By Patrick Hedlund
M.T.A. taking its toll
A proposal is being considered to toll Manhattan-bound traffic on the four East River bridges as a way to generate revenue for the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The plan — to charge drivers using the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th St. bridges — could reportedly raise up to $1 billion for the M.T.A., which is currently facing an unprecedented budget gap. A state commission appointed by Governor David Paterson is mulling the idea as a way to address long-term solutions for the M.T.A.’s reported $1 billion to $1.5 billion shortfall, with recommendations expected next month.
The city currently charges a $5 toll for drivers using other access points, including the M.T.A.-owned Brooklyn-Battery and Queens-Midtown tunnels. The four nontolled bridges, however, are owned by the city, and both city and state approval would be needed to enact tolls on them.
Lower Manhattan Councilmember Alan Gerson explained that he would be in favor of such a move as it relates to easing traffic congestion, but not as a primary way to bail out the M.T.A.
“That’s what tripped us up and got us into trouble with the congestion pricing debacle,” Gerson said, referring to the failed plan’s objective of injecting money back into the authority. He added he’d also like to see the reimplementation of a commuter tax. Gerson said that speaking with Mayor Mike Bloomberg about transportation initiatives on Tuesday, Hizzoner told him he agreed that any funds generated from tolling should not be used to close the budget gap.
“I think from the conversation with the mayor, it’s clear we’re going to be working together to figure this out,” Gerson said. “With Canal St., with other parts of Lower Manhattan, we have a severe congestion problem that we have to deal with.”
Trump tops off... really.
After a tumultuous year of death and construction, the folks behind the Trump Soho condo-hotel announced this week that the 43-story luxury project had officially made its last concrete pour.
“We are thrilled that Trump SoHo has topped off,” said Donald Trump in a Monday statement regarding the milestone expected nearly a year ago, before a series of accidents, including the death of a construction worker at the site in January, stalled progress during most of 2008. “As the area’s tallest building, it has unparalled [sic] panoramic views of the New York City skyline including the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building,” Trump said.
Throughout this year, the project weathered a storm of city-mandated stop-work orders, community lawsuits and structural damage, then saw another floor added in recent months to the chagrin of community opponents, who took it as another thumb of the nose from The Donald.
“Now that the structure is complete, we will focus on installing the rest of the facade finishes and completion of the interior work through the winter,” said Alex Sapir, president of the Sapir Organization, a co-developer of the project. “We are pleased with the steady construction progress and anticipate that the building will be delivered to both owners and guests by the fall of 2009.”
Retail rents fell along some of Downtown’s major commercial corridors during the past year as prices slipped for Manhattan retail space, according to a fall report by the Real Estate Board of New York.
In Soho, on Broadway between Houston and Broome Sts., the average price per square foot dropped nearly 14 percent — to $432 in September 2008 from $501 a year earlier.
In the Flatiron District, on Fifth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Sts., the average price fell more than 7 percent — to $276 in 2008 from $298 a year prior.
The average price of retail space in the Meatpacking District and West Village came in at $304 and $362 per square foot, respectively, with no basis for comparison from the year prior.
However, the larger Downtown area — counting all the retail corridors south of 14th St. — posted nearly 1 percent growth, to $110 per square foot on average, led in part by gains in Tribeca.
The report showed that the average asking rent for all available retail space in Manhattan was $129 per square foot — 3 percent lower than a year ago.
Over all, Downtown accounted for 19.3 percent of Manhattan’s total retail operations, or 21.2 million square feet.
East Village Exchange
Poised to capitalize on bargain-minded shoppers getting wrung out by the recession, the buy-sell clothing chain Buffalo Exchange will open its first Manhattan location in the East Village later this month.
The secondhand retail shop will open in the ground-floor space formerly occupied by neighborhood nightlife favorite Rififi, at 332 E. 11th St., giving patrons the chance to purchase, pawn or trade clothing and accessories on site.
The move marks the nationwide chain’s third East Coast location and just its second in New York City, after the first Buffalo Exchange opened in Williamsburg in 2005. By recycling its clothing, Buffalo Exchange is a sustainable company that also donates to the community through its Tokens for Bags program, which gives money to local nonprofit groups when customers agree not to make use of plastic bags.