Image courtesy of KPF
It’s interesting how so many eminent domain blog posts from us also happen to include public transportation. This time we found out about Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), the former Councilwoman who is pushing for a passenger rail line on the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk branch, which runs 8.5 miles between Long Island City and Jamaica. This new line, if plans come to fruition, could be used to bring new passenger rail service to communities like Maspeth and Glendale. Currently, there are no subway stops. The hope is that this small and rarely used stretch of train tracks in Queens could be helpful in filling transit deserts.
If you seem to recall that there was service to the area way back when, you would be right. Until 1998, the LIRR ran commuter trains along the line, but the MTA closed it when ridership became low. Currently, the tracks service freight trains and are used as an extra storage space for Sunnyside Yard.
Crowley commissioned an independent feasibility study in 2017, which was completed shortly after she left office in early 2018. The proposal is to bring nine stops to the stretch. How much would it cost? An estimated $2.2 billion and would serve about 21,000 weekday riders.
The project would be paid for by selling off MTA air rights and tax schemes like transit-oriented development. Half of the money would go towards upgrading freight operations.
Speaking to a Daily News reporter, Crowley said, “Queens is not getting its fair share of transit and local residents feel beyond frustrated with their daily commutes times,” said Crowley. “Trains would run on existing MTA owned rights of way, the line could be used immediately without eminent domain.”
Did you read our blog post last week about the Second Ave subway line? Note the cost when you re-read it! For this project, since the MTA already owns the tracks, the project would cost $259 million per mile to complete. If you recall, that’s a lot less than the $2.5 billion the agency spent building each mile of the Second Avenue subway. For reference, the Second Avenue subway line has about 69,000 paying riders each weekday when counted in 2017.
Those in opposition to the plan say it’s too much money for too few passengers. Supporters note that the areas it will serve expect to boom in the coming years. They site growth in areas such as Long Island City, Downtown Jamaica, and areas near JFK.
As one advocate put it…“You just can’t get to some places in Queens without going into Manhattan and coming back out again,” said Dorothy Morehead of Queens Community Board 3. “That’s crazy, I think it (the line) would be very good for everybody.”
Photo credit: Untapped Cities
Anytime New Yorkers hear about an upgrade in public transportation it probably starts off with excitement and ends with either dismay, frustration, apathy or all of the above. The people of East Harlem have been hearing about a planned train for some time. The stop is slated to be on Second Avenue at 106th and 116th streets, and two more on 125th street and on Lexington Avenue.
Here’s the part that gets residents feeling frustrated. Preliminary MTA plans for the new subway lines require, you guessed it, eminent domain. It is possible that several dozen of properties, some even say up to 41 properties, will be taken through eminent domain. This would result in the displacing hundreds of people along the Q train’s planned path.
No one knows the exact numbers just yet, but in the case of so many of these projects, the MTA still needs billions of dollars for funding to even start. As you may have heard, this year’s Trump administration budget has included zero dollars for the project.
The City, a local news outlet that covers NYC, went through the federally approved 230-page document. Their reporters note that “on the 23rd page of the sixth section… the MTA’s plan is laid out in black and white: The subway construction is slated to permanently displace 505 workers and 140 residential tenants.”
This is by far the largest property seizure in recent MTA history. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side displaced 56 residential tenants. It is also triple what the MTA estimated in 2004 for a preliminary plan for the East Harlem portion of the train project.
Eminent Domain could affect a variety of businesses from large development lots on East 125th Street to hair salons, bodegas and small apartment buildings farther south.
For many who have grown-up and continued to live in buildings all of their lives, the thought of leaving is difficult. It can also be difficult for those who wish to sell their property, as buyers often do not want to be caught in an eminent domain battle. For commercial businesses, it can be a difficult decision whether to stay or go, and information is difficult to come by. Often residents find out at local community board meetings.
Commercial tenants are entitled to compensation. The Uniform Federal Relocation Act requires the State to reimburse losses caused by moving the business, among other things.
According to the MTA, officials say that they alerted property owners about the possibility it would take their properties in letters sent beginning in May. Residents say that this is not the case and that they have not received any information. Even if the construction began in mid-2019, it is not expected to be completed until 2029. We will keep you posted…
Photo credit: The Architect's Newspaper
They say eminent domain, we say blog!
Although it seems like every project has a budget overage, this one is really impressive. We’ve blogged about the Gowanus Canal sewage-tanks and about the preservation efforts surrounding the historic Gowanus Station Building. Now we are ready to discuss a news update reporting that the price of the two sewage retention tanks the city will construct as part of the effort to clean up of the area has increased.
The reason why we call it news is because that budget number has jumped more than 15 times beyond initial estimates. Go ahead, do the math…the original projected budget was $78 million and now it’s up to $1.2 billion. That’s even double the estimated cost of the entire Superfund cleanup. Those numbers came from The Brooklyn Eagle, by the way.
What’s to blame for the budget estimate increase? Eminent Domain of course! The city is planning on building the two tanks on private land acquired through eminent domain. Meaning that the city is not using city-owned property nearby that was recommended by the EPA. City officials say that the federal estimate was too conservative (no one ever gets NY prices, unless you’re from LA) and did not take into consideration the preservation of the historic Gowanus Station Building. (Remember that blog post?)
The low federal estimate also was considered by the EPA to have problems because it considered only simplistic construction methods and ignored community impact. The original cleanup budget in 2013 as proposed by the EPA was $506 million. That would include cleanup of industrial and sewer discharges. The cost of the tanks is being picked up by the city with help from National Grid.
"DEP has built several CSO facilities and since 2013 has consistently estimated the project costs in excess of $700 million," read the statement a DEP spokesperson provided Crain's.
Those following our blog also note that the plans have changed all together from the building of two tanks, one 8 million gallons and the other 4 million gallons) which would divert sewage and stormwater away from the canal to an alternative plan in the form of a tunnel. The tunnel could store up to 16 million gallons of sewage and stormwater overflow.
"DEP’s proposed tunnel alternative would include more storage, be scalable to accommodate increased population growth and cause less disruption during construction – clearly a much bigger bang for New Yorkers’ buck," a spokesperson said.
Whatever is decided, this is one project that just will not be left by the wayside. The cleanup is part of a major re-envisioning project for the Gowanus neighborhood. The area has gone from industrial to more residential, with plans to become "the centerpiece of a green, resilient neighborhood" with mixed-use development around parks and community resources. That’s according to a draft zoning proposal from the Department of City Planning.
What we do know right now is that there might be more than a few new blog posts on this topic as the budget and the project moves forward.