No, this is not a repeat blog post. We always tell you to stay tuned and this is a good reason why.
Rumors were going around, and not that we spread gossip we just blog about what we hear - that the Second Avenue Subway line was unlikely to start construction again any time soon. Specifically, it was said that the continuing progress of the 8.5 miles of track running down Manhattan’s east side from 125th street to Hanover Square, would never be finished.
We understand why there’s doubt. The line has had endless starts and stops over the decades. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway opened in 2017, yet it had been on the planning board for over 100 years, since 1920! The global pandemic saw major reductions in ridership which sent transit agencies into a financial tailspin and almost resulted in the cancelation of work on the project.
Now the plans are back on and the East Harlem extension will use a 10-block-long tunnel that was constructed back in the 1970s between 110th and 120th streets. The goal was to open the extension by 2027, but that date will be pushed back.
How did the turn-around happen? MTA's budget deficit was reduced by the federal stimulus and could be further reduced by President Biden's upcoming infrastructure bill if it is passed by Congress.
The MTA is making its plans which include pushing ahead with plans to seize more than a dozen privately-owned properties in East Harlem. Most of the properties that the MTA needs are three-story, four-story walk-ups that are largely vacant.
If you’re thinking eminent domain at this point, you’re not alone. The MTA will take advantage of the state's eminent domain law, which allows governments to take private properties if they will be redeveloped for public use. As we all know, eminent domain is nothing new in New York, especially in local development. Cuomo considered eminent domain for the Penn/Empire Station Complex overhaul and Bayonne mayor Jimmy David supported the use of eminent domain in a Bayonne, New Jersey healthcare project.
Governor Cuomo has his sights on infrastructure and even before the new announcement, he vowed that the state would complete the project.
Eminent domain might slow the Second Avenue Subway Project down a bit, but after 101 years, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush. Stay tuned for what we are sure will be more news!
Los Angeles Seaside Resort Property Seized By Eminent DomainTo Be Returned to Descendants of Black Family
Over a century ago, local Los Angeles city leaders seized a Black couple’s seaside resort via eminent domain-for all the wrong reasons. Now, the California county is making it right and returning the property to the descendants of the original owners.
The beachfront property, encompassing two parcels, was purchased in 1912 by Willa and Charles Bruce. The Bruces built the first West Coast resort for Black people, at a time when segregation barred them from many beaches. The resort included a lodge, café, dance hall and dressing tents with bathing suits for rent. Initially it was known as Bruce’s Lodge.
The Bruces, however, were not allowed to live and work in peace. Both white neighbors and the Ku Klux Klan harassed the Bruces and their customers, and there was even an attempt to burn the resort down. Finally, in the 1920’s, the Manhattan Beach City Council used eminent domain to take the land away from the Bruces, claiming it had plans to build a park there.
That “park” was never built. Instead, the property went unused for years, until it was finally transferred to the State of California in 1948. In 1995, the property was transferred to Los Angeles County for beach operations and maintenance. The most recent transfer came with restrictive covenants that limit the ability to sell or transfer the property. Today, a county lifeguard training headquarters building sits on the property, along some of the most prized coastline in Southern California.
Recently, Los Angeles County announced plans to return the prime beachfront property to the Bruces’ descendants. Los Angeles County is the nation's most populated county, and the decision comes at a time of intense discussion about race at the local, state and federal levels over reparations.
At a meeting of the current City Council, members formally acknowledged and condemned city leaders’ efforts in the early 20th century to displace the Bruces and several other Black families-but stopped short of formally apologizing. A return of the land could include an option for the Bruce descendants to lease the land back to the county for continued use.
Manhattan Beach is pretty posh these days. A city of about 35,000 people on the south shore of Santa Monica Bay, it has a picturesque pier that juts into swells prized by surfers. Luxury residences have replaced many of the beach houses along an oceanfront walk called The Strand.
The value of the property has not been assessed, but we’re sure it’s pretty high. As always, we will keep you posted as to this and all other eminent domain news. Stay tuned!
Doesn’t it seem like we can blog about Cuomo’s proposals every week this month? The law firm of Sanchez & Polovetsky, PLLC is based in NYC, so anything New York City related captures our attention. We’ve been hearing lots of news about the expansion of the High Line, and the final authorization of a $1.3 billion loan to fund the “Empire State Complex”-which would update the railway hub for transportation use only.
For a while now, the Penn Station/Madison Square Garden neighborhood was being referred to as a “blighted slum,” and there was serious talk about redeveloping the area by building super tall skyscrapers in place of the current buildings. Cuomo was adamant that such plans be included in the final State budget.
Unfortunately for the Governor, the original redevelopment plans (which included the construction of 10 new skyscrapers) have been trimmed, including for “PENN 15,” the super tall tower that would’ve been comparable in size to the Empire State Building.
Instead of new office towers, money in the approved budget is going to be “used in furtherance of [expanding Penn Station] or other transportation improvement projects and not for above-grade development.”
State legislators opposed to Cuomo’s above-ground vision made sure that the budget limited the redevelopment plans. The approved plans only allow a Penn Station remodel and the expansion of track capacity.
Prior to the most recent news about the State budget, Cuomo had also proposed another extension for the High Line-that would run from 34th Street and 12th Avenue past the Javits Center and cross the West End Highway, ending at Pier 76 and Hudson River Park. Currently, the property is a tow pound run by the NYPD that was scheduled to be vacated by the end of January 2021, with plans to make it into a public park.
The purpose of the High Line expansion is to create more public space and address community concerns about pedestrian access to the west side of Manhattan. Anyone coming in and out of the area around Penn Station knows that there is a lot of traffic and congestion that continues on to Hudson Yards. The cost of the project is estimated at $60 million, which will come from a combination of private and public funds.
We anticipate that more redevelopment news will come our way soon, as NYC is poised for a comeback. Stay tuned!