MIDTOWN — Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer slammed the Fulton Street Transit Center Tuesday, arguing the nearly completed $1.4 billion construction project was a waste of precious funds — but said that the city should build a brand new subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.
"We can't be throwing precious dollars at projects like the Fulton Street Station in Lower Manhattan," Stringer told a packed ballroom at an Association for a Better New York breakfast in Midtown, where he argued that the station "will do nothing to add capacity when work finally ends in 2014."
The project, which is designed to connect six existing Lower Manhattan subway stations, was originally scheduled to be completed in 2007 at a cost of $750 million, but it's been plauged by delays and cost overruns.
"We can't keep having cost overruns. We can't keep building a system that is way over-budget and never on-time," he said.
The harsh words were a far cry from the borough president's remarks before the City Council in 2008, when he said the center was key to the development and revitalization of Lower Manhattan, describing it as "a vital thread to Lower Manhattan’s future growth and sustainability."
"This facility is of monumental importance to the success of Downtown Manhattan, and I am here today to urge that the project is properly funded and moves forward without further delay," he said at the time.
Tuesday's remarks came during during a wide-ranging speech on the future of public transportation in the city, in which the presumptive mayoral candidate also called for a new "X" subway line connecting Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, an AirTrain to LaGuardia and the reenactment of the "commuter tax" on non-New Yorkers.
Stringer said the proposed new subway line would run above ground and would be built along existing rights of way, which would eliminate the need for tunneling and save cash.
The borough president warned that the MTA, which is $30 billion in debt, is "a fiscal house of cards," which threatens to sends the city's economy “to a screeching halt.”
"One million more people will be be living in New York City by 2025 and to put it bluntly, we're not ready," he said.
To prepare for the growing demand, Stringer said that new projects must be chosen wisely.
"We must be disciplined and choose efficient, smart projects that improve connectivity and add capacity to our system," he said, later stressing the need to improve transit access in the outer boroughs.
To help put the authority's fiscal house in order, Stringer called for the restoration of the commuter tax on people who live out of the city to fund MTA operating costs. The tax was repealed by the state in 1999 and would require approval by the state.
He also proposed using the Mortgage Recording Tax, which is paid when property changes hands, to leverage the funding of capital projects, which he argued would minimize the impact of fluctuations in the real estate market. The tax brings in, on average, $400 million a year.
Other proposals on his agenda included the expansion of Bus Rapid Transit, the construction of new light rail along 42nd Street and to connect places like Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, as well as building a new AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport.
After the speech, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg applauded Stringer's call for more funding for the MTA, but defended the Fulton Street Transit Center.
"For anyone who has ever had to change trains in Fulton Street, you know that it is overcrowded... It was not a fitting way for thousands of people to transfer between trains everyday," he said.
"The work that we're doing there... brings tremendous improvements and tremendous capacity improvements."