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Thread: East Side Access - L.I.R.R. Link to Grand Central

  1. #1

    Default East Side Access - L.I.R.R. Link to Grand Central

    February 1, 2004

    Amtrak Is the Latest Roadblock in Plan to Link L.I.R.R. to Grand Central Terminal

    By MATTHEW WALD

    The East Side access project, a plan to bring Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central Terminal that has moved in fits and starts for 40 years, has hit a snag: Amtrak's financial straits.

    Since the 1960's, the plan has been to run Long Island Rail Road trains from an existing complex of switches in Queens, shared with Amtrak, over about a mile of new track to an underused tunnel beneath the East River. That tunnel emerges in Manhattan at East 63rd Street, and from there, the trains would go through a new tunnel and join the tracks under Park Avenue that carry Metro-North trains to Grand Central. The new link would move perhaps 90,000 passengers a day on about 150 trains. It would relieve crowding at Pennsylvania Station and lure to the rails Long Island residents who work in east Midtown.

    An agreement between Amtrak and the Long Island is needed because of the tangled history of the area's railroads. Amtrak's Northeast corridor was largely assembled by the old Pennsylvania Railroad. About a century ago, that railroad bought the Long Island Rail Road to get access to Manhattan. Now their ownership is separate again, with the Long Island owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Northeast corridor going to Amtrak. Ownership of the tracks in Queens is shared.

    Amtrak insists that the project is not for its customers, and should therefore not cost it any money. Amtrak lives on subsidies from Congress, and the railroad says it lacks the resources to bring its aging infrastructure into a state of good repair.

    It also fears delays for its trains on its major route, the Boston-New York-Washington corridor.

    The East Side access project also faces substantial engineering problems, mostly in digging from the East River to Park Avenue. The project would be the largest ever undertaken by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The plan was conceived in the 60's, when the 63rd Street tunnel was built. In the early 1990's, plans were drawn up to finish the job by 1998, with about a mile of additional tunnel on either side of the existing tunnel under the river, at a cost of about $3 billion. Now the completion date is 2012 and the price is $6.3 billion.

    The immediate problem, though, is on the Long Island end, at the Sunnyside Yard in Queens, owned by Amtrak, and the adjacent Harold Interlocking, a two-mile complex used for sorting trains. On the western end are two tracks carrying trains to Penn Station and two more tracks carrying them back, as well as two more that peel off toward Long Island City and Brooklyn.

    On the east are additional tracks. Two of them go to the Hell Gate Bridge and then into the Bronx, a route Amtrak takes to join the Metro-North tracks in New Rochelle on its way to New Haven and Boston. Two other tracks go to the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington branch, and four go to Jamaica, Queens, and the other branches of the railroad.

    During the commuter rush, trains roar through Harold Interlocking at the rate of 42 an hour. But the transportation authority would like to increase that to 66. The task is not much different from untangling the intersection of two busy, multilane streets, except that the trains are up to a quarter-mile long and some lumber through at 15 miles an hour, making maneuvering difficult.

    The transportation authority is considering digging one or more tunnels so that trains coming out of Penn Station can turn left to head for Hell Gate and New England without having to cross over at grade level in front of oncoming westbound trains. That would give Amtrak an incentive to consent to allowing the work to be done on its property, authority officials say. Whatever the changes in layout, they will be for the long term, according to rail executives. "It's got to last 100 years,'' said James Dermody, president of the Long Island Rail Road, who pointed out that the current configuration of Harold was in place for the opening of the first Penn Station, in 1908.

    A reconfigured Harold Interlocking could be a major boon for Amtrak, which often sees its trains lose valuable time as they pass through Harold on their way to Hell Gate and New Rochelle. Timeliness is crucial there because Metro-North, which owns the tracks from New Rochelle to New Haven, is so busy that it has assigned Amtrak "slots" at specific times, and Amtrak has been known to miss the window.

    But there is also peril, in the form of extra costs. Amtrak says that the soil at Sunnyside and Harold is filled with toxic substances that have leaked or been dumped. Amtrak, near broke, is refusing to let work proceed until the transportation authority agrees to protect Amtrak against all liability and costs arising from stirring up poison dirt.

    In addition, New Jersey Transit uses the yard to store trains. That, too, could be disrupted, Amtrak warned. It has sent the transportation authority a series of blunt letters, signed by David L. Gunn, now president of Amtrak, who was president of the New York Transit Authority, a component of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, from 1984 until 1990.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority insists that the dispute is not serious. Referring to contaminated soil, William M. Wheeler, the director of planning at the Long Island, said, "Amtrak hasn't shown us anything to indicate that.'' But Amtrak has avoided the word "share.'' "I must have an agreement that will not produce any additional financial burdens on Amtrak,'' Mr. Gunn wrote to Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the transportation authority, on Dec. 4. In an earlier letter he complained that the authority was proceeding "without directly addressing Amtrak's concerns.''

    Both sides say discussions are continuing, with no agreement so far.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


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  2. #2

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    LIRR takes a step toward East Side

    BY JOIE TYRRELL
    STAFF WRITER

    March 7, 2004

    Workers have dug a 150-foot-deep hole in Long Island City that serves as one of the first steps of the East Side Access project, a multibillion-dollar transit plan linking the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.

    LIRR President James Dermody said that workers have taken down buildings on one city block and dug a pit that will provide access for the railroad to the existing 63rd Street tunnel that will eventually carry Long Islanders to the east side of Manhattan.

    However, Dermody cautioned that this is preliminary work on the East Side Access project that has yet to be fully funded.

    "There is some progress being made in preliminary construction, not heavy construction," Dermody said. "These are the steps you have to take to proceed to full construction and we won't have full construction until we get full funding from the government.

    "In the meantime you can't sit and do nothing, because the clock is ticking."

    The East Side Access alignment connects to the LIRR's Port Washington Branch and Main Line tracks within the Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens. From Harold, the alignment proceeds through a set of five tunnels under Amtrak's Sunnyside Yard to a section that begins at the edge of the existing LIRR Yard.

    In that section, the five tunnels merge into two tunnels, pass under Northern Boulevard, and meet the existing 63rd Street Tunnel structure immediately west of Northern Boulevard.

    Dermody said the current construction project at Northern Boulevard and 41st Street allows crews to get a tunnel-digging machine below the surface and eventually crews will tunnel east toward Harold Interlocking.

    Workers are also building a yard and a shop on Arch Street to handle the railcars to be used for East Side Access.

    The project is expected to be complete in 2012.

    But costs in recent months have continually increased with the price tag of the project now at $6.3 billion. President George W. Bush has allocated $75 million in this year's budget and $100 million in next year's proposed budget, the single largest project approved in transportation.

    Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he's optimistic the project will be fully funded. "There has been work going on for years at the work site and now there is new work," he said. "Certainly the MTA is going forward with its plans anticipating it is going to be done."

    Also, the railroad is in negotiations with Amtrak as it needs to work out agreements with the rail provider. The LIRR needs easements to go under Sunnyside yard and must modify the track at Harold Interlocking.

    "Those negotiations are moving," said Dermody, who is the lead negotiator in the talks.

    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

  3. #3

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    NY Newsday

    Big plans on track

    East Side access, more new cars, a third Main Line track; these and other moves are part of a proposed multibillion-dollar expansion

    BY JOIE TYRRELL
    STAFF WRITER

    March 17, 2004

    In a daily game of transit hopscotch, Long Island Rail Road commuter Robert Audette takes the railroad to Queens then jumps to the No. 7 subway, then catches the 4 or the 5 downtown.

    To get to his lower Manhattan office, "it's over two hours and 15 minutes one way," said Audette, of Shirley. "It's definitely an inconvenience to change trains. Each one is a separate mini-commute and they have their own separate problems."

    That all may change over the next decade, as the Long Island Rail Road readies for what could be the biggest expansion in its 170-year history. In store are multimillion-dollar capital projects, from new cars to storage yards to changes in routes that could, for the first time, connect Long Island commuters to the East Side and possibly lower Manhattan.

    It's an incredible wish list reaching into the billions of dollars, with target completion dates reaching into the next decade. Yet competition for transit dollars will be fierce, and some close to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent agency of the LIRR, say that funding for all of them may be reaching for a "pie-in-the-sky."

    MTA executives are confident the capital projects for the LIRR eventually will be funded, offering commuters more service and travel alternatives. The last major LIRR expansion took place in 1898 with construction of the track from Great Neck to Port Washington.

    "One of the major reasons is to take a 19th-century system and bring it into the 21st century," said MTA executive director Katie Lapp. "I think we can get these projects off the ground and get the funding for them, which I am optimistic we will."

    But transit watchers, worried about future fare hikes, say state and federal governments are kicking in fewer dollars than they have for past capital projects. And the MTA has already borrowed so much that debt service is expected to grow to $1.7 billion annually by 2007.

    "The real worry is how are you going to fund them?" said Beverly Dolinsky, executive director of the LIRR Commuters Council, a riders' advocacy group. "You can't keep borrowing and have this huge debt service, because the fare will go so high that nobody will use the system."

    The project most likely to move forward is East Side Access. In the works for three decades, it will mean a one-seat rail link from Long Island to Grand Central using an existing, but unused, tunnel at 63rd Street.

    So far, preliminary construction has started in Long Island City. Railroad officials are awaiting full funding for the project. The price tag has ballooned over the years from $4.3 billion in 1998 to $6.3 billion now. Federal officials say that $800 million in state and federal money has already been committed. It is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

    "Certainly, the MTA is optimistic and I'm optimistic," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

    LIRR President James Dermody said he is awaiting a funding grant from the Federal Transit Administration. He's hopeful the agreement will be in place by this summer. "Then it becomes almost automatic" in President George W. Bush's budget, Dermody said.

    John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said, "It is extremely unlikely that those funds would stop flowing."

    Roadblocks along the way

    There have been a few snags, including modifications to the Sunnyside Yard, which is owned by Amtrak. Dermody is negotiating with Amtrak to resolve the issues, including allowing access to the nearby Arch Street yard and shop.

    The railroad needs East Side Access, Dermody said, because the railroad is at capacity at Penn Station and can't add any more trains.

    "It's a better option," said commuter Margaret Domenech of East Islip, whose office is between Park and Madison avenues. "Plus you don't have to have extra expense of the subway."

    But along with the added capacity comes the need on Long Island for rail improvements to handle more trains. The railroad is trying to site a 16-track storage yard on the Port Jefferson line east of Huntington that would allow the LIRR to add service on the branch.

    Public hearings last year were attended by many residents who opposed construction of a yard in their neighborhoods. The railroad has narrowed selection to six sites in Huntington and Smithtown.

    While a yard will allow the railroad to add service on the Port Jefferson line, a major overhaul of the Main Line is in the works as well. LIRR officials call it the Main Line Corridor Improvement project, and it would mean building a third track along the Main Line from Bellerose to Hicksville.

    Dermody said it would allow an expanded service for commuters who travel against the rush hour and also could handle freight, taking some trucks off congested highways. It would also mean the elimination of five grade crossings in Mineola, New Hyde Park and Westbury and substantial station rehabilitation.

    "If we can get through the [environmental study] and get a ... decision, the only other drawback is the question of funding," Dermody said.

    Sources close to the MTA say it could be a tough sell. The double-track Main Line travels right through the heart of Long Island, and community opposition could be strong.

    "For a significantly lower cost than East Side Access, it provides significant and so many different benefits for the LIRR," said Mitch Pally, vice president of government affairs at the Long Island Association, a large business group.

    Link to lower Manhattan

    Pally, however, had harsh words for a recent proposal announced by the MTA and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. that could link the LIRR to lower Manhattan.

    Considered a priority of Gov. George Pataki, the plan would allow passengers to board trains at Kennedy Airport or the Long Island Rail Road's Jamaica station and ride through Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn.

    The plan differs in how riders would be sped from Brooklyn to Manhattan. They include building and enhancing tunnels under the East River.

    A final design plan should be picked next month. It could cost up to $6 billion, with project supporters saying funding could come from Sept. 11 redevelopment money.

    Pally said it's an expensive project that would save only about 90 seconds in commuting times for about 3,000 Long Islanders. One source close to the MTA called the project a "pie-in-the-sky" proposal.

    Other projects planned for the railroad in coming years include completion of the purchase of new M-7 electric cars, which, by 2007, will transform the aging fleet.

    Railroad officials are also looking to build a yard east of Ronkonkoma that would mean extending electrification farther into Suffolk County.

    "Long Island has changed," Pally said. "The railroad is trying to change.

    "The railroad does better now than it ever did before," he added. "Now, we want to give it additional capacity to do what it has never done before."

    Upgrading the LIRR

    The Long Island Rail Road is embarking on one of the most ambitious capital improvement projects in its 170-year history, with six potential service upgrades that, if completed, could cost billions of dollars.

    1. East Side access

    What it will do: Connect Long Islanders to East Side of Manhattan.

    What it will cost: $6.3 billion

    Completion date: 2012

    Challenges: LIRR must negotiate with Amtrak; funding must be secured. Forecast: Very likely. Federal and state sources say funding will be secured.

    2. Lower Manhattan rail link

    What it will do: Establish oneseat ride to lower Manhattan from LIRR Jamaica station.

    What it will cost: As much as $6 billion

    Completion date: Construction timetable and completion date expected in spring.

    Challenges: Funding; also, strong opposition from LI business and some transit advocacy groups.

    Forecast: Questionable, and some transit watchers say highly unlikely.

    3. Main line corridor improvement

    What it will do: Add third main line track to critical 10 1/2-mile corridor between

    Bellerose, Queens and Hicksville. Eliminate five grade crossings; likely improve some stations and bridges.

    What it will cost: Unknown, likely in the multimillions.

    Completion date: By 2015

    Challenges: Could face community opposition.

    Forecast: Hard to tell; project in early planning stages.

    4. Port Jefferson line yard

    What it will do: Add service on Port Jefferson line; extend electrification east of

    Huntington for five of the six sites under consideration.

    What it will cost: $75 million (estimated), not including cost of electrification of yard ($10 million per mile).

    Completion date: 2011

    Challenges: Neighborhood opposition.

    Forecast: Somewhat likely.

    Long Island business leaders say the yard is a must.

    5. Yard east of Ronkonkoma

    What it will do: Offer new options for residents east of Ronkonkoma, including direct service to both Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal; also, additional service branchwide and parking relief.

    What it will cost: LIRR assumes $50 million, not including cost of electrification of the yard site ($10 million per mile).

    Completion date: 2012, tied to opening of East Side access.

    Challenges: Still in the very early stages.

    Forecast: Promising. Transitwatchers say LIRR has made this a top priority; East

    Enders have asked for more service.

    6. M-7 Purchase

    What it will do: Take fleet from oldest to newest cars. By 2010, about 85 percent of electric fleet will be new M7 cars; fleet size will be 20 percent larger than in 2002.

    What it will cost: For 678 cars, $1.3 billion

    Completion date: For currently funded car purchase, 2007.

    Challenges: Some critics have said cars are too cramped, but commuters give them high marks.

    Forecast: A done deal.

    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

  4. #4
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    Im a big proponet of connecting Lower Manhattan to the outer Suburbs and the Airports, however the cost to benefit ratio with regards to connecting Lower Manhattan to Long Island is probably not worth $6 Billion Dollars.

    First of all Long Island is a mature suburb, connecting the LIRR is not going to draw new people to Long Island. The rail link would benefit people who are already commuting from Long Island to Lower Manhattan, as the article noted it's not that many people.

    54% of Lower Manhattan's workforce from outside NYC proper comes from New Jersey, a number that is likely to grow because of the housing boom in New Jersey to which is still growing and still has not reached maturity.

    New Jersey does not have a direct link to the Suburbs from Lower Manhattan, they have the PATH from Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark.

    If 54% of Lower Manhattan's suburban commuters make do with the NJ Transit-PATH connection why can't LIRR commuters to Lower Manhattan (which are much less than the number who commute from New Jersey) make do with a LIRR-NYC Subway connection.

    The more I think about it the more the "Super Subway" plan that has already been put forth to connect Lower Manhattan to JFK makes much more sense than building a brand new East river tunnel and building new Stations, lay up yards in Lower Manhattan for the LIRR.

    You can develop the "Super Subway" plan to connect with JFK for probably $1 Billion Dollars (or less), which is a huge difference compared to $6 Billion Dollars + that a new East River tunnel would cost.

    The money that would have been spent for the new East River tunnel would be better spent towards the ESA and or the SAS, both projects have estimated ridership numbers that dwarfs the best estimates for potential ridership should the LIRR be connected to Lower Manhattan.

    The Port Authority is set to extend PATH service on the World Trade Center line from Downtown Newark to Newark Airport for approximetly $500 Million, you can build the "Super Subway" to connect Lower Manhattan to JFK for $1 Billion or less.

    Which means you can connect Lower Manhattan to both Newark Airport and JFK Airport for approximetly $1.5 - $2 Billion Dollars, which provides more bang for the buck than the LIRR to Lower Manhattan $6 Billion Dollar + plan.

  5. #5

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    May 9, 2004

    Seeing One Tunnel Too Many

    By VIVIAN S. TOY

    MARK HUDAK is an insurance defense lawyer from Uniondale who travels to Lower Manhattan at least three times a week for court appearances.

    Like many commuters, he has tested different railroad and subway combinations to try to shave as many minutes as possible from his travel time. His current favored option takes about 70 minutes and involves changing trains at Jamaica and switching to a subway at the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic/Flatbush terminal in Brooklyn.

    Even though the last leg of his morning journey is the shortest, he said, "waiting for the subway is when I consider my work day beginning, because it's the toughest part of the trip. The rest is more relaxed and predictable."

    So, like other commuters destined for Lower Manhattan who were interviewed last week at the Mineola train station, Mr. Hudak said he welcomed a plan proposed by Governor Pataki on Wednesday that would finally create a one-seat ride from Lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport and the Jamaica terminal of the Long Island Rail Road.

    "Anything that takes us anywhere near downtown without having to switch to a subway would make perfect sense," Mr. Hudak said. He added, though, that he would reserve final judgment until he determined how much time and money he would save from the proposed train link.

    Mr. Pataki proposed a $6 billion plan to build a new tunnel under the East River that would link Lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport and Long Island. He said the new rail link could cut 15 minutes from a Long Islander's commute to downtown Manhattan and could handle up to 100,000 passengers a day.

    "Long Islanders as well as Queens and Brooklyn commuters will experience a more direct and more comfortable trip to Lower Manhattan," Mr. Pataki said. He said the new link would reduce congestion on subways that carry Long Island riders from Penn Station or the Atlantic Terminal and would also strengthen the competitiveness of the airport by giving air travelers a 36-minute connection from Kennedy to Manhattan.

    The plan would allow riders to get to Lower Manhattan from the airport and the Jamaica railroad terminal in Queens in a newly designed hybrid vehicle that would travel on the tracks of the AirTrain and altered tracks of the Long Island Rail Road. The new train would travel from the airport, through Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and then through the new tunnel into Manhattan.

    The proposal is also supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but perhaps the loudest and most persistent lobbyists for the new connection have been downtown business leaders, who feel that Lower Manhattan has for too long been at a competitive disadvantage to Midtown because it lacks one-seat access to the suburbs.

    But there has been no corresponding clamor for the rail link from Long Islanders. Indeed, business leaders, transit advocates and planning experts have questioned the need for the project, particularly when limited transportation dollars are needed for other projects they deem more pressing, particularly the East Side Access plan to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.

    Transit advocates said last week that they were skeptical of the estimate that the downtown link would cut a commute by 15 minutes, and noted that only those Long Islanders who are headed to the World Trade Center area, where the train would stop, would actually achieve those savings. Others who work farther downtown or uptown would still have to walk or take a subway to get to their jobs, reducing any time savings.

    "The downtown link is not the highest priority for Long Island, from our perspective," said Mitchell H. Pally, the vice president for government affairs at the Long Island Association, the Island's largest business group. "We're not opposed to it, but there are more important projects that we want to make sure are implemented and finished."

    Beverly Dolinsky, executive director of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter's Council, agreed. "We don't support downtown access because it's very, very expensive and the case has not been made that enough people would use it and we're dealing with scarce dollars," she said. The Regional Plan Association, a nonprofit agency that focuses on 31 counties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, estimated that only 5,000 to 8,000 riders might use the new link during peak hours, based on current ridership figures. The association did its analysis prior to the governor's announcement, which relied on recommendations made in a joint study done by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city Economic Development Corporation.

    "In terms of cost benefit and the number of riders it would benefit, it just doesn't make sense," Ms. Dolinsky said. "You're going to spend $6 billion for 5,000 riders at rush hour?" Estimates for the proposed $17 billion Second Avenue subway anticipate 220,000 riders on its first day.

    Mr. Pataki said last week that the Port Authority had already committed $560 million for the downtown rail link and that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation would also kick in some funding. There also is an estimated $2.8 billion left from the $21 billion federal relief package designated for Lower Manhattan after Sept. 11 that could be tapped.

    But opponents of the downtown link fear that the governor ultimately will also have to seek federal transportation dollars, and the downtown link will then come in direct competition with other Long Island transportation projects, particularly given the governor's timetable for the new tunnel. Mr. Pataki said he expected to begin the formal environmental review process for the downtown rail link this summer. He said he hoped to see construction begin in 2006 and have service begin in 2013.

    Senator Charles E. Schumer said he supports the idea of a rail link to downtown, but only if the federal relief package for Lower Manhattan can cover the bulk of its cost. "I think this is a good idea for downtown and for Long Island, but we should not use transit bill money to build it," he said. "That money should go to East Side Access and other transportation projects."

    Mr. Pally said that other Long Island railroad projects that should have higher priority include the East Side Access project, which is scheduled for completion in 2012, and a third track on the railroad's Main Line, which would allow a significant expansion of service between Bellerose and Hicksville and is supposed to be completed in 2016. Even longer-range projects like transportation alternatives in the Nassau Hub, the expansion of Route 347 on the North Shore of Suffolk County and the building of a new freight tunnel under New York Harbor, which would reduce truck traffic on Long Island, should take precedence, he added.

    "All these projects would impact more people and provide additional options for Long Islanders," Mr. Pally said. "With the limited amount of state and federal funding that's out there, these other projects should definitely take priority."

    Gene Russianoff, staff attorney of the New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign, said the M.T.A. and the federal government would be hard-pressed to come up with additional funding to help pay the $6 billion price tag for the downtown rail link. "How do you do that while still progressing the Second Avenue subway and East Side Access, which in our view are the region's top priorities?" he asked. "The M.T.A. already has big capital needs to fix and maintain the existing system and is already challenged to find resources for new projects."

    Jon Orcutt, an associate director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit transit advocacy group, said he was pleased that the governor last week expressed a clear preference for a new tunnel over proposals to use existing subway tunnels. "That takes away the political problem of having to battle subway riders and disrupting their service," he said. "But then it just becomes another one of these big-ticket projects in search of funding."

    He and other transit advocates warned that while planning for East Side Access is complete, the $6.3 billion needed to finish the project has not yet been secured. "The Long Island Rail Road's entire network strategy for the 21st century revolves around it," Mr. Orcutt said. "And it's already unclear how they're going to pay for it."

    Planning for the East Side Access project began about 30 years ago. A two-level tunnel connecting Manhattan to Queens at 63rd Street was completed in 1989, but it only extends to Second Avenue in Manhattan and does not connect to existing rail lines in Queens. The subway system has been using the upper level of the tunnel for the last decade, but the lower level was intended for the Long Island Rail Road and has never been used.

    John McCarthy, a spokesman for the M.T.A., said work to finally connect the empty tunnel to the railroad began last winter, including the building of a rail yard in Long Island City and the opening of a hole in Sunnyside to eventually complete the tunnel connection. The project involves building 3.5 more miles of tunnel and a new station that would go beneath the existing Grand Central concourse. The M.T.A. so far has committed $1.5 billion to the project and M.T.A. officials hope to have the federal government foot half of the total $6.3 billion cost.

    The Regional Plan Association has long been an advocate for East Side Access, because some 60,000 Long Island commuters would save up to 22 minutes in travel time each way once Long Island Rail Road trains can stop at Grand Central. "It would strengthen the economy of Long Island by making it a much more attractive place to live for commuters who work in the city," said Jeffrey Zupan, a transportation expert with the association.

    But the group has been more circumspect about the downtown rail link because it would end at the World Trade Center transportation center, and does not offer other stops in Lower Manhattan. The group has also recommended that any new tunnel be connected to the proposed Second Avenue subway, which then could be extended into Brooklyn. "The tunnel then would have a huge value for people in Brooklyn who now have very limited options for getting into the East Side of Manhattan," Mr. Zupan said. "The only way for a new tunnel to make sense is to connect it to the rest of the system."

    Last week, Mr. Pataki stressed that while the proposed downtown link would end at the World Trade Center Transportation Center, it eventually could be extended to the Second Avenue subway or other existing subway lines. He and other proponents for the new tunnel said they did not believe it would compete for federal dollars with East Side Access or other projects.

    "East Side Access is moving ahead as it should," said Carl Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York. "And the downtown rail link is a project that complements and supports East Side Access because it will strengthen the Long Island labor market and the Long Island economy's connection to the New York City region."

    Mr. Weisbrod played down estimates for ridership on the new link that are based on current commuter statistics. "This is a different kind of transportation project and you have to view this more as an economic development project," he said.

    The estimated 5,000 Long Island commuters who now come into Lower Manhattan during each peak travel hour "are hardy souls who make a very, very difficult commute to Lower Manhattan," Mr. Weisbrod said. New Jersey residents, on the other hand, have a much easier trip and as a result make up 25 percent of the downtown workforce, he added.

    "Long Island ridership will increase dramatically once the opportunity for a much easier commute is available," he said. "That's why we have to view this project not just from the viewpoint of how it serves existing riders, but as a way of creating opportunity for the region as a whole."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    From NY1

    City Taking Bids To Link LIRR To Grand Central Terminal

    MAY 18TH, 2004

    The city is now accepting bids to build a mile-long tunnel to bring Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central Terminal.

    The contract will be awarded in August. Excavation is expected to start next year and wrap up in 2011 or 2012.

    The price tag has been estimated at more than $6 billion, including the cost of buying property and new trains.

    Trains will cross the East River from Queens into Manhattan through an unused level of the 63rd Street subway tunnel, then head down the existing tracks beneath Park Avenue to Grand Central.

    President George Bush has endorsed the project, but he hasn't said how much federal money will be available to fund it.

  7. #7

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    November 20, 2004

    Plan to Connect L.I.R.R. to Grand Central Hits Snag

    By IAN URBINA

    The plan to bring Long Island Rail Road trains to Grand Central Terminal has hit a snag, with a group of well-heeled businesses and developers opposing construction of a large building in Midtown that would house essential equipment and operations.

    Citing concerns about pollution, traffic and security, neighbors of the proposed building, on 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, have accused the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of ducking the rules to get the project approved. They say that after having submitted the proposal for environmental review, the agency changed the project's location, breaking its promise to disperse the equipment around the neighborhood and opting to centralize it in a 16-story building. It would house diesel fuel tanks, backup generators and the main ventilation system for the project's tunnel.

    "You can not put a building of this size, housing this type of equipment, in the center of New York City without proper review," said Roger M. Roisman, a lawyer representing the William Kaufman Organization and the St. Paul Travelers Companies, which own property next to the proposed building and are suing the authority to get it to conduct an environmental impact study on it.

    "Whether or not it was their intention, the M.T.A. has avoided a public review and required environmental review of this facility."

    Roco Krsulic, director of real estate for the authority, said that the building would be smaller than opponents have claimed, probably seven or eight stories. He said that centralizing the equipment was the best option because it would eliminate the need to tear up East 50th Street to put the equipment underground in various locations.

    "The building will be entirely safe for the surrounding area," Mr. Krsulic said, adding that if there had been safety or environmental hazards connected to the equipment, the authority would not be building the same sort of warehouse next to its own headquarters in Manhattan.

    But some neighbors, including Saks Fifth Avenue and the Palace Hotel, are unconvinced, and have formed a group called the Citizens for a Safe East 50th Street to press their concerns.

    The group says there are three problems with the M.T.A.'s current plan, most significantly that the building would be "a magnet for terrorist attack" because of the explosive potential of large diesel tanks in such a densely populated area.

    Further, it says that the ventilation system would spew stale air and potentially hazardous fumes from the tunnel into an area where the air intake systems for two adjacent buildings are located. And it says the building would worsen traffic problems along an already congested 50th Street, because it would have several loading docks for delivery and trash trucks.

    On Oct. 7, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, a Manhattan Democrat, wrote Tom Ridge, the federal homeland security secretary, on behalf of the group, expressing her concerns about security and the explosive potential of the fuel tanks that would be in the building. Members of the group say that representatives from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York have been attending their monthly meetings and expressing their opposition to the building, which would be around the corner from St. Patrick's Cathedral. The archdiocese also owns the land under the Palace Hotel, opposite the proposed building.

    Bob Liff, a spokesman for the group, said, "The irony here is that all these parties actually support the East Side access project." He said the project would be great for business in the area, but added, "We just feel that this one part of the plan has problems."

    Opposition to the 50th Street building is unlikely to block the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2012, but it does represent yet another headache for the authority. In the late 1970's, similar resistance to a ventilation tower on York Avenue near 63rd Street delayed construction on a subway tunnel beneath the East River for two and a half years.

    Under the current plan, the authority would acquire and demolish four low-rise buildings at 44, 46, 48 and 50 East 50th Street to make way for the new building. Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the M.T.A., said that the authority was considering several alternatives suggested by the neighborhood group. "This area will benefit greatly from the project,'' he said, "but at the same time we are going do everything we can to accommodate the neighborhood's concerns.''

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #8
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    NYObserver

    Kaboom! MTA Plans Could Blow Up Midtown, Say Neighbors

    by Ben Smith

    Midtown property owners and their congresswoman are claiming that a planned Metropolitan Transportation Authority installation could turn into an explosive terrorist target with the potential to damage landmarks such as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

    At the center of the controversy is a planned 16-story building on East 50th Street between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, right across the street from the Palace Hotel. The building would serve as a ventilation and cooling tower for a link between the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal. Local property owners have been fighting the facility in court, arguing that it would bring traffic and pollution.

    But the MTA’s plans to store diesel fuel for an emergency generator in or beneath the building is stirring the most concern, prompting Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to write a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, stating that the facility would create a “homeland security threat to thousands of workers and pedestrians.”

    “Concerned neighbors point out that terrorists could target the building knowing that the resulting conflagration would likely destroy the surrounding buildings and spread to the underground passenger concourse below,” Ms. Maloney wrote in the October 7 letter.

    The spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Tom Kelly, said he hadn’t seen the letter, and did not comment in detail on the project.

    “We will take all safety and security precautions in the design and construction of the building,” he said.

    Neighbors aren’t convinced. Representatives of the Palace Hotel, the Kaufman Organization, the restaurant group Smith & Wollensky, and St. Paul Travelers Companies, all with interests nearby, wrote their own letter to Secretary Ridge comparing the diesel fuel storage to the fuel tanks the explosion of which helped bring down 7 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

    The spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, also said, “We have been following the matter with concern.”

    Managers of the Waldorf-Astoria were not immediately available for comment.

    The new building would stand on the south side of 50th Street, just west of the Colgate-Palmolive building. The Waldorf-Astoria is half a block east, and the grounds of St. Patrick’s begin half a block west. The building would replace four smaller structures, including the one housing the venerable Italian restaurant Giambelli 50th.

    The new building would be part of a $5 billion plan conceived 30 years ago and on schedule for completion in 2012. The East Side Access project would link Long Island commuters directly to Grand Central, giving them access to East Side subway lines and the commuter rail that the current Penn Station connection makes inconvenient. In the plan’s current form, LIRR riders would disembark deep below Park Avenue and be transported by escalators to a new concourse closer to Grand Central.

    The legal battle over the site has focused on the MTA’s decision not to perform a full environmental review when it decided to change its original plans – according to a 2002 MTA assessment of project changes – because a facility on 50th street would “consolidate many ancillary facilities in one location and reduce construction and maintenance costs.” That would include the emergency generator, and its fuel, which would power the escalators in case of a blackout.

    Lawyers for the neighbors filed a request for a preliminary injunction this spring, demanding that the MTA complete a full environmental review. They withdrew their request when the MTA agreed to that review, which a lawyer for the owners of 437 Madison Avenue, Roger Roisman, said is expected any day.

    But the battle appears to be just heating up. Project opponents have already retained lawyers, consultants, and public relations teams, and have even produced a thick study touting an alternative proposal.

  9. #9

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    It would be a neat idea to have the LIRR get an equal-size terminal under GCT. Then both MNRR and LIRR would get all the space they need. They should also route MNRR over the Hells Gate Bridge to Penn Station where they too can have a terminal. Anyone here think NJT/Amtrak should go to GCT?

  10. #10
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    NJT would be too much of a pain to re-route to GCT although it's a good idea. I don't think there is a need for two seperate amtrak stations in the city since the purpose of amtrak is to move people between the cities.

  11. #11

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    January 13, 2005

    M.T.A. Finds Midtown Vent Project Sound; Critics Vow Fight

    By SEWELL CHAN

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which wants to build a 16-story ventilation tower as part of a plan to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal, has concluded that the project is environmentally sound. Opponents of the tower proposal immediately rejected that finding yesterday.

    The structure, to be built on East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, would cost $62 million and house ventilation equipment, cooling towers, emergency generators, a fuel tank, a loading dock and a freight elevator - all sandwiched within a dense commercial block whose occupants have filed a lawsuit to stop the project.

    Finding a way to adequately ventilate a new Long Island Rail Road terminal to be built deep below street level and serve an estimated 160,000 people a day has been an engineering priority for the authority. The proposed building would provide fresh air for the terminal and be a staging area for construction crews working on the project.

    Under the plan, five existing buildings - at 44, 46, 48 and 50 East 50th Street and at 45 East 49th Street - would be acquired and demolished. The project would take about six years to complete.

    In response to the lawsuit, filed in May 2003, the authority agreed to study the impact of the proposed project. The study, finished this week, concluded there would be no major negative effects on land use, traffic, air quality, noise, public safety and the environment.

    The authority's arguments have not persuaded Representative Carolyn B. Maloney and Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing, two Democrats who represent the area and issued statements yesterday calling the study a bid to rationalize a flawed plan.

    "This building, if built as proposed, would cause a tremendous amount of environmental problems, in terms of the fuel that will be kept in the building, the exhaust and the potential danger to the neighborhood if this building were ever subject to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack," Mr. Bing said in an interview.

    A lawyer for the owners of 437 Madison Avenue, an office building that would be next to the tower, called the study a sham. "It's ludicrous to call this a serious study or assessment," said the lawyer, John A. Herfort. "It doesn't lay out the underlying facts that are necessary to justify any of these conclusions, which appear to have been preordained."

    A spokesman for the authority, Tom Kelly, said the report was thorough, fair and methodically conducted. "We never dismiss the sentiments of the community or of elected officials," Mr. Kelly said. "The environmental study can be commented on, and we're having a public hearing on Feb. 10. We solicit and seek input from everyone in the community."

    Mr. Herfort and other lawyers for property owners in the area said they expected to continue their legal challenge. "Litigation is part of the process for any expansion," Mr. Kelly said. "Everybody litigates."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  12. #12

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    February 9, 2005

    U.S. Backs Second Ave. Subway and Midtown Rail Plan

    By SEWELL CHAN

    ederal officials gave two long-planned transit projects - the Second Avenue subway and a Long Island Rail Road extension to Grand Central Terminal - an important endorsement yesterday, adding to pressure on Albany to come up with nearly $10 billion in state matching funds.

    Out of 27 projects throughout the country assessed in an annual evaluation by the Federal Transit Administration, the two New York City projects were the only ones to be "highly recommended." Congress uses the recommendations to decide where to spend transit money. That endorsement may do little, however, to alter the situation in Albany, where Gov. George E. Pataki proposed a budget last month that would give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority $19.2 billion for its next five-year capital program, far less than the $27.7 billion requested.

    The budget would include $2 billion over five years for expansion projects like the subway line and the rail extension, about a quarter of what the authority says it needs to open the first segment of the subway by 2011 and the Midtown rail extension by 2012.

    While the issue of state aid is unresolved, the endorsement yesterday was a step toward the authority's goal of obtaining a multiyear agreement that would lock in federal aid for the projects.

    The administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, an arm of the Department of Transportation, said she envisioned ultimately spending $2.6 billion, or 34 percent, of the $7.7 billion cost of the 3.5-mile rail extension, and $1.3 billion, or 30 percent, of the $4.3 billion needed for the initial 2.3-mile segment of the Second Avenue subway. She suggested that support from New York State would be critical to keep the projects moving.

    "We are awaiting, primarily, the state-local funding commitment, and it is our understanding that deliberations continue now with the Legislature and with the M.T.A. about that commitment," the administrator, Jennifer L. Dorn, said in a conference call with reporters. "We believe strongly that if the federal government is going to make a contractual commitment, subject to appropriations, for the completion of the entire project, that the state-locality should do the same."

    Ms. Dorn said of the two projects, "one is substantially ahead, in terms of time frame, than the other."

    The Long Island Rail Road extension has so far received $254.5 million in federal money. The transit administration recommended that another $390 million be provided in fiscal 2006, and it expects to issue a financing agreement for the project in the next few months, which would essentially guarantee federal support for the duration of construction, assuming that the state provides its share.

    The Second Avenue subway has received $8.9 million in federal aid, according to the transit administration, which said it expected to approve the project's final design early this year.

    According to Federal Transit Administration documents, the subway line would serve 202,000 riders and the rail extension would serve 167,300 riders each weekday by 2025. "Each of these projects has significant federal support and incredible transportation benefits to a significant population," Ms. Dorn said.

    Also yesterday, the Empire State Transportation Alliance, a coalition of civic, environmental and transportation groups, announced a $500,000 advertising campaign to promote financing of five-year capital programs for mass transit and state highways.

    Janette Sadik-Khan, who was a transportation adviser to Mayor David N. Dinkins and a deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration under President Bill Clinton, said fast-growing areas in the West and South were likely to lobby Congress for the same federal transit dollars that New York needs.

    "It's crucial that the state come up with the local match for these projects or we will find the money diverted to other parts of the country: Denver, Dallas, Portland, Phoenix," she said.

    But Lynn Rasic, a spokeswoman for Mr. Pataki, said the risk of losing federal money had been overstated. "There is absolutely no indication that any actions to date would jeopardize future funds," she said.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  13. #13

    Thumbs up

    Lets all keep our fingers crossed! These two projects NEED THE GREEN LIGHT!

  14. #14

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    East Side Access Draws Opponents

    BY MAURA YATES - Special to the Sun

    February 10, 2005

    East Side Access, a plan by the MTA to link the Long Island Rail Road and Grand Central Terminal through caverns deep underground, was "highly recommended" for federal subsidies by the Bush administration this week. Opponents of part or all of the plan have argued, however, that it is dangerous and profligate.

    As described by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the $6.3 billion project will be a boon for 160,000 commuters a day, as well as the East Side businesses for which they are employees or customers.

    Chief among the complaints of the project's opponents is a ventilation facility, planned for East 50th Street. They say it will be a ticking time bomb, with fuel tanks in the basement and a tower spewing tainted exhaust in a bustling neighborhood.

    The only public hearing by the MTA and the Federal Transit Administration is scheduled for today. Concerned residents of the East Side had an opportunity to pose their questions to an MTA representative last week during a meeting of Community Board 5's transportation committee. The board, which cautiously supports the East Side Access plan, has recommended that the MTA closely consider public concerns and an alternative plan, which opponents said not only would be safer but would save as much as $2 billion.

    East Side Access calls for building a four-platform terminal 15 stories below Grand Central to accommodate eight tracks for the Long Island Railroad. The project will shave an estimated 30 to 40 minutes off the commuting time of Long Islanders who work on the East Side and must now transfer at Penn Station before making their way back east across town.

    To provide a supply of fresh air to the two immense caverns deep beneath the terminal - the MTA says it would be the largest mined underground terminal ever built in America - plans call for building the ventilation tower on the south side of 50th, between Park and Madison avenues. That is an area ringed with buildings of historic interest, including St. Patrick's Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

    The facility would house ventilation intakes, exhausts, and fans and related equipment; a loading dock to allow trucks to enter for waste removal, and a freight elevator. Five low-rise buildings would be demolished to make way for the facility, which from the outside would resemble an office building with a glass-and-metal facade.

    According to the MTA's recently released environmental assessment, the proposed facility would not have any significant adverse impacts - a conclusion some East Side residents dispute.

    Assemblyman Jonathan Bing said he supports the East Side Access concept but objects to some aspects of the plan, which he said are dangerous to commuters and East Side residents.

    One issue that has neighbors worried is plans for the basement storage of two fuel tanks, each holding between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons, to power emergency generators. The fuel tanks evoke memories of the explosion that brought down 7 World Trade Center on September 11, Mr. Bing said.

    "Whether it's the target of a terrorist attack or natural disaster," the legislator said, "it could burn a large portion of Midtown Manhattan."

    The MTA's representative at last week's meeting, Audrey Heffernan, pointed out that many buildings throughout the city, including several in the area of the proposed facility, have fuel tanks in their basements, and she said the MTA has much more stringent safety measures than those in force at some of those buildings. In addition, she said, the facility's fuel tanks will be stored deep in bedrock.

    Aside from the specter of the entire East Side's being consumed by an inferno, Mr. Bing expressed concern about a less apocalyptic scenario: health problems developing from exposure to the vent's exhaust. Some East Side residents fear that the mist spewing from the ventilation tower will become contaminated with Legionnaire's-type bacteria or, in the case of a terrorist attack, even more lethal material.

    According to the MTA, however, water will be circulated and treated before it is emitted, to prevent such contamination. Further, representatives of the transportation authority said that the exhaust would consist only of ambient air vented from the terminal, which would be free of pollutants, and that the elevated air-intake system, within a building that it will own and operate, would increase protection of the station's air supply against terrorism.

    Among the plan's opponents is Cardinal Edward Egan, who is wary of the tower's proximity to the city's most famous religious institution.

    "We are concerned about it because it is very close to St. Patrick's Cathedral," the communications director for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, told The New York Sun. "We have been in ongoing touch with the governor's office to express concerns about it, and we will continue to do that."

    In light of environmental and safety concerns, not to mention the MTA's budget woes, opponents of the plan are pushing for adoption of an option called the Upper Level Loop Alternative. It would route LIRR trains onto existing Metro North tracks into Grand Central, avoiding the perceived perils of having a concourse buried deep below Park Avenue, while saving billions of dollars.

    Ms. Heffernan called the alternative "fatally flawed," saying the loop option would cut service to Metro North by 50% during the extended construction period and by 30% when both systems are working at full capacity.

    "I don't know why you would want to save a few billions of dollars to build a transportation system that on the first day is overcrowded and cuts service to Metro North," Ms. Heffernan said at last week's community meeting.

    A serious look into the Upper Level Loop Alternative would require a new environmental impact study, Ms. Heffernan said, which would lead to a three-year delay, resulting in the "same cost for a far inferior service."

    Another concern expressed by East Side residents is whether the proposed $16.8 billion Second Avenue subway line will be completed before East Side Access. If not, they worry that the influx of LIRR commuters would aggravate overcrowding of the Lexington Avenue subway line. The first phase of the Second Avenue subway project, a segment from 96th Street south that would connect to the Sixth Avenue line at E. 63rd Street, is expected by 2012 and has a price tag of $3.8 billion.

    "If you bring in East Side Access to Grand Central, it will place a tremendous burden on what is already the most crowded form of transportation in the country, the Lexington Avenue line," Mr. Bing said. "Without putting comparable funding for the Second Avenue line, it will make overcrowding even worse."

    Although the LIRR-Grand Central connection is also scheduled for completion by 2012, many wonder if that goal can be reached, as the MTA struggles for funds.

    Governor Pataki, in releasing his budget last month, called for an allocation of $19.2 billion for the MTA over the next five years, $8.5 billion less than requested. A significantly reduced capital budget, MTA officials have said, would make it extremely difficult to do anything beyond maintaining the current mass-transit system.

    East Side Access and the Second Avenue subway both got a boost this week when the Federal Transit Administration made the two Manhattan mass-transit projects the only ones out of 27 nationwide that it labeled "highly recommended."

    "It's a great vote of confidence for this project," Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican who supports East Side Access, said.

    The federal agency has proposed spending $390 million on East Side Access in fiscal 2006. Paul Griffo, a spokesman for the agency, told the Sun yesterday that congressional approval was likely.

    Ultimately, the federal government is expected to pitch in a total of $2.6 billion for East Side Access, with the MTA financing the remainder. On other projects, Mr. Griffo said, when state money is not available on schedule or projects go over budget, his agency seeks to guide the work back on track.

    "We put on the brakes. We'll say, we need to see a plan to get you back on course here," he said. "But the FTA is satisfied that the MTA has demonstrated its ability to fulfill their end."

    Today's public hearing is being held at MTA headquarters, 347 Madison Ave. Doors open at 5 p.m.

    Assemblyman Bing said the MTA has a history of holding public hearings even though its officials have "already made up their minds."

    "But," he said, "we want them to know that the people who live and work in this area really don't think this is a good idea."

    The period for written public comment on East Side Access ends on February 22.

    URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/8991

  15. #15

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    February 11, 2005

    M.T.A. Vent Is Opposed by Church

    By SEWELL CHAN

    he Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York announced its opposition yesterday to a plan to erect a 16-story ventilation facility on a crowded block in Midtown, throwing its influence behind a group of land owners, preservationists, elected officials and local residents who are bitterly fighting the project.

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's engineers believe that the proposed facility, on East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues, is essential to provide adequate ventilation for new tunnels and a new terminal to be built as part of the planned extension of the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal.

    At a hearing last night, the 24 people who testified were unanimous in their opposition. They focused their anger on an environmental assessment, completed last month, which concluded that the building would not have negative effects on land use, traffic, air quality, noise, public safety and the environment.

    A lawyer for the archdiocese, Richard G. Leland, said the assessment had "fundamental defects." He said the study did not properly analyze alternatives to the facility, or its effects on traffic, air quality and the historic character of the neighborhood.

    Mr. Leland, who has been hired by the archbishop, Cardinal Edward M. Egan, noted that the facility would be a half-block from St. Patrick's Cathedral, at "the heart of Catholic life in New York City." He said the project "poses a serious security risk" and would be "a veritable terrorist target if built."

    He said the authority had failed to consider the security risks of housing an 8,000-gallon fuel tank, two emergency generators, cooling towers and an electrical substation in a densely populated business district.

    If a terrorist attack involving toxic gases occurred, Mr. Leland said, the facility would emit air onto 50th Street at a rate of 800,000 cubic feet per minute without any way to detect the presence of the toxic gases and shut the facility down.

    Among the other nonprofit and civic groups that sent representatives to testify against the project were the Municipal Art Society of New York, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Yale Club of New York City.

    Lawyers for owners of nearby property have already filed a lawsuit to stop the project, and they thronged last night's hearing. But the authority also heard from Bruce A. Silberblatt, 77, who said his neighborhood of Turtle Bay would be inundated with traffic, and Ashley Newton, 41, a waiter who said the noisy construction would scare customers away and ruin his livelihood.

    Before the testimony began, an official from the authority attempted to allay the concerns of the project's opponents.

    The official, Joseph J. Petrocelli, said the authority already owned and safely operated "dozens of above-ground ventilation buildings located in residential and commercial areas throughout the City of New York." Many other buildings in the East 50th Street area, he said, have loading docks, emergency generators, fuel tanks of equal or greater size and cooling towers on their roofs.

    Douglas R. Sussman, the authority's director of community affairs, said the public could continue to comment on the environmental assessment until Feb. 22.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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