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M.T.A. Plans ‘Adopt-a-Station’ Program for Subways
At a time when New York City’s subway system is in crisis, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made a plea to private companies on Thursday: Help us improve it by adopting a station.
The new program could upgrade as many as 72 stations across a century-old system that is plagued by grime and has no doubt seen better days. The plan is part of Mr. Cuomo’s “all hands on deck” approach to fixing the subway — an effort that will require an influx of money and workers.
“The businesses can enhance those stations, enhance maintenance, enhance security, enhance aesthetics,” Mr. Cuomo said in a speech in Manhattan. “There could be art in the stations.”
Naming rights for stations were a possibility, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Mr. Lhota said that there were plenty of stations that needed improvements and that it was important that stations outside Manhattan were included in the program.
“All people in the city deserve the benefit,” Mr. Lhota told reporters after the governor’s speech.
Subway officials have previously tried to entice companies to pay for naming rights for stations, but there have been few takers. Citigroup balked at paying to rename the stop near Citi Field in Queens, though the station near Barclays Center in Brooklyn was renamed “Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center” as part of a $4 million sponsorship deal with a developer.
The authority has also been picky about renaming stations. In 2013, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney suggested naming the stop at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan after Mayor Edward I. Koch because he had greeted riders at the entrance, but the agency insisted it did not name stations after people.
Times have changed. Amid skyrocketing delays and a series of accidents, Mr. Lhota released his roughly $800 million subway rescue plan on Tuesday, calling for a host of fixes, including repairs to signals and trains.
In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo outlined several other initiatives to improve the subway. He said he was working with Con Edison, the public utility company, to prevent power problems that have caused major subway delays by stepping up inspections and establishing a crisis response team for the subway.
Mr. Cuomo, who controls the authority and appointed Mr. Lhota, also announced a new business council dedicated to upgrading the subway, similar to groups like the Central Park Conservancy, a thriving nonprofit that was instrumental to restoring the once forlorn park. Several companies have agreed to participate, including Hearst and the Estée Lauder Companies, with each of them committing $250,000 to the effort.
The governor repeated his pledge that the state would pay for half of the subway rescue plan, saying he would make the funds available immediately, while Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to resist calls to pay for the other half. The two leaders have publicly quarreled over whether the city was responsible for funding the plan, even though the state runs the subway system.
A new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University found that more New Yorkers faulted Mr. Cuomo for bad subway service. Among voters who rated the subways poorly, about 40 percent said Mr. Cuomo was mainly to blame, 21 percent primarily blamed Mr. de Blasio and 20 percent blamed both leaders.
“Every day seems to bring a new horror story from the subways and, so far at least, New Yorkers pin the blame more on Gov. Andrew Cuomo than Mayor Bill de Blasio,” said Maurice Carroll, an assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
Shortly after Mr. Cuomo’s speech, the mayor’s office released a statement saying that if the governor wants the city to pay more, Mr. Cuomo should first return the money he had diverted from the authority in recent years. The statement also questioned how much of the additional $1 billion Mr. Cuomo promised the authority last month would go toward Mr. Lhota’s plan. Mr. Lhota has defended Mr. Cuomo against the city’s claims over diverted money, saying the authority was receiving more money this year than last year.
As for the “Adopt-a-Station” plan, the governor’s office said there would be 18 eligible stations in each of the four boroughs where the subway runs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx — based on the number of customer complaints and traffic volume. Businesses might contribute as much as $600,000 per station. For every station sponsored in Manhattan, at least one station outside Manhattan must also be upgraded.
Mitchell L. Moss, the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University, noted that many subway stations, like Wall Street and Rockefeller Center, already had names and should not be tampered with.
Mr. Moss, however, suggested that Apple could buy naming rights to the station near its store at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, or Whole Foods could name the stop at Houston Street and Second Avenue near where it has a store.
“If this led to the corporate and nonprofit sectors having a stronger and deeper involvement in mass transit,” Mr. Moss said, “that would be terrific.”