The adopted New York State budget approved $1.3 billion toward the $16 billion Empire Station Complex is just the first installment. The funds are suppose to pay for transit improvements at NY Penn Station. It will be years before the environmental review process along with design and engineering are completed and any construction contracts can be awarded to support any transit improvements.
There remains a fatal financial flaw for the overall funding package. This $16 billion project, just like the Port Authority $10 billion new 42nd Street midtown Manhattan bus Terminal, are both counting on the sale of air rights as a source for billions to help defray construction costs. There is a glut of surplus office space in Hudson Yards west of Penn Station and other Manhattan neighborhoods The Penn Station Empire Station Complex and Port Authority Bus Terminal projects are both located on the west side of midtown Manhattan only eight blocks apart from each other. They will be competing against each other for tenants.
If the air rights sale generates less than anticipated revenue, the shortfall could be in the billions. This deficit will have to be made up by the project sponsor, the Empire State Development Corporation. They will look toward the states of NY and NJ, MTA and NJ Transit for a financial bailout. This means higher MTA and Port Authority bridge tolls, fare increases for NJ Transit, LIRR and NYC Transit subway riders, along with other tax increases and user fees.
Governor Cuomo attempts to portray himself as the second coming of President Franklin Roosevelt and Master Builder Robert Moses. He is not an engineer, business person, transportation expert or daily commuter. He has never built a business from scratch or created significant number of new good paying jobs on his own.
He reminds me of J. Wellington Wimpy who famously said “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Tuesday may never come for taxpayers and commuters. They will have to pay for all the transportation goodies promised by Cuomo within their lifetime.
(Larry Penner — transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island and Metro North R
ail Roads, MTA Bus, NJ Transit, NYC Department of Transportation along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).