In January, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced four design alternatives for bringing JFK Airport and LIRR trains to the World Trade Center, with the preferred alternative to be announced in April. It's mid-April, so we should know their decision within the next two weeks.
According to Newsday, the LMDC is leaning strongly towards contributing the $1.2 billion remaining in its coffers to the JFK-LIRR rail link. Multiple surveys (e.g., see here) have shown that the community would prefer to see that sum devoted to broader-based initiatives, such as affordable housing, job training, parks, and so forth.
I wouldn't necessarily put much weight in surveys, as the average person doesn't really appreciate the economic effects of building a new rail line, but the impact of repairing a dilapidated sidewalk is immediately visible to all. As the LMDC has already spent $2.3 billion on the kind of tactical initiatives the community prefers, perhaps it is not unjust to commit the remaining $1.2 billion to a Big Idea that could be transformational in the way that little grants here-and-there cannot.
But even the lowest estimates put the cost of a JFK-LIRR downtown rail link at $2.0 billion. History shows that initial guesses for projects of this complexity are usually wildly off-the-mark. If the real cost is more like $5.0 billion, then the LMDC's contribution only gets us 25% of the way there. What's good is that?
Even more important than the actual design is whether there's any way of paying for it. Let's hope that it's not all smoke-and-mirrors, like the Mayor's Far West Side development program.