Volume 16 • Issue 20 | October 14 - 20, 2003



M.T.A. moves forward on train station

By Albert Amateau

Downtown Express photos by Jessica Mintz
Details of the Corbin Building at 11 John St., which will now be preserved under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plans to build a new subway center at Fulton, John and Nassau Sts.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s latest scenario for a new Fulton St. transit center, intended to simplify the confusing maze where nine subway lines meet, calls for including the venerable Corbin Building as part of a new $750 million station.

Preserving the 115-year-old building at 11 John St. was just one of the issues that William Wheeler, of the M.T.A., addressed at the public meeting last Thursday of the Community Board 1 World Trade Center redevelopment committee.

Because the Corbin Building, completed in 1889, has been nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, “the feds [Federal Transit Administration] say it is part of the central alternative to preserve and include it in the project,” Wheeler said.

The Municipal Art Society and C.B. 1 were among the groups fighting the M.T.A.’s original plan to demolish the Corbin.

Outlining what he characterized as “design goals,” Wheeler said the agency would continue to solicit suggestions from Downtown business and residents about the station where the A, C, 2,3, 4, 5, J, M, and Z platforms are connected by passages that wind underground through Broadway, Nassau, William and Fulton Sts.

The Oct. 9 meeting came on the same day that the Port Authority was conducting public scoping sessions on the environmental review for the permanent PATH station at the World Trade Center site.

The M.T.A. hopes to finish an Environmental Impact Statement and preliminary engineering work for the Fulton Transit Center at the end of this year and complete the center by the end of 2007, Wheeler said in response to questions from the C.B. 1 members and the public. Under Gov. George Pataki’s timeline for Lower Manhattan, the first part of the center would open in 2006.

Among the features of the project, to be funded out of $4.55 billion in federal money earmarked for Lower Manhattan transportation, is a proposed underground walkway to the permanent PATH station. M.T.A. officials, earlier in the year, had talked about a moving walkway running to the eastern end of the transit hub, but Wheeler said now it looks like it will only be one block long.

“The Dey St. corridor might have a moving walkway, but it is not likely elsewhere in the project,” Wheeler said. Test borings were being made on Dey St. last week in preparation for the project.

Connecting the Fulton St. center and the N and R station [on Church St] would be a big challenge, Wheeler said. “We’ve been looking at how to allow people to pass through seamlessly from one place to the other,” he said.

The Port Authority hopes to have an underground connection to the N,R when the temporary PATH center opens next month, but it will up to the M.T.A.

The M.T.A., the city Department of Transportation and the Port Authority are working together to mitigate the cumulative impact on residents and businesses of all Downtown transit projects. The agencies have made a joint commitment to encourage the use of low-sulfur fuels, limit unnecessary engine idling, and coordinate construction to minimize noise and vibration, Wheeler said.

Nevertheless, the station will remain in use 24 hours a day throughout the three-year construction period. Platforms will be in use as soon as they are completed, Wheeler said. Access for people who use walkers and wheelchairs is an important part of the project, he added.

In response to questions and suggestion by community board members and Yvonne Morrow, an aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Wheeler said the M.T.A. is exploring how not to preclude later links to the proposed Second Ave. subway and the Long Island Rail Road. “We don’t know the answers to that question – it’s outside the scope of this project but we’re looking into it,” he said.

Officials have said in the past that a connection to a Second Ave. subway would be difficult because it would run several blocks to the east of the Fulton center.

Community board members told Wheeler they want entrances and exits to be open at night and on weekends near residential areas.

The new station will have “air tempering” devices to mitigate temperature extremes, but Wheeler cautioned everyone not to go away thinking the station will be air conditioned. He noted that re-circulated air makes Penn Station comfortable in the summer. The principals of “green design,” will be followed in the Fulton Center, Wheeler said. “We want to introduce as much natural light as we can and we intend to recapture heat and recirculate water where possible,” he said.

Vending locations underground were also on the wish list and Wheeler said the project is likely to provide them but he added that room for them would be limited. “We’re looking first to solve transit problems,” said Wheeler. “We’re looking into retail and cultural uses to make sure the station contributes to being part of a vibrant neighborhood, but transportation is the reason why we’re here. This is not a real estate project.”

Nicholas Grimshaw Partners are the lead designers, and Lee Harris Pomeroy, a historic preservation specialist, “who has a knack for making the old and the new fit together, “ is a member of the design team, Wheeler said. Ove Arup, a leading international engineering firm, and Louis Berger, an environmental consultant, are also on the team.

“We’d like to get more ideas about design goals,” said Wheeler, and “we’d like regular communications with businesses and residents through the community board on a weekly basis.”


Albert@DowntownExpress.com


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