By Jeremy Walsh
The same day last week that the MTA approved a doomsday budget that eliminated two subway lines in Queens, elected officials in Jackson Heights called the agency’s attention to a potential lost funding source: the 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue transit hub.
“It is absolutely shameful that the MTA is considering throwing students under the bus before pursuing revenue from these valuable properties,” City Councilman-elect Daniel Dromm said of the new budget, which includes charging students for trips to and from school. “The MTA must focus on all revenue opportunities before they talk about any service cuts or massive fare increases for students.”
State Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “needs to look deep into their reserve fund and find appropriate sources of funding.”
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) also urged alternate methods of increasing revenue.
“Before the MTA starts to implement any service cuts at all, it should check all available financial resources, such as the leasing of MTA property and all other revenue sources they have,” he said.
The $132 million 74th Street station project took five years to finish, Dromm’s office said. It boasts 14 commercial spaces that could be rented out to tenants.
At the time, elected officials said the MTA Real Estate Committee had received a stunning number of applications for the storefronts. But when the new facility opened in November 2006, merchants complained that the MTA charged much higher rents than other landlords in the neighborhood.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said 11 of the commercial spaces at the station are either currently occupied or licensed and awaiting the tenant to move in.
The largest of the spaces, a 4,000-square-foot storefront on the street level, is empty right now because the vendor is having problems with his architect, Ortiz said.
“What we said was, ‘As a sign of good faith … would you increase the amount that you give the MTA up front as a security deposit?’ And he did that,” Ortiz said. “He’s assured us he’s coming.”
Dromm’s office pointed out another transit hub, the Fulton Street station in Manhattan, was recently renovated with 20,000 square feet of commercial space that goes for $150 a square foot annually.
The 74th Street station was the 14th-busiest of all the MTA’s subway stations in 2008, serving 16.4 million passengers that year.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.