Monday, February 06, 2006

I Got A Simpler, Cheaper Idea...

Bloomberg still pushing for West Side development


February 6, 2006

After Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed West Side stadium was nixed last spring, the spotlight swung to lower Manhattan, with the mayor urging changes in the plans for the World Trade Center site.

But even as the drama plays out downtown, Bloomberg insists he is determined to see the far West Side blossom with development.

The mayor's newest budget plan, unveiled last week, retains the unusual financing plan, previously approved by the City Council, for extending the No. 7 train line from Times Square to a new terminus at West 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue and making other improvements.

An entity created in July 2004, called the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corp., would issue about $3 billion in bonds over six years for the train line and for a platform over the rail yards east of Eleventh Avenue between 34th and 35th streets.

According to the Bloomberg plan, several office towers and the structure for a cultural center would go into that space. A park and street network would go north of the rail yards. These changes would make way for 24 million square feet of office space and more than 13,000 residential units over 30 years, officials say.

Government building projects usually are funded by issuing bonds, perhaps subject to referendum, which are repaid out of tax revenue.

The city, however, has a crowded construction agenda, including plans for billions of dollars' worth of schools. And, as Bloomberg pointed out in his presentation last Tuesday, the city also faces rising debt costs and a legal ceiling on how much it can owe at once.

To keep the West Side financing off the capital budget, the city plans as before to fund these improvements with future income from the sales and rental of all that new commercial and residential property. While work proceeds, interest on the bonds would be paid out of city revenue.
Now, this sort of makes sense to me, except for one thing: we've done this kind of commercial capitalization program before (in the sense that the city has given away enormous tax breaks to keep companies in the city), and while it's been pretty successful, it's also dumped the lion's share of city tax revenues onto the backs of individual residents.

And then I see this:
Mayor shortchanging MTA, advocates say


February 6, 2006

Transit advocates are once again accusing the mayor of shortchanging the MTA.

Mayor Bloomberg allotted $595 million for the MTA in fiscal year 2007 in his latest budget proposal. But the Straphangers Campaign said that number is far too low and will add to the MTA's long-term structural deficit. Although the MTA ended 2005 with a $1 billion surplus it still projects a $1 billion deficit in 2009.

"That's nowhere near a fair share," said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney with the Straphangers Campaign. "The city should be giving more to help run a system that keeps the city running."

Transit advocates have long criticized both the city and state in recent years for curtailing subsidies to the MTA. To make up for the shortfall, the MTA has had to borrow more money and raise fares.

"In recent years, the city has only contributed about 3% of the New York City Transit budget of $6 billion," Russianoff said. New York City Transit is the MTA subsidiary the runs the subway and buses.
...and I says to myself, "Self, what would happen if we combined these two articles? What conclusion or idea can we draw from them?

Multiple personality disorder. Sometimes it can actually be a benefit.

Anyway, the answer becomes enormously clear: we can develop the West Side AND kick more money to NYCTA if we do one simple thing.

Merely extend the #7 train to the planned route.

The difficulty in the rail yards in terms of development isn't that people don't want to live and work there. Hell, it's nearly waterfront property! The problem is getting them there.

Currently the district is served by only a handful of bus lines, two of which service the Times and Herald Square areas as well (and are thus very fact, the M34 is consistently ranked the worst bus line by the Straphangers' Campaign). Imagine trying to attract workers to an area where it's easier to get your car to (the Lincoln Tunnel entrance is within blocks of the district) than commuting by public transportation.

Mr. Mayor, if you build it, they will come. Suddenly, you have reliable, efficient public transportation (the #7 train is consistently ranked among the top three by the Straphangers Campaign). Suddenly, a major obstacle for developers is removed. Suddenly, the area is attractive.

And the charm of this plan is, growth will happen organically, evolving and thus minimizing discomfort to residents who already live and work there! It's nearly a win-win all around!

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