Exposed: The MTA's Untapped Real Estate Resource

TA management is always going to need a headquarters building. We do not dispute this. However, that building should now be 130 Livingston Plaza (the MTA is in the process of selling its Madison Avenue real estate). Although this building is only 450,000 sq ft., that should be more than enough to support the upper echelons of management, all command centers and any administrative offices of the TA. It is centrally located in downtown Brooklyn, at the convergence of all subway lines and has ample space for the MTA’s top echelon of management.

But we believe that all operational managers, at the level of superintendent and below, and many categories of workers who maintain the system should now be placed in underground quarters.

Why? If you read our underground spaces story, you will see that there are huge spaces underground that are vastly underutilized. We are referring to what are called the “mezzanines,” the huge open spaces primarily on the IND B,D, and E lines. Office areas in some of these mezzanines have already been built: the NYPD commands in the subway stations are the best example.  But huge amounts of real estate -- completely rent and tax free because the TA already owns the property – are going begging. These spaces are relatively easy and inexpensive to build out, and new quarters and offices in these mezzanines can be built with in-house labor, saving the MTA additional costs on contractors.

When these spaces are used as worker quarters, this places the worker closer to the work. The large numbers of mezzanine spaces, all over the system, affords the TA the opportunity to create satellite offices, placing the workers even closer to work zones and thereby increasing productivity. This concept is also good for local economies. Workers who spend 8 hours working in a neighborhood also spend money in that neighborhood. Why concentrate the MTA workforce at 2 Broadway, putting all of that money into the financial district businesses? With workers in offices throughout the system, they will buy breakfast and lunch and go shopping in many neighborhoods. There is also the added gain of more MTA employee presence in the stations, which will act as a detriment to crime. Then there is the green factor: less people taking cars to work because their destination is within the subway system. That takes more people out of private cars and puts them in public transportation which pollutes far less.

It’s easy to make offices underground. Sophisticated communications between MTA offices are now easy because of the TA’s own fiber optic network which can accommodate phones, computers, fax machines, and teleconferencing. The benefits of relocating MTA employees, many of whom are now in skyscrapers, to already-owned spaces within the subway system are clear.

In the following informal survey, we have broken the underground spaces into two categories, Hidden and Open. The first category, Hidden, is for underground spaces that are already built but were abandoned in the dash to fill 2 Broadway or are empty spaces that are closed to the public.  Abandoned spaces are the easiest to get up and running, because the basic structures are in place and may just need updating. Hidden empty spaces are the next easiest to be developed because the space is already isolated from the riding public.                                                                                                  The next category, Open, is for spaces that are currently open to the public. These may take longer to develop only because there would have to be commuter traffic studies done and the work would have to be encapsulated from the public. When taking these “open” measurements, we have taken people traffic into account, and the space reflects additional available space for offices.                                                                                                        The square footages that we cite, both in the chart and in the video, are not the TOTAL open square footages for these spaces. They are the total of BUILDABLE spaces for each location. 

Here are some of the spaces that we have located on our own, in an informal survey of the subway system.

As you can see, we have already identified more space than the 540,000 square feet that existed at 370 Jay Street. If you add the approximately 300,000 square feet that is still underutilized at the 130 Livingston building, the total is 963,850 square feet. This is very close to the total square footage of 2 Broadway. There are additional underground spaces which we have not mapped that adds additional square feet to this analysis.

We believe that the MTA should move to sublet 2 Broadway, floor by floor, as soon as possible. Each floor sublet saves the riding public $1 million per year.

When corporate planners like those at the MTA get together and talk about budgets, they routinely throw millions of dollars around like it is nothing. Yet the savings coming from subleasing 2 Broadway is over a billion dollars. That money should not be mis-spent or thrown away. It would go a long way towards restoring service cuts, improving service and making the lives of the people of this city better. Now the question must be asked: Is 130 Livingston Plaza the next victim in the MTA’s effort to justify the cost of 2 Broadway? A contract is now going out to surround 130 Livingston Plaza in scaffolding. Shades of 370 Jay? Are we seeing a pattern here?

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