Monday, February 19, 2007

Will Atlantic Yards Preclude the One Seat Ride to JFK?

The AY plan superimposed on the released rail link study (South is up)
While no one seems to know exactly how to find the holy grail of Lower Manhattan development - the one seat ride to JFK airport (or, as some say, the commuter rail link from Long Island to Lower Manhattan) – there is no shortage of ideas. Post 9/11, the link has been seen by many as a critical component to the region’s growth, and there has been strong support for the idea from both the city and state. In a press-release in May, 2004, Governor Pataki said: “It is projected that the rail link will result in an increased economic output of $6 to 8 billion annually, generated in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and as much as $9 to $12 billion in the region as a whole”. And one thing that all likely plans have in common is a rail by-pass at the LIRR Atlantic Terminal. Will this opportunity be precluded by the current plans for Atlantic Yards?

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. (Sort of like the bad old days when the streets get ripped up for one project, repaved, then ripped up the next week by another city agency. Paid for by guess-who. Only here we’re talking billions.)

The plans for the rail link from Long Island to Lower Manhattan have a long, well-known history. Now, after studying dozens of alternatives over several years, the City and State have narrowed the realistic options down to two. And according to recent reports, a new Congress is likely to approve funding for it. According to the June 2005 scoping documents for the rail link, “Both alternatives, in order to access Lower Manhattan, break out of the LIRR Atlantic Branch tunnel east of the LIRR/NYCT Atlantic Terminal”, ie, somewhere near or at Vanderbilt Yard. According to the posted engineering study, it appears that a spur off the existing LIRR right-of-way would slope down and under the existing Vanderbilt Yard, in the footprint of the proposed arena and adjacent towers. There is no excuse for the Atlantic Yards project to preclude the link project.

And here’s the thing: 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.

Now that it looks more likely that a new congress will approve funding for a new rail link to Lower Manhattan, shouldn’t someone be asking how the current plans for the Atlantic Yards project will impact this link?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lower Manhattan LIRR Access is a low priority of the Spitzer administration and most transit advocates so it's likely that project will die soon. If it was built you could always construct it well underneath Atlantic Yards.

You also reference older planning documents. Theoretically the planners are now taking Atlantic Yds. into account in their current studies.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am amazed at this line of thinking.

This isn't a problem for Ratner or for the rail line. It is an ADVANTAGE. It makes Atlantic Yards' density all the more rational since it adds another mass transit line to the mix of 10 plus the LIRR.

It justifies the line because it increases density at a key stop, making it more economically viable.

It further justifies the project in general because it more closely links Lower Manhattan and the Atlantic Yards...and thus serves as competition for Jersey City. There isn't a city development official who hasnt looked at the new Jersey City skyline and thought, we could have had all those jobs, all those tax-producing ratables.

It makes it easier for Manhattan and New Jersey residents to get to and from the arena on game day or event day without using the streets of Brooklyn. One stop from Lower Manhattan. Take the ferry, get on the high speed line. Take the PATH, get on the high speed line. It's easy, it's fast and it's safe.

It would be in the best interest of the critics to VEHEMENTALLY oppose this rail line because it will bring new OFFICE buildings to the area OUTSIDE THE FOOTPRINT of the Yards. An location with one stop access to Lower Manhattan and one or two stop access to JFK would be ideal for high rise office buildings, further rezoning in the area, etc.

As for the engineering drawings made before Atlantic Yards, who cares? They can be scrapped and modified. The point is that that rail line is going to stop at that location. Engineering can be adjusted. No one has put a shovel in the ground on either project.

Once again, you guys miss the point. The lack of sophistication among the critics is jaw-dropping. This isn't about eminent domain for Danny Goldstein and the owners of Freddy's Bar. This is about changing the face of the area. It isn't about Bruce Ratner, who you so easily demonize. It's about the economic forces that are going to shape the city...and the boroughs.

1:34 PM  

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