Will “Atlantic Yards” Kill the JFK-Lower Manhattan Rail Link?

The Atlantic Yards plan superimposed on the released JFK-to-Lower Manhattan rail link study (PDF docs). Click here for a much bigger map.

Jonathan Cohn at BrooklynViews is reporting that the current plan for Forest City Enterprises’ Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn appears to preclude the possibility of someday building one of the Pataki Administration’s favorite regional transit projects, the fabled "one seat ride" rail link from Lower Manhattan to JFK Airport (and Long Island). Perhaps some of the transportation pros and policy wonks here on Streetsblog can shed some light on this:

We have no reason to believe that the current plan for Atlantic Yards is making any provision for the rail link. The MTA’s belated Request for Proposals for the disposition of Vanderbilt Yard indicated that the only operational issues that need to be considered are to provide additional storage; it made no mention of accommodating a possible future rail link. And in the Memorandum of Understanding between Forest City Ratner and the MTA, the required ongoing operational functions of Vanderbilt Yard are listed, but there is no mention of intent to provide for a future rail link. The only mention of the rail link in the EIS came in responses to questions, which basically state that the link was not studied since it will have its own EIS (Responses 29, 13-42). In other words, whatever will happen is of no concern to this project.

Cohn editorializes:

If the purpose and need of the Atlantic Yards project is that it will be so great for the region, so great that we should ignore the local neighborhood whining about density and such, why is there no transportation plan associated with it? While we’re rediscovering Robert Moses, let’s recognize what it was about big plans that helped the development of the region: Robert Moses realized that transportation was key. He opposed creating a venue event that would stop-up the flow of traffic in this area. Why don’t we have a real intermodal project that orchestrates the trains, bus facilities, taxi stands and bicycles and yes, a possible rail link from Lower Manhattan to Long Island and JFK? Isn’t there an opportunity to locate a state-of-the-art station here? Instead we have a plan to locate a plug of 3800 cars in an existing bottleneck.

  • JF

    Good catch, Mr. Cohn! I’d even look at it the other way: is it too paranoid to think that the state may not be interested in the Lower Manhattan-Jamaica rail link at all, except as a way to siphon off funds from the Second Avenue Subway?

    Maybe too paranoid. It’s probably just one hand not knowing what the other one is doing. After all, Hanlon’s Razor states, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

  • Eric


    I have a feeling that when it comes to big developer-driven projects, a la Atlantic Yards, one hand ALWAYS knows what the other hand is doing, and whose pockets the money’s coming out of and flowing into.

    More likely, no Pataki law school chum had yet signed on to build the rail link, so Ratner got dibs.

    This again illustrates New York’s total lack of planning vision. It’s great that we have a 2030 initiative, but at this rate, all good ideas will be dead-ended due to this kind of short-term incompetence (or is it venality?).

  • JF

    Maybe you’re right, Eric. I just find it hard to believe that even the most cynical politician would waste $2 billion in funding on an un-fulfillable project.

    In any case, Pataki is out now, so maybe something can be done about this before it’s too late.

    I don’t really mind if this thing never gets built; I just don’t want that $2 billion going to waste.

  • webster

    JF said:

    “I have a feeling that when it comes to big developer-driven projects, a la Atlantic Yards, one hand ALWAYS knows what the other hand is doing, and whose pockets the money’s coming out of and flowing into.”

    Not so sure that is the case, since apparently the DOT’s plans for reconstructing the BQE cantilever alongside Brooklyn Heights requires it to rip up *brand* new park development and use the area as a construction staging ground.

    Yep, they build the park ($$$$), and then DOT comes in and tears apart the heart of it in order to rebuild the BQE cantilever just a few years later.

    The park plan folks and Port Authority folks had no idea the DOT folks had this in store for their park. They *just* found out about these DOT plans.

    Classic example of major city agencies not working with others on key projects, and the left hand not coordinated with the right hand as the saying implies.



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