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Curbed Cuts: Gateway Tunnel costs nearly double, MTA officials avoid the subway, and more

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Four things you need to know today

Courtesy of Amtrak

Welcome to Curbed Cuts, a tri-weekly digest connecting the dots between shelter, structure, parks, transportation, and more.

Gateway Tunnel costs escalate exponentially

Plans to build new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, connecting New Jersey and Manhattan, may cost twice as much as the original estimate, the New York Times reports. Citing a report issued by Federal Railroad Administration and New Jersey transit, the paper of record says the costs may balloon from the existing $7.7 billion to $13 billion.

The Trump Administration has not allocated any federal funds towards this project yet, and recently the federal Department of Transportation quit the Gateway project board saying it didn’t want to seem partial towards a particular infrastructural project.

It’s not quite clear what kind of support the administration will provide as this project moves forward, but this latest report, despite its costly projections, is pushing the critical infrastructural project in the right direction. This wraps the economical and environmental study on the project, and now the development team can move forward towards the construction and design.

The existing tunnels were extensively damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the cost of building new ones is estimated to cost $11.8 billion and the cost of repairing the old ones will add another $1.8 billion to total amount. Construction may start in the fall of 2019, with completion expected in 2026.

MTA officials skip the subway

A pretty damning new analysis by the New York Daily News has revealed that just a small fraction of top MTA officials actually use the subway, despite receiving free MetroCards. Officials are asked to use these cards for business purposes only, but even by that logic, members of the MTA board (the group the Daily News largely looked at) should have used their card at least 22 times for monthly board meetings (over the time period that the Daily News analyzed the data).

The paper obtained the information through a Freedom of Information Law request filed six months ago, but the MTA still declined to say which executives or board members swiped their cards and how many times. As the subway continues to be rocked by epic failures, many of the decision-making individuals at the agency might not even have experienced the extent of the subway’s problems.

Some transit advocates the Daily News spoke with expressed frustration at the finding saying the cards were paid for by taxpayers’ money, though one advocate also pointed out that officials had previously been admonished for using the cards too much. Previously MTA officials were given a lifetime of free rides, but that rule was changed in 2008 restricting use to official business.

Roof terraces at NYC offices create problems

That’s what city’s Department of Building is alleging preventing several upcoming office buildings from providing such spaces, the New York Post, reports. Developers on their part allege that DOB officers have chosen to interpret zoning language from 1961 in their own way to prevent new outdoor spaces on office buildings from being built.

That zoning language was created to prevent the formation of outdoor flea markets in office buildings, according to the Post, but the DOB has allegedly taken it to mean that only plants and trees can occupy outdoor spaces in buildings.

As the Post rightly points, outdoor space has become a key selling point for landlords looking to attract new tenants, and several developers have been left baffled and annoyed by this seemingly odd crackdown. This current round of enforcement seems to have created such a problem that even the Real Estate Board of New York has stepped in and asked the Department of City Planning to tell DOB to take a step back.

One argument made by the DOB, according to the Post, is that these outdoor spaces are hazardous and could buckle under the weight of people, but many developers have countered saying the city allows for dozens of outdoor bars to operate freely, and those spaces often have a lot more people.

Even dogs have to pass apartment interviews

It’s not enough for a tenant’s worthiness to be approved by landlords or co-op boards, now their dogs need to pass an approval test too. The increasing prevalence of dog training centers, so they can receive a certificate to live in an apartment building, is the subject of a new New York Times feature.

The Times points out that 42 states across the country have now passed resolutions in support of such programs that teach dogs model behavior. Such services can costs over a $100 per session, and in some cases private sessions can cost $175. One building, 1150 Fifth Avenue, even has a staffer whose job it is to interview dogs and make sure they’re a good fit for the building. Clearly this is no laughing matter.