The MTA just announced that its Arts & Design Department has awarded contracts to two artists for work at the new East Side Access Long Island Rail Road Grand Central Madison facility. The artists are tasked with creating a “culture corridor.” This would include 2,400 square feet of floor-to-ceiling mosaics. The longest corridor would be 100 feet.
MTA usually has a 1% Arts in Transit requirement for capital construction projects, such as the new Grand Central Madison Terminal. Is the 1% based on the original 2006 Federal Transit Administration Full Funding Grant Agreement for $6.3 billion or is it today’s $11 billion plus promised cost at completion? Given the $5 billion-plus project cost overrun and the MTA’s looming multibillion-dollar budget shortfall in coming years, is this making the best use of increasing scarce capital dollars?
Artwork may be pleasing to the eye, but safe, clean secure facilities with adequate security devoid of homeless people, working bathrooms, secure passageways, exits, elevators, escalators and waiting rooms is a higher priority than these expenditures in art. Commuters and taxpayers might prefer these millions be spent on investments that give riders real tangible benefits.
Larry Penner is a transportation advocate, historian and writer who previously worked for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office.