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Cuomo floats plan to allow private sponsorships of NYC subway stations

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A company could put its stamp on a subway station for a fee

Columbus Circle subway station

Could corporation-branded subway stations be coming to New York City’s transit system? It’s possible—Governor Andrew Cuomo floated the idea during a speech at the Association for a Better New York breakfast this morning, amid larger remarks about city and state infrastructure.

During the speech, Cuomo suggested that one way to get more funding for the ailing transit system would be to offer companies the opportunity to sponsor subway stations for an annual fee. That money could go toward “enhanced maintenance, additional security, and aesthetic features.”

The practice of allowing corporations to put their stamp on subway stations isn’t unprecedented. In 2009, the MTA sold the naming rights for the Atlantic Ave–Pacific St station in Brooklyn, tied to the opening of the Barclays Center nearby; now, of course, it’s known as Atlantic Ave–Barclays Center. (According to a Times piece from when the sale happened, the MTA gets $200,000 per year for the next 20 years.)

But in that instance, a nearby landmark prompted the renaming, and it at least makes some geographical sense—you hear “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center,” you know to get off if you’re going to that stadium. Will New Yorkers be as accepting of, say, presents Bleecker St? If there’s a chance that a corporation’s dollars will help keep those stations in a state of good repair—as Cuomo argued could be done during today’s event—anything is possible.

It does, however, lead to another question: How will this affect overall maintenance of subway stations, and will stations that aren’t seen as desirable by companies suffer? It’s easy to see a corporation fighting to put its name on Union Square or a similarly well-trafficked station; but will stations deep in the outer boroughs then go ignored? Similar issues play out in city parks, where those with deep-pocketed donors—the High Line, Central Park, etc.—are well-maintained, while those without … well, not so much.

Per AMNY’s Vincent Barone, MTA chair Joe Lhota later told an assembled crowd that the details of the plan are still being worked out.

That wasn’t the only issue addressed during Cuomo’s speech; the governor also announced that the new Tappan Zee Bridge—renamed the Mario Cuomo Bridge, for the his late father, the former New York governor—will have its grand opening (presumably with a flashy light show) on August 25.

He also addressed Mayor Bill de Blasio’s assertion that New York City will not contribute to the MTA’s recently announced $836 million plan to implement immediate fixes to the subway system: