Tuesday’s Headlines: More Penn Station Boondoggle Edition
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Lipstick, meet pig.
The big news on Monday was a cheerleading press release from Gov. Hochul hailing the “deal” she and Mayor Adams had inked over dividing up the supposed benefits from the real estate deal that will supposedly (but won’t) fund the complete rehabilitation of Penn Station from a sewer into a world-class transit hub.
The “deal” is one of those classic agreements where politicians boast that they have created so much new money that the only challenge is figuring out how to divide all the riches. (Reminder: These deals always end up failing to meet their lofty promises.)
Our friends at Reinvent Albany have been sounding the alarm for months (most recently with a scholarly takedown of the deal, which will enrich Vornado more than it will enrich the public), but was joined on Tuesday morning by the Daily News editorial board, which posted a three-part critique of the scheme:
- Part I followed up on the Reinvent Albany report and argued that the finances of the deal don’t add up. Best line? “To call this math slapdash insults the backs of envelopes.”
- Part II stuck to the paper’s longtime support for repairing the existing tunnels between New Jersey and New York before building new ones. This is a bit of a side issue for us, as we are not about to argue engineering when so many other issues are at stake.
- Part III got back to a big issue with the Penn Station redevelopment: Transparency. In sum? “[Hochul’s] Penn Station financing plan, while failing to produce anywhere near the promised billions to fix Penn, is maddeningly opaque. The city Independent Budget Office couldn’t even crunch any public numbers, because there are none.”
Like the News and Reinvent Albany, transit advocates remain stunned that so few details are publicly known in advance of Thursday’s Empire State Development board meeting, where the general project plan is expected to be rubber-stamped. It’s unclear how much each component of the project — Penn Station refurbishment, Penn Station expansion, Gateway tunnels, and supposed public realm improvements — will cost; we don’t know the full calorie count of the sweetheart being handed to Vornado; we don’t know how much taxpayers will have to pay; and, most important, we don’t like the line in Hochul’s press release that talks about only the “potential expansion of Penn Station,” given that we believe thru-running trains and other improvements to knit together the region’s disparate transit systems is so crucial.
Adams is definitely "three kids in a trenchcoat" showing up to this negotiation
— Affleck From The Block (@brianvan) July 18, 2022
All the papers (except for the Times) covered it in their own way:
- The Daily News focused on the benefits to developers and the opaque math.
- The Post focused on how the state will have to reimburse the city for lost tax revenue.
- amNY played it more or less straight, but couldn’t hide that the numbers don’t add up.
- Gothamist also played it straight, but quoted the mayor as basically offering hopes and prayers: “We know the devil is still in the details; we still mapping it out, but we feel confident that this project is a much-needed improvement in the Penn Station area.”
Let’s see if this runaway train can be derailed.
In other news:
- Former Mayor de Blasio is still struggling in his race for a congressional seat drawn to elect a progressive (NY Post, PoliticsNY). Perhaps he could generate a little traction if he’d only put some campaign positions on his website? Meanwhile, the candidates will debate tonight on environmental issues at Cooper Union. (Transportation Alternatives)
- Another reason why the MTA needs to reopen subway bathrooms? The No. 3 train is really becoming the No. 1 and No. 2 train. (The City)
- A Parks Department worker driving a Ford F-250 killed a man who was sleeping on the beach in Coney Island. (NY Post, Gothamist, Newsday)
- The Post got a second day of dehumanizing a homeless man who happens to live on the Manhattan Bridge.
- A motorcyclist struck a pedestrian in Harlem. (NYDN)
- The Regional Plan Association wants to beat parking lots into bioswales. (Gothamist)
- Speaking of parking, Crain’s did a story about the garage industry that included this interesting comment from David Schwartz, whose firm, Slate Property Group Principal, builds affordable housing: “Many developers would not build parking if they weren’t required to. I wouldn’t build most of my garages if I didn’t have to.” Welcome to the war on cars, David!
- Take a moment to tell the DOT how you feel about bike lanes in Flatbush and East Flatbush. (SurveyMonkey)
- The Post had video of the moment when an FDNY first responder had his leg snapped when a car fell on him.
- Finally, if you didn’t know it rained yesterday, all you had to do was take a subway ride. (NY Post, Gothamist, Subway Creatures via Twitter). Also, a heat wave is coming. (NY Times)
— Rick (@SubwayCreatures) July 18, 2022