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.
Why does development in NYC take so long?
New Yorkers often complain that the city's major development projects seem to take an excessively long time to complete. The 2nd Avenue subway line is one such project, the first phase of which – running from 96th Street to 63rd Street, is set to be completed by December 2016, according to the MTA. While this is a project that has been picked up and dropped at three or four points in the city's history, Second Avenue Sagas blogger Ben Kabak notes that this current iteration started in 2007, and that deadline has remained more or less steady since 2009 or early 2010. Among the causes of the delays in that project have been issues relating to where underground utilities are, as many were unmapped and so took longer to move.
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.
Hudson Yards timeline
2004*: master plan put forth by Bloomberg administration to rezone a section the rail yard
2005: Council approves Bloomberg plan
2005-2009: Lots of yelling about rezoning and land use, according to Speaker Quinn
2009: Rezoning of western rail yards approved
2010: Contract signed by Related and the Oxford Properties Group with the MTA for development of 13 million square feet
2012: Breaking ground on South Tower, first commercial building in Hudson Yards
2014 (projected): Development of northern section of Hudson Yards, according to Mayor Bloomberg
2015 (projected): Completion of South Tower
*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."
Hudson Yards by the numbers
47 story tall South Tower
26 acre site
23,000 construction jobs
Over 80% of first commercial tower committed so far
What will be in the Hudson Yards?
- five floors of retail
- cultural center
- new public school
- public art & open spaces
- luxury hotel
- affordable housing
- 6 million square feet of commercial space