Editorial: What's in a name? Big bucks for subway system
The MTA is expected to vote today on guidelines for the sale of naming rights to subway stations -- and it's hard not to feel a little nervous about the idea.
More than once New York has been called a city for sale, but do we really need to showcase that side of ourselves by amending the familiar historic names of stations all the way from the Bronx to Far Rockaway?
Actually, we do.
Money is tight these days. The Great Recession caused the MTA's funding streams to shrivel. And right now the agency is looking at some hefty bills to pay. The authority must hammer out a contract with the Transport Workers Union, find a way to pay for rising health and pension costs, and protect the system in an age of climate change.
Every chunk of change helps.
Besides, it's not like MTA honchos want to sell off the family jewels to pay the rent. It's more like they're taking on limited business partners during a tough time.
If you're worrying, say, about the sudden appearance of Donald J. Trump's name on every subway stop in the city, don't. It's not likely. The proposal frowns on selling rights to people who are mostly out to build brands. Station names should remain accurate and help riders as they use the system, MTA officials say: New names that confuse customers should be avoided, and applicants should have geographic or historic links to stations they sponsor.
Best case scenario? The MTA isn't saying. But in 2009 -- for $4 million over 20 years -- it agreed to change the name of the subway complex in downtown Brooklyn from Atlantic Avenue to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center.
What to avoid? Over the years the MTA has rejected a call to rename the 77th Street station on the No. 6 line in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch (who liked to campaign there) and resisted pressure to rename the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station on the A, C and G after Michael Jackson, who filmed part of his 1987 "Bad" video there. No offense to Jackson or Koch, but those were wise moves by the MTA.
Naming rights won't end the MTA's financial troubles. But with 468 stations in a system providing 5.3 million rides a day, they're a genuine asset. So put them to work.