New York City subway extension may transform Manhattan neighborhood

Thu Dec 18, 2014 7:05am EST
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Work crews are scrambling underneath New York City to finish the city's first major new subway stop in 25 years, a fast-track project intended to revitalize a long-neglected slice of Manhattan.

The city's transit authority has been working for seven years on the $2.4 billion extension of the Number 7 subway line, once known mainly for transporting fans to New York Mets baseball games and the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Now the line will extend far west to 11th Avenue in Manhattan, a run-down neighborhood long known as Hell's Kitchen that is home to a major bus station and tunnel entrances to New Jersey.

Like most big infrastructure projects in U.S. cities, the extension has suffered some delays, but it has moved along far faster than a Second Avenue subway that is still under construction after more than 80 years of planning.

The project was sped along by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came up with a novel financing structure that allowed the project to avoid the time-consuming process of seeking federal funding but has drawn some critics who contend it leaves local taxpayers on the hook for decades.

Problems with a fire alarm and security system have pushed completion until April 2015, said Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which runs the city's subways, buses and some commuter rail. Previous delays were blamed on mechanical failures of two inclined elevators to carry passengers to street level.

"It's a very, very important subway extension. It's going to be huge," said Kenneth T. Jackson, who teaches history and social sciences at Columbia University and editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City.

The new station is intended to be the linchpin of the Hudson Yards development, with more than a dozen skyscrapers, a cultural center and parks replacing a neighborhood once dominated by rundown industrial buildings.

Key to the project's success is its route, through the city's busiest transit hubs of Grand Central and Times Square, opening up the far west side to the entire mass transit system, said Mitchell Moss, professor of urban planning at New York University. It will also serve as an entry point to the popular High Line elevated park.   Continued...