As we all know now, the soaring glass atrium dome and underlying transit hub designed by Nicholas Grimshaw will be much more modest than originally planned (above). The problem, of course, is b-u-d-g-e-t.
A brief recap: The MTA cup that once runneth over with federal aid for post-9/11 redevelopment in Lower Manhattan now appears rather dry, owing to rising real estate and construction costs. To keep the project under a billion dollars, the dome will be squashed by about 30 feet, bringing the total height of the glass-enclosed building down to 70 ft. from the original 100 ft.
Another goal of the project was to link many a number of downtown subway lines, but earlier this week, it was suggested that a connection between the E and R/W might not happen because the $840+ million project lacked the $15 million for it. MTA board members fell over each other to deny support for any project that would, in the words of one member, "discombobulate tens of thousands of passengers a day because you want to have a fancy roof."
The MTA's first priority appears to be covering their arses--and that means making sure passengers are able to connect more easily among the 12 tangled subway lines that currently bump 'n' grind their way through the Financial District. Yesterday, MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow declared, "The E connector is going to get done and we are going to find the money."
The Daily News likens the original design to a kind of Pantheon boondoggle, and derides the reduced version as "roughly the equivalent of an ambitious solarium." Perhaps not the most avid fans of architecture and grand public space, the editors appear much keener on the idea of new downtown links for the Long Island Railroad and Kennedy Airport.
But we can be happy that they're least they're not squashing the dome AND raising the subway fare next year, right?