Two of the city’s greatest public-private projects on Manhattan’s West Side have suffered setbacks in recent weeks. First, various government entities have hinting that Moynihan Station—a $900 million project that ballooned into a $14 billion mega-development—will never see the light of day. Then, a deal between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a real estate developer to create office towers, apartment buildings and parks over the rail yards on the far West Side collapsed. Both projects, Moynihan Station and Hudson Yards, reflect the determination to get things done on a grand scale which has characterized New York in the 21st century. And both have come too close to fruition to fall back now.
The late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s proposal to relocate Penn Station to the magnificent Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue has lost none of its luster. And if his initial vision—a soaring train station acting as an appropriate gateway to the city for commuters and travelers—was subsequently loaded up with plans for office towers, retail stores and a new Madison Square Garden, well, people largely understood that the aim was still noble, and the results—a revitalization of midtown west—well worth the trouble. But the economy slowed, former Governor Eliot Spitzer proved himself unable to bring the competing groups together, and Moynihan Station, together with a new West Side business district, sputtered.
The vision, however, remains intact. And this week, Senator Charles Schumer—never shy about inserting himself in the midst of local conflicts—proposed that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey take over development of Moynihan Station, noting the authority’s experience in large-scale projects, as well as $2 billion the authority has in unused capital funds. Mayor Michael Bloomberg disagreed, pointing out that the authority first needs to accomplish its goals in Lower Manhattan. And Mr. Bloomberg offered the senator a tart suggestion: You work in Washington; show us the money.
The good news, of course, is that the senator and the mayor are tussling over a project that politicians of lesser resolve would simply let wither. The mayor is also moving aggressively to revive the M.T.A.’s Hudson Yards deal with Tishman-Speyer, or with other bidders who may now emerge. While the M.T.A. is a state agency, Mr. Bloomberg has a great deal of sway, not only because of his position, but also because he can green-light $2 billion of city financing toward extending the No. 7 subway line, providing transportation to the thousands of commuters and residents who would be working and living in the new complex.
Both Moynihan Station and Hudson Yards would bring sizable, long-term benefits to the city’s economy. The main thing is to get them both fully on track now, while Mr. Bloomberg is still mayor. There is no guarantee his successor will share his vision and commitment to the large-scale, transformative, private-public projects that bring out the best of New York.
Follow Lisa Medchill via RSS.