It may have taken seven years, but the Hudson Yards will open by 2015, city officials promised today.
Politicians and developers gathered Tuesday morning to break ground on the Hudson Yards' very first building, a 47-story tower that Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared will "transform our iconic skyline."
The building, refered to as the South Tower by developers, will have a "soaring atrium" and be connected by a retail complex to a 2.4-million-square-foot North Tower at West 33rd Street and 10th Avenue.
"It will anchor this new neighborhood, and will become the heart of the new heart of New York," said Steve Ross of Related, the company leading the Hudson Yards development.
The City Council approved the development of this swath of the West Side in 2005, but officials said what followed was a long road.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn noted the start of the project was "difficult and contentious," and there was "not a lot of agreement" in early discussions, mentioning the controversial and ultimately killed proposal for a stadium on the West Side.
Ultimately, she said, all the players involved were committed to making the plan work, despite disagreements.
"This is a moment in land use and government history of New York where people didn't just yell for the purpose of yelling — they yelled until they got to a point where they could agree," Quinn said.
City officials said projects like these take time to figure out the details, some of which in this case were affordable housing and open green spaces, both of which are included in the Hudson Yards. The Yards will also be home to a new public school, a luxury hotel, and the final segment of the High Line.
Bloomberg called attention to another major component of the project: the city-funded extension of the 7 train, which Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pointed to as a source of significant new revenue for the MTA.
The Hudson Yards development also promises a non-profit cultural center along the High Line at 30th Street, and several floors of retail and restaurant areas similar to the Related-developed Shops at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner building.
Richard Anderson of the New York Building Congress explained that massive projects have many moving parts in their planning. "You have to have a vision right at the beginning of what this area of New York City could look like several decades from now — that's the starting point," Anderson explained. He also noted that the Yards in particular are a complicated endeavor. "This is not a common project because of the scale of it, and the requirements that a platform be built over a major transportation facility," he pointed out.
*According to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, this actually started in 1995 when he was the Finance Commissioner and noticed this area provided no revenue to the city. He reportedly suggested to then-Mayor Giuliani that something be done for the West Side, but "nothing happened until the last Deputy Mayor Doctoroff and Mayor Bloomberg had a vision."