7 unfinished NYC infrastructure projects poised to change the city in the 2020s
New York City is no stranger to colossal infrastructure and development projects that often come with harrowing delays. The past decade was no exception, with a handful of major projects that have been years (or decades) in the making finally coming into focus—though some are still a long ways off from crossing the finish line.
Some of these efforts, like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access, have chugged along through the terms of several governors and mayors, but finally made significant progress in the past 10 years. Others are on the cusp of completion after excruciating setbacks, and others still—including the Willets Point and Sunnyside Yard megaprojects—are still in the planning phases. It remains to be seen how these massive developments will reshape their surrounding communities.
Below we’ve broken down some of the decade’s unfinished business in New York City, with seven highly-anticipated projects for which the next 10 years will prove pivotal.
East Side Access
When the MTA’s massive project to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal was formally proposed in the mid-1990s during Gov. George Pataki’s administration, it was estimated to cost $4.3 billion and was scheduled for completion by 2009. But the effort moved at a bewilderedly sluggish pace due to poor planning, with budget overruns and numerous delays. It has outlived several governors—the baton passed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he took office in 2011—and nearly tripled in price to $11.1 billion. Now, the whole thing is finally expected to wrap up in 2022, 13 years behind schedule. (“We’re going to finish this if I have to go down there with a shovel myself,” an exasperated Cuomo said of the project in April.)
After 12 years of construction, it seems East Side Access—which includes building seven miles of new tracks under the East River and a cavernous set of new train platforms beneath Grand Central—may actually be on the verge of completion. The effort is more than 70 percent done, but finishing East Side Access requires $798 million in the MTA’s next five-year capital plan—the latest price tag bump for the project.
The new link, which MTA officials say will begin ferrying commuters in December 2022, will accommodate some 160,000 riders per day and is expected to save commuters some 40 minutes by allowing them to bypass Penn Station.
Second Avenue Subway
After taking nearly a century to complete, the first phase of the Second Avenue subway opened to much fanfare in 2017. The effort, which cost about $4.4 billion, was the most ambitious expansion of the city’s subway system in a half century.
That said, it’s much shorter than what has long been envisioned for the Second Avenue line. Initial plans proposed new tubes running the length of Manhattan to help ease the burden on the Lexington Avenue line. For now, it is a two-mile extension of the Q line with new stations at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets. Eventually, the MTA will extend the line north with three more stops at 106th, 116th, and 125th Street in East Harlem, and planning is making incremental progress. The Federal Transit Administration green-lit the second phase in late 2018 by issuing what it calls a “Finding of No Significant Impact” designation.
But there are still other obstacles beyond approvals and securing funding. Building the second phase will require taking over dozens of properties and could displace up to 505 employees and 170 residents along the line’s future path. It remains to be seen precisely how many properties the authority will need to acquire, and officials don’t have a timeline or cost estimates for such acquisitions. It will also have an enormous impact on the area, turning a swath of it into a construction zone for years, and leaving neighbors little choice but to flee or endure years of noise, dust, and major impacts on local businesses.
Plans to redevelop a gritty corner of Queens known as the Iron Triangle were first conceived in the early years of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, when an advisory committee crafted a master plan for what the mayor dubbed one of “New York City’s next great neighborhoods
But gradually, staunch advocates for the project grew disenchanted as Bloomberg rejiggered the deal with developers (currently Related Companies and Sterling Equities), sending nearly 2,000 affordable apartments into a nebulous future. And when a revised 2012 plan introduced a gigantic shopping mall, community advocates felt betrayed. A 2015 lawsuit by local leaders all but killed the plan when a state court ruled that the city could not take a hunk of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to build the mall.
Now, the project is back in play after the de Blasio administration resurrected the effort in 2018 and struck a new deal with the original developers. A mall is notably absent from the new plan; instead, the latest proposal includes 1,100 apartments for low-and middle-income New Yorkers, a 450-seat school, and open space on six acres at Willets Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue. A vision for the site’s remaining 17 acres is currently being determined by a community advisory committee, which in January recommended a pair of development scenarios: more mixed-use development or a 25,000-seat soccer stadium. The developers will use that input to draft plans for the city, but there is no deadline for when that new proposal will land.
The article was published on ny.curbed.com