New Hudson River tunnels to be fast-tracked
A $24 billion plan to build two rail tunnels under the Hudson River will get an expedited review process, meaning construction may begin as soon as 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported. The project, which also includes replacing a railroad bridge across the Hackensack River in New Jersey, is aimed at doubling the capacity for passenger trains running under the Hudson. Fast-tracking will allow construction to start in 2019 and the tunnels to potentially open for operation in 2024. Funding, however, remains a work in progress: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are taking steps to allocate funds to cover half of the project. Federal grants could eventually cover another 40 percent, with Amtrak kicking in the remaining 10 percent.
Landlord group spending on state Senate races
The Rent Stabilization Association, a trade group representing New York City residential landlords, appears to be clandestinely helping Republicans defend their narrow majority in the state Senate, the Albany Times Union reported. Senate Republicans have tended to be more sympathetic to the interests of landlords than tenants in New York City’s rent-regulation battles. In July, the group that represents 25,000 property owners gave $500,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington, D.C., group that works to get Republicans elected to state legislatures. That group, in turn, gave $600,000 to Balance New York, which is trying to maintain the Republican majority in the state senate. The D.C. group placed RSA’s contribution into a “segregated” account that does not “make any political expenditures or contributions,” Ellie Hockenbury, a spokeswoman for the Republican State Leadership Committee, told the paper. She noted her group maintains a “non-earmarking” policy for contributions.
St. John’s Terminal development inches closer to reality
The City Planning Commission has approved Westbrook Partners’ and Atlas Capital Group’s purchase of $100 million worth of air rights from Pier 40, which would allow the developers to boost the size of their mixed-use complex at the St. John’s Terminal site across the street, Crain’s New York reported. The transfer of 200,000 square feet of air rights will now come before the City Council. The five-building project at 550 Washington Street is slated to include 1,500 residential units, a hotel, 400,000 square feet of retail and a 10,000-square-foot indoor recreation space. The recreation space, which will be accessible to the public, as well as an entrance to Hudson River Park from the complex, were added at the behest of the City Planning Commission.
De Blasio officials weigh air-rights reform
The de Blasio administration is exploring how to change the way New York City property owners buy and sell unused air rights, Crain’s New York reported. The Department of City Planning is polling community groups and land-use lawyers on how they’d like to see city policy change when it comes to trading the city’s tens of millions of square feet of unused air rights. Reforms are likely to take two forms. One would add transparency to how developers buy air rights from owners on the same block in private transactions. The second category would broaden landmarked properties’ pool of buyers beyond their immediate neighbors. In the Theater District, for instance, owners can sell their air rights throughout the area, thanks to a policy dating back to when Times Square was down and out. The city is considering applying a similar model for 78 blocks surrounding Grand Central Terminal.