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Archive for 'Urban Planning'

We’ve Seen the Rendering: Here are 5 Questions

moynihan penn station concept rendering som The Friends of Moynihan Station (MAS is co-chair) released the first rendering of Moynihan East a few days ago, apparently received from the ESDC (although it’s not to be found on the ESDC web site). While it’s a relief to finally see a rendering, it also raises some questions. 1. Does this plan illustrate the 1.1 million s.f. of retail on the Moynihan East block? 2. There seem to be six new buildings in the rendering. Is this all the 4.5 million square feet of development rights? If not, were will the rest go? 3. Has the Hotel Pennsylvania (#17 on our map) been torn down in this plan? What about the other historic buildings like Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church (#38 on our map) or Former Equitable Life Insurance Company Building (#6 on our map). We can’t tell, but it seems that the new buildings are sited on them. Click here to see our map of historic resources in the Moynihan Station area 4. What is the property ownership structure for this plan? Have some privately owned properties been acquired? Click here to see a map on property ownership that we made. 5. Is that a big round kiosk on the corner of 31st Street and Eighth Avenue? moynihan station aerial rendering as is rendering moynihan station som questions What do you think about these plans? Do you have any questions? When do you think will we get to see the detailed plans? Meanwhile, today The Observer reports Moynihan Station “seems on the edge of collapse.”

Ask George: One-seat ride from Midtown to JFK?

Reader: George, do you think New York can ever have a one-seat ride from midtown Manhattan to JFK? What would it take? Yours, Frustrated Mr. Haikalis: Long the dream of New Yorkers is a convenient one-seat ride rail service between the core of the city and JFK Airport – the nation’s busiest international airport. It is a global embarrassment that we don’t have this link. The good news is that this past Monday, March 2, 2008, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of the MTA, CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander called for a one-seat ride using the most obvious and direct route – the disused LIRR Rockaway Cut-off in Central Queens (indicated by blue arrow below). The bad news is that Sander did not specify a timetable for implementation of this critical link and failed to include funding for it in his proposed MTA five-year capital budget. train map lirr others nyc The key is to restore the weed-strewn right of way once used by LIRR trains heading to the Rockaway Peninsula. This high quality alignment – the Rockaway Cut-off — remains virtually intact, and could be brought back to life with a relatively modest investment. Some 4.2 mile of rail line would need to be restored and a track connection made just north of the Howard Beach Station, so that trains could use the on-airport AirTrain loop. A small fleet of specially-designed rail cars that could operate on the Regional Rail system and the on-airport system would be needed. At Aqueduct Racetrack a cross-platform transfer with the subway is possible. Airport riders could switch to the A train for service to Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Service would be at 10 minute intervals days, evenings and weekends. The generous right of way could also accommodate hiking paths and bike trails, and add much needed open space in the corridor. Special provision for noise barriers would be an important feature. In consultation with the affected communities several intermediate stations could be re-opened, and adjacent transit-oriented development encouraged. In the near term, Governors Spitzer and Corzine could demand that the PANYNJ immediately reverse its current anti-transit policy and eliminate the $5 fare penalty charged for mass transit passengers using the AirTrains at JFK and Liberty-Newark Airports. At present, the PANYNJ discourages air passengers, airport employees and visitors from using this two to three billion dollar investment in rail transit, and instead welcomes them to use the free roadways provided at great expense for no fee. In the meantime, many political leaders are promoting a six billion dollar tunnel to link JFK Airport with Lower Manhattan, which would serve only a fraction of the potential ridership. Restoring the Rockaway Cut-off to Midtown would cost less than 10% of this, but would require political leadership to stand down a handful of opponents who are worried about the adverse impacts from bringing this rail link back into use.

Morgan Stanley Drops Out of Hudson Yards Bid

Today Charles Bagli reports that Morgan Stanley, the anchor tenant for Tishman Speyer’s bid, is backing out of a plan to build a new headquarters on the Hudson Yards site. According to the article Morgan Stanley is concerned the new tower will not be ready in 2013 when its current lease expires. Bagli says “Morgan Stanley’s move is the latest shadow to fall across the anticipated billion-dollar sale of the development rights over the railyards, and another indication that the project may not proceed as quickly as city officials had hoped.” The article also contains more details on the bidding process:
“The winning bidder will have to put up $20 million immediately and complete a final contract within four months, when it must make a $100 million down payment. The transportation authority expects that it will take 18 months after that to prepare the property for construction, and two to three years and about $1.5 billion to build platforms and foundations over the railyards.”
“Everyone’s hoping that by the time you need to finance it, the market is back to normal,” said one bidder Read “Morgan Stanley Retreating From Railyards Development,” by Charles Bagli in the New York Times Read about a plan to eliminate the working railyards and run a shuttle between Hudson Yards and Penn Station in “Does New York Need the West Side Railyards?”

Newsday Editorial: Get Moynihan Station Back on Track

On Friday, Newsday said if there is one big project “that deserves saving, it’s Moynihan Station.” The editorial called on State and City officials “to put their shoulders into this project and push.” Below is an excerpt:
This is a great deal for Long Islanders. First, commuters will be able to move off trains more quickly. Also, more jobs will be created in western Midtown, eliminating the need for many LIRR riders to backtrack east to Grand Central Station. An easier commute has to be good for Island home values. Gov. Eliot Spitzer and economic czar Pat Foye met Wednesday with the private interests – the Garden and developers Vornado and Related. All are hedging over how to fill a $1-billion funding gap. Spitzer has also met with New York’s delegation in Washington. But he needs to sell the project by painting a broader vision of how it can become a national economic development boon, rejuvenating rail travel from Boston to D.C. to Chicago. Only then will legislators from Ohio or Pennsylvania vote yes, and help prove Moynihan wrong. Kudos to Newsday for emphasizing the “broader vision” of the project and its importance for Long Island commuters. Indeed, Moynihan Station possesses economic development potential on a national scale and, if built right, could demonstrate the possibilities of regional rail in the U.S. If any transit project is deserving of federal funds it is the redevelopment of Penn Station.

MSG Unveils Reno Plan

dolans msg interior renderingFollowing up on last week’s pull-out statement, the Dolans released their plans for a $500 million renovation of Madison Square Garden at a press conference today. The plans include a 25-foot skylight at the Garden’s main entrance, larger luxury suites and more bathrooms, bars and restaurants. Sounds flashy! The Observer reports that the ”distinct golden-brown exterior” of the arena will remain. Thoughts?
Hank Ratner, vice chairman of the Garden and Cablevision Systems Corp, asked if there was any alternative plan the state or city could offer him to move, told reporters, “No, there is not. We are committed.” Later he added, “We will renovate the arena and we will not be moving.”
Garden executives are claiming that the renovation will not require City Council approval as many had speculated. The MAS will continue to advocate for the Garden and other players to return to the negotiating table. Listen to MAS president Kent Barwick discuss the possibility of using state powers to take MSG on WNYC’s Morning Edition Read “MSG Lifts Curtain on New Plan for Garden,” from Crain’s Read “Garden Unveils Renovation Plan; Moynihan Station Dream Flatlines,” from the New York Observer

NYU Prof: Moynihan is Most Important Project in City

Today, Peter Kiefer rounds up the recent cutbacks and troubles in big projects including the Second Avenue Subway, Fulton Street Transit Center, Hudson Yards, and Moynihan Station. He reports that “the number of citywide building permits is expected to drop, public and private funding for projects is drying up, and a stream of multibillion-dollar plans is coming in over budget and behind schedule, with many designs being scaled back or scrapped altogether.” Among the explanations are rising construction costs, long approvals processes, restrictive lending practices, and shrinking tax revenues. Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at NYU, says the only way out of the current situation is ”increased commitment and investment by the state, and Governor Spitzer.” Moss said, “there is a need to recognize that we have to pick the projects that are a high priority rather than let a thousand flowers bloom.” So which project is most important? “Mr. Moss was unequivocal: the planned redevelopment of Penn Station, which many see as the key development project that could open up the West Side of Manhattan.” ESDC chair Patrick Foye reiterated the State’s commitment “to getting it done.” Read “Unease Erodes Ambition in Real Estate,” by Peter Kiefer in The New York Sun.

Ask George: Response on West Side Yards

Last week, we received two detailed comments challenging George’s assertion that New York should lose the West Side Yards. Here is his response: Typically, commuter rail lines have yards at their outer terminals in the suburbs, where trains are dispatched to the central business district, and yards close to the core, where cars are stored midday. Rapid transit lines, on the other hand, like our subways in NYC, have a single yard for each rail car. Trains might leave a yard in Brooklyn and end up in the Bronx, but no cars are stored in the center of town. Land is just too valuable. Newer rapid transit lines, with relatively long routes like those in Washington, DC or San Francisco (BART) offer much more frequent service all day long, and store rail cars that are not needed for this higher level of service in the same yards where they are kept overnight. Much of the LIRR is like a long distance rapid transit system. Yet it is run like a 19th century railway, with far less service in the middle of the day than is need. This should change. The suburbs are not just homes for Manhattan-bound commuters, but are busy economic centers with travel needs all day long. By keeping more trains in motion all day long, fewer mid-day storage spaces are needed in the center of the city. With the very high cost of building decks over yards, the need for these spaces can be seriously questioned. In my analysis, it looked like moving rail cars back to yards further east would increase operating cost by $8.2 million per year, or even less if more frequent service were operated all day long. This is a small price to pay to avoid spending a billion dollars or more for decks over the rail yards. hudson yards aerial train tracksIn 1987, when tracks that were needed to reach the yards were placed in service, they were helpful in making the northern portion of Penn Station into a thru-station increasing its capacity. This feature would be retained even if the yards are closed, since trains would continue to a two-track station that would be retained to provide access to West Side development sites. Finally, storing trains overnight in the center of the city, sending them empty to the suburbs to fetch passengers and then doing the same thing at the end of the day is costly. If rail yards cannot be built in the closer in suburbs, then the solution is to increase the utilization of the bi-level, dual-mode locomotive-hauled fleet which can be stored in existing underutilized yards much further to the east. These trains could be operated as thru-trains between points in Long Island and points in NJ. This need not wait for generations, but can be put into place over the next two to three years. This does require institutions to cooperate. Short of a full merger of all three commuter rail lines that serve the region, inter-operability agreements can be accomplished where the political will exists to press operators to move forward. With NY and NJ facing severe fiscal constraints, now is the time for agencies to work toward common solutions that save cost and improve service. The time for the LIRR West Side Yard has come and gone. The stakes are too high to preserve the status quo!

World-Class Train Stations

Wednesday, April 30, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society Christopher Brown, author of Still Standing: A Century of Urban Train Stations will use his visual survey of stations from St. Louis to Istanbul to trace the development of the urban train station from its beginnings in the 1820s to the end of the 20th century era of station-building in the 1950s. Architect Andrew Whalley, partner at Grimshaw Architects, will draw on his experience as partner-in-charge of Paddington station and Waterloo’s Eurostar terminal in London to discuss the design of today’s train stations worldwide. The program will be introduced by Hugh Hardy, FAIA, founder of H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, LLC and moderated by Alexandros Washburn, chief urban designer, New York City Department of City Planning. $15, $12 MAS members. NOTE: We are no longer taking advance reservations for this event, but seats are still available, so please show up and purchase your ticket at the door.

The Heart of the City: Grand Central Terminal & The Urban Railroad Station

Wednesday, May 28, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society Great railroad stations are often not just gateways to cities, but are the beating hearts of cities. Midtown Manhattan is unimaginable without Grand Central Terminal, which defines Midtown’s circulation patterns, gathers and dispenses people, moves the masses with a functional elan that Continue Reading>>

Ask George: “The Mother of All Train Station Connections”

Reader: “Is there a way to connect Grand Central to Penn Station? Have there been any plans to do so?” Mr. Haikalis: Yes, in fact a plan was put forward in 2003. The original plans for the new train tunnel under the Hudson River – known as Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) – proposed bringing the new 2-track tunnel directly into existing tracks and platforms at Penn Station, and then continuing under 31st Street and Park Avenue to existing tracks and platforms on the Lower Level of Grand Central Terminal (see green tracks in figure below). penn station train connection map old This plan – the mother of all train station connections – would have tied the two stations together, permitting thru train service between points in Westchester-Connecticut and points in New Jersey. The plan called for using existing tracks and platforms at the two stations, taking advantage of unique elements that were incorporated into their design when they were built nearly a century ago. The Major Investment Study (MIS) phase of planning found that this plan – known as Alternative G – would have cost the least to build and operate, attracted the most riders, and diverted the greatest number of motorists of three final alternatives studied (click here to read the report). It would have afforded West of Hudson riders easy access to Manhattan’s East Side, the nation’s premier commercial district, and would have made it easier for workers from points north of NYC to reach growing West Midtown developments. Furthermore, it would have allowed Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor trains to serve both business centers en route from Washington to Boston, making the train more competitive with air travel. The MIS planning study found no “fatal flaws” in the connection. But a key to making this plan work is for NJ Transit trains to operate on Metro-North tracks and vice versa. These inter-operability agreements are quite common in the freight industry, and could be negotiated between the two transit carriers. It’s a matter of political will. map midtown west trains moynihan The leadership in both states declined to advance this very attractive plan. Instead, NJ Transit was left to “go it alone”, pressing for a deep cavern dead-end station 140 feet below 34th Street and Macy’s. This plan is costly, inconvenient and poses a clear security risk. It obviously lacks the connection to Grand Central. In fact, it doesn’t even have a connection into Penn Station. The red line into Penn Station in the figure above has been dropped from the project! Now with both states facing severe budget challenges, it is especially important to move forward on a more cost-effective plan — Alternative G. More questions about ARC? Want to know more about Sunnyside Yards, connecting Metro North to Penn Station, or the possibilities of light rail in New York? Please submit questions in the comments section.

MAS Planning Center Forum: Elected Officials Respond to Communities That Plan for Themselves

Monday, March 24, 6:00 p.m., at The Municipal Art Society, 457 Madison Avenue MAP Launching the fifth edition of Planning for All New Yorkers: the Atlas of Community-Based Plans, this forum features panelists Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Continue Reading>>

Moynihan Station: What Needs to Happen Next

moynihan penn station concept rendering somTuesday, May 13, 6:30 – 8:00 p.m., at the Municipal Art Society The construction of Moynihan Station is the single most critical civic project planned for New York City this decade. Penn Station, this country’s busiest transportation center, is overcapacity and inefficient. A modern, state-of-the-art train station would revitalize the surrounding district and be the most effective catalyst for development on the Far West Side of Manhattan. Continue Reading>>