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Letter: East Side Access

Intelligent Long Island Rail Road riders are not waiting until 2019 for “East Side Access Late” (March 15). They take advantage of existing options already available. Transferring at Woodside for the #7 express subway will take you to Grand Central Terminal in under 15 minutes. This is 5 minutes more than staying on to Penn Station or change at Queens Boro Plaza from the # 7 subway for either the N or Q subway which will take you to 59th Street & Lexington Avenue in even less time. LIRR passengers disembarking at either Hunters Point or Long Island City can transfer to the #7 subway and arrive at Grand Central Terminal in under five minutes. There is also a ferry at Long Island City with connections to 34th Street, Wall Street and other destinations.

Until the late 1960s, LIRR riders exiting east at Penn Station had a direct underground passageway known as the Hilton Corridor. This provided a simple indoor connection to the 34th Street Herald Square IND and BMT subway, along with PATH station complex.

Further, there was an underground passageway along 6th Avenue which went as far north as 42nd Street. As a teenager, I remember avoiding the rain and snow by using this indoor path. It would provide easy access to both the main branch of the New York public library and long gone Stern’s department store on 42nd Street..

Both passageways were closed many decades ago by New York City Transit and the LIRR, due to security issues. If reopened today, commuters would have easy connections to the Broadway N, R and Q and 6th Avenue B,D, F & M subway lines along with Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) system —- rather than walking outside on the street exposed to both inclement weather and heavy vehicular traffic.

By using either the subway or walking (most New Yorkers can manage a five or ten block walk and we could all use some healthy exercise), riders would have direct access via these subway lines to midtown or the East Side of Manhattan along either the Broadway, 6th Avenue, 42nd, 53rd, 59th or 63rd Street corridors, served by numerous subway lines and stations.

How disappointing that the old Hilton corridor, which previously provided transit options for thousands of rush hour commuters continues to lay dormant after so many decades. This connection could probably be restored in several years for less than the cost of one individual East Side Access construction contract or several of the larger construction contract change orders.

What ever happened to a proposal by one of New York City’s developers —- Vornado Realty Trust from June 2010 to pay for construction to reopen the old Hilton Corridor, also known as the Gimbel’s passageway? They offered to do this in exchange for a city zoning variance to construct a high rise office building at 7th Avenue and 32nd Street.

Why not consider taking advantage of the private sector picking up the tab for a significant transportation improvement that could benefit thousands of transportation riders at no cost to taxpayers or government?

Larry Penner