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Port Authority pigeons, beware! Hoping to rehabilitate “The Single Worst Place on Earth,” officials gathered Thursday to announce plans for a brand-new, sustainable Midtown Bus Terminal built to “21st century standards” by the teams behind world-renowned office buildings and the Javits Center expansion.
Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Rick Cotton was quick to acknowledge the grim, outdated Midtown eyesore where, pre-pandemic, as many as 76.4 million passengers – more travelers than any of the area’s three major airports – passed through yearly.
“When the Port Authority first opened in 1950, color TV was not yet a reality,” said Cotton. “The world has moved on, but we have not moved on,” he added, explaining that their mission is to build a best-in-class bus terminal that benefits “both the bus commuters and the local community.”
After receiving public feedback on their 2020 proposal to reduce idling buses, the Port Authority submitted a new plan including a separate storage and staging facility to keep fleets off streets between rush hours and an interior ramp to allow vehicles to enter directly from the Lincoln Tunnel without going above ground.
Cotton emphasized that the new Port Authority would be built on existing land, utilizing a two-pronged approach to complete renovation in the main building while using the new staging area as a temporary terminal.
Architecture firm Foster + Partners (known for their work on the Crossrail Place Canary Wharf railroad station in the UK, the award-winning Bloomberg European Headquarters and the Slussen Masterplan public center) and design firm Epstein and Sons (behind the state-of-the-art, sustainable Javits Center expansion), will implement infrastructure available to accommodate a future fleet of all-electric buses while building the structure to the highest LEED certification standards. “One of the highest priorities in our proposal for the new bus terminal is sustainability that will focus on the agency’s commitment to reaching Net Zero by 2050,” added Cotton.
Juan Vieira-Pardo of Foster + Partners, whose office was previously based out of the Hearst Building on 8th Avenue said: “I’ve walked up and down these avenues for years, and I’ve always come to the bus station and thought, ‘what is this? When we got the RFP proposal, I told my colleagues, ‘we have to do this’.”
Local officials were enthusiastic about the need for a new transportation building, with Congressman Jerry Nadler (currently fighting for control of the new 12th District) noting: “ for the West Side, it’s taken a long time to get to today’s announcement – a lot of haggling and a lot of community meetings. We can now move forward with the design of the bus terminal that works for both commuters and residents.
“Most importantly, this design will get idling buses off our streets, create new park space, modernize the terminal and greatly improve the street level experience for the neighborhood. I thank the Port Authority for listening to Hell’s Kitchen community, and Community Board 4 in this process to ensure that the project benefits both the region and the community,” he added.
City Council Member Erik Bottcher said: “The Port Authority Bus Terminal has the distinction of being one of the most important — and ugliest — transportation hubs in the nation. This replacement project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a beautiful civic space that will serve our city for generations to come.”
State Senator Brad Hoylman, who joked that the Port Authority “should have had your presentation in black and white to go with the sense that it’s such an aging terminal,” also acknowledged the work of Community Board 4 as playing a “key role” in protecting the interests of local residents.
Asked about the timeline of the project, Cotton said the Port Authority was currently in the midst of the environmental review process and would begin construction in 2023. The $3 billion capital plan, hopefully bolstered by federal funding, is expected to take eight years. “We’re looking to have the terminal open by the end of 2031,” Cotton said, acknowledging that there would be “painful” moments of construction for locals along the way.
Another potential point of contention? Large-scale towers built on top of several of the new terminal buildings, which have yet to be determined for commercial or residential use. After the environmental assessment plan is finalized, the Port Authority will release their full proposal for public comment.
Citing the continued growth of the city’s population and the current housing crunch, Cotton argued that the need for increased commuter transit options was greater than ever. “The current building is outdated, undersized and a building of 70 years ago without any of the benefit of modern technology. We’re building a facility for the next 30 to 50 years and we are taking into account being prepared to handle volume in the future,” he said. “One shouldn’t bet against Manhattan, but we’re not in the business of betting — we’re in the business of providing facilities that accommodate for foreseeable growth.”