Maybe you’ve heard, or passed by a window today, but it’s snowing like a mother out there. (At least in New York; in Vancouver, on the mountain that’s supposed to host the Olympic snowboarding competition, there is no snow) How does this impact sustainable real estate in New York City? Well, besides making it look a lot whiter in places, it means that I’m working from home and thus feeling kind of loosey-goosey about my posting duties today. Not so much that this post is going to be entirely about pizza or the Mets or old crushes (again), but in that I’ll leave the press-release-rephrasing for another day. So let’s go crazy, people. Let’s talk about… mass transit, specifically the slow-moving planned expansion of the 7 train out into Hudson Yards. Can you handle the wyldnezz?
Probably. I mean, it’s not honestly very wylde, I’m writing about the freaking subway. While the ambitious Second Avenue Subway line gets most of the attention — it even has its own obsessive blog — the city has been moving towards a planned 2013 opening of what was initially planned as a pair of West Side subway stops on an expanded version of the 7 train; one was to be at 41st Street and 10th Avenue, with a new terminus at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, right across from the Javits Center. Thus answering the prayers of literally dozens of New Yorkers who had been hoping for easier access to the boat show, but more importantly essentially creating a viable neighborhood where right now there are only a few pioneering luxury rental apartment buildings and a ton of parking lots. Hudson Yards and the far West Side is already home to a number of cool cultural destinations — including the Baryshnikov Arts Center, with its LEED-hopeful performance space — and could easily become both a nice place to live and a very green one, given the virtually guaranteed efficiency that comes with Manhattan-style density. (If you can’t tell from that last clause, I did finally finish David Owen’s “Green Metropolis,” about which there will be more soon) Or at least that was the idea.
But the already scaled-back project — that 41st Street station is currently on hold — is struggling for funds, Lois Weiss reports in the New York Post. Mayor Bloomberg plans to appeal for federal stimulus funds — $1.57 billion of which have already been promised for subway improvements, including the Second Avenue line — for the project, but the sky-high prices of expanding a subway has left the 10th Avenue station’s fate in doubt. “Current estimates are $500 million just to create the space, plus another $300 million to ensure it’s safe,” Weiss writes. “There could be additional costs if the tunnel boring equipment, which is currently being dismantled, has to be brought back.” And of course there’s the fact that action of any sort by the federal government is more or less impossible at the moment, due to the Senate being broken and congressional Republicans’ brave twilight struggle against the very idea of engaging in governance.
But it would certainly be nice to see the expansion get back on (um) track, seeing as the expansion of the 7 train is as pure and purely reasonable an example of the utility of stimulus funds as anything I can think of. Not only would it create jobs in a construction sector that has been hit incredibly hard by the recession, but by connecting a neighborhood that’s several long blocks from mass transit to the rest of the city, new 7 train stops would expedite the development of a new neighborhood, with attendant economic benefits accruing to everyone from bodega owners to the Related Companies, with numerous local stops in between. In short, this sort of government investment — notably more than a highway expansion that opens up new exurbs for sprawl, or even some pie-in-the-sky city-to-city bullet train — is the kind that could pay off handsomely for decades to come. Could. Or the money might not be there, or be spent in a more politically valuable district, in which cas