"The Future Beneath Us"

In a new exhibit, the New York Public Library and New York Transit Museum demystify the WTFs of eight major city projects.

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  • 7 subway extension

  • 7 subway extension

  • 7 subway extension

  • City Water Tunnel #3

  • East Side Access

  • East Side Access

  • East Side Access

  • Fulton Street Transit Center

  • Fulton Street Transit Center

  • Fulton Street Transit Center

  • Fulton Street Transit Center

  • Second Avenue subway

  • World Trade Center Transportation Hub

7 subway extension

Fulton Street Transit Center


The lowdown The grimy suckfest that is the Fulton Street station will get a spiffy upgrade, with a centralized hub and easier-to-navigate tunnels.
Projected date of completion: They ain’t sayin’ yet.
Controversy! The project has been lurching along in fits and starts: As costs have risen, the original design has been altered several times. (Dome? No dome! Dome? Yes, dome!)
Skeptic’s corner “We’re committed to projects that will help revitalize lower Manhattan,” says Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “But it’s frustrating to watch costs creep up.”
What’s in it for you? Transferring from the 2 to the 5 will no longer qualify as an aerobic workout, and there’ll be a free transfer between the Cortlandt St R/W station and the E at World Trade Center.

Second Avenue subway


The lowdown The new line—more than six decades in the making—will run along Second Avenue from 125th Street to Hanover Square.
Projected date of completion: 2015 (uh-huh)
Controversy! Construction is disruptive; according to a recent Crain’s report, at least seven business owners along Second Avenue have closed shop, with more to follow.
Skeptic’s corner Um, this idea has been kicked around since the 1940s. We don’t care if they’ve broken ground—we’ll believe it when we see it.
What’s in it for you? “There’s a strong case for anything that decongests the Lexington line,” says Russianoff. After being stuffed under someone’s armpit on a 4, we couldn’t agree more.

7 subway extension


The lowdown Far West Siders will have access to a train—at last!—as the 7 is lengthened and a station is built at 34th Street and Eleventh Avenue.
Projected date of completion: 2013
Controversy! The extension coincides with the Hudson Yards redevelopment project; it was supposed to serve two stations, but budget cuts dropped it to one.
Skeptic’s corner “The density and development in that area doesn’t merit the project,” says Russianoff. “That money could be better used in other places.”
What’s in it for you? Let’s face it—Midtown West is pretty desolate. High Line and the Javits Center notwithstanding, why bother?

World Trade Center Transportation Hub


The lowdown The Santiago Calatrava--designed station will be home to the WTC PATH and will connect to the new Fulton Street Transit Center.
Projected date of completion: 2013--2014
Controversy! Original plans for the hub included an aboveground structure with ribbed “wings” that would open and close; that was scrapped in 2008 due to—what else?— costs.
Skeptic’s corner The design has been changed many times and the opening date pushed back three years. We’re not saying it won’t happen, but c’mon people...
What’s in it for you? As the WTC site grows—with office and residential space, plus the National September 11 Memorial & Museum—the new hub will allow easier access for riders and visitors.

City Water Tunnel #3


The lowdown When the tunnel—the largest capital-construction project in city history—is done, 60-plus miles of track will bring in water from upstate reservoirs.
Projected date of completion: 2020
Controversy! Tunnel workers, called “sandhogs,” risk their lives constantly. On the plus side, they’re handsomely paid for their labor—up to $100,000 annually.
Skeptic’s corner Despite massive budget gaps—recent reports have the number at $4 billion—the city is determined to keep the tunnel a priority.
What’s in it for you? The two water tunnels currently in use were built in 1917 and 1936; having the new tunnel will allow for more extensive repairs, and it’s a backup in case either fails.

East Side Access


The lowdown A new terminal beneath Grand Central will connect the LIRR’s Main and Port Washington lines to the East Side of Manhattan.
Projected date of completion: 2015
Controversy! It ain’t cheap; sources estimate this project will cost more than $7.24 billion by the time it’s done.
Skeptic’s corner Some MTA board members think the project is useless without the creation of a third line on the main leg of the LIRR.
What’s in it for you? Congestion in Penn Station will decrease as more LIRR trains are diverted to the East Side tunnels; ostensibly, congestion on trains will decrease too.

Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel
The lowdown The Port Authority of New Jersey is building a new two-track tunnel between New Jersey and New York, specifically to reduce congestion on NJ Transit trains.
Projected date of completion: “We’re hoping to break ground this year, and we’re expecting it to be completed in 2017,” says T-HE spokesperson Paul Wyckoff.
Controversy! The National Association of Railroad Passengers recently argued that the plan, which will build a new NJ Transit station some 150 feet below Penn Station, will increase security concerns and cost more than simply connecting the new tunnels to Penn Station.
Skeptic’s corner Critics, including Amtrak and elected officials in New Jersey, claim that the plans for the project are inadequate to serve the growing population; plus, the budget grew from $7.6 billion to $9 billion.
What’s in it for you? Says Wyckoff, “This is a boon for riders; ridership is expected to double over the next 20 years, and we’re already at capacity. Right now we can only run 23 trains per hour; when the tunnel is completed, we’ll be able to run 48 per hour.”

Water filtration system
The lowdown The Croton Water Filtration Plant, currently in progress under Van Cortlandt Park, will be the city’s first such facility for drinking water.
Projected date of completion: 2012
Controversy! The city was ordered to complete the plant by 2006, and had to pay fines when it missed its deadline. Now, the total cost is estimated to surpass $3 billion.
Skeptic’s corner Advocacy groups believe that the plant’s construction is contaminating the water surrounding it, and claim that more than 40 acres of Van Cortlandt Park will have to be razed before construction is finished.
What’s in it for you? Water from the Croton System will finally be filtered! But park life will be disrupted and water bills will rise to pay for the cost. We’re calling this a no-win situation for now.

LEARN MORE! “The Future Beneath Us: Eight Great Projects Under New York”: Healy Hall, Science, Industry and Business Library (188 Madison Ave at 34th St; 212-592-7000, nypl.org; Mon, Fri, Sat 11am--6pm; Tue, Wed, Thu 10am--8pm; Tue 17--July 5, free) and the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex & Store (Grand Central Terminal, 42nd St and Vanderbilt Ave; 212-878-0106, mta.info/museum; Mon--Fri 8am--8pm; Sat, Sun 10am--6pm; Sun 15--July 5, free).

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