MTA Re-Opens Turnstyle Underground Retail Space to Help Bring Up Ridership, Revenue

MTA Re-Opens Turnstyle Underground Retail Space to Help Bring Up Ridership, Revenue

By Yehudit Garmaise

Could re-styled and modernized retail shops and kiosks underground help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) avoid driving itself off over what New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli called a “fiscal cliff”?

After looking at the MTA’s financial records in detail, DiNapoli told MTA Janno Lieber, “We are in danger of losing a system that we have had for so long that is so key to New York,” Lieber said this morning. “It will be a different type of MTA if we don’t get that federal help.

But the MTA is not only relying on more federal funds to survive and thrive.

Last week, Turnstyle Underground Market, an underground city block of pop-up shops, kiosks, and retail stores, celebrated its grand re-opening today after the pandemic forced it to close, announced Lieber, who introduced himself as the MTA’s president of construction and development.

You do not need to swipe your MetroCard to enter the subterranean mall that the MTA hopes will help to bolster both its losses and its ridership.

“This kind of [retail usage] of what used to be an empty subway passage is exactly an approach that we are trying to replicate across the system,” said Lieber who said the MTA has similar Requests-For-Proposals (RFPs) for the Port Authority Bus Terminal mezzanine at 8th Avenue, “and some of the other underused circulation areas.”

While on a typical weekday this time in 2022, this station had 240,000 riders, that number has dropped to 75,000, said Lieber, who added that overall, ridership on the subway remains at 30% of where it was this time of year pre-pandemic, and the buses are at approximately 50%.

The MTA hopes its increased safety, cleanliness, and some new bathrooms will bring back riders in addition to the re-opening of Turnstyle, Lieber said.

To bolster the success of Turnstyle’s small business tenants the MTA is offering smaller retailers the option to pay rent that is based on a percentage of their earnings rather than “a fixed rent system based on their leases:” until ridership moves back to normal levels.

Lieber compared the economic struggles of NYC’s “mom and pop shops” to the financial woes of the MTA, which he said is “struggling to survive.”

While the new renting plan for the space used by smaller tenants will apply to the “vast majority of Turnstyle’s retail tenants, including the newsstands,” national chains like Starbucks and Apple will continue to pay traditional, monthly rent.

photo credit: Flickr

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