northern section of the District…
Based on our calculations, if we just take into account the buildings that have been completed, are in construction now, or are in the advanced stages of planning, over the next 30 years Hudson Yards will throw off $30 billion on that investment of $353 million! Now that it is clear that the financing structure has become so successful, the city should expand it by borrowing an additional $1 billion and using the proceeds to pay for the 10th Ave. station, which could be completed in about five years, and the additional parks. The total cost is but a small fraction of the profits that the city already is expected to generate from the original Hudson Yards financing structure.
Doctoroff, of course, has nothing to lose here, and he can even restructure history. The city knew Hudson Yards would be an economic development success story and could have foot the bill, through a variety of financial means, years ago. Instead of a station for $500 million built contemporaneously with the rest of the project, Doctoroff now proposes a station built for over $800 million that would likely be severely disruptive to the 7 train operations.
That’s not even the most interesting part of Doctoroff’s about face. A few years after calling the 2nd Ave. Subway, a “silly little spur that doesn’t generate anything,” Doctoroff now claims to see the benefit of “provid[ing] subway service to the currently underserved areas around it, including northern Hudson Yards and parts of Hell’s Kitchen.” The station, he argues, would also help alleviate congestion at Times Square — hardly the same grounds he used to build the 7 line to Hudson Yards and certainly not new arguments put forward by those who have long wanted that second stop.
Ultimately, Doctoroff’s change of heart is a big nothing. We can wallow in his hypocrisy or we can view it as progress. But either way, no one — not de Blasio, not Cuomo, not the MTA — is rushing to fund a station at 41st and 10th, and despite a lackluster call yesterday from The Times editorial board to build the station, most people I’ve spoken with both in and outside of the MTA don’t believe we’ll ever see this station become a reality. The time to build it was eight years ago. That ship sailed, thanks to Doctoroff and his boss, and no amount of Daily News columns can right that wrong.