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Multi-Board Task Force on East Midtown Rezoning

Resolution on Special Permits Sought by Green 317 Madison, LLC for One Vanderbilt

At the monthly meeting of Community Board Five on Thursday, December 11, 2014, the Board passed the following resolution with a vote of 33 in favor, 0 opposed, 1abstaining:

WHEREAS, Green 317 Madison, LLC seeks a special permit (application C 150128 ZSM) to transfer development rights from a landmark building to facilitate construction of an approximately 1.3 million SF mixed-use development called One Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd Streets, and Madison and Vanderbilt Avenues; and

WHEREAS, Green 317 Madison, LLC seeks a special permit pursuant to the proposed 81-641 of the Zoning Resolution (application  C 150129 ZSM) for a Grand Central Public Realm Improvement Bonus of 12.3 FAR to facilitate a 30 FAR development at One Vanderbilt; and

WHEREAS, Green 317 Madison, LLC seeks a special permit pursuant to the proposed 81-642 of the Zoning Resolution (application C 150130 ZSM) for modification of regulations with respect to street wall, curb cut, height and setback and mandatory district plan elements, and relief from daylighting; and

WHEREAS, Unlike on corridor parcels not fronting 42nd Street, we believe there may be circumstances under which a building on this site might reasonably justify an allowable 30 FAR; and

WHEREAS, Regarding One Vanderbilt, we continue to have areas of concern:

  1. Infrastructure and Public Realm: 

                        While the proposed off-site public realm improvements include:

1)      the creation of a Public Place on Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd to be used as a pedestrian plaza;

2)      a new stair in the cellar of the Pershing Square Building (southeast corner of 42nd and Park) that would connect the Grand Central-42nd Street subway station mezzanine to the 4, 5 and 6 subway platform;

3)      a new subway entrance with two new street-level subway stairs on the sidewalk at the southeast corner of 42nd and Lexington that would connect to and open an existing 4,100 square foot below-grade passageway;

4)      modification of columns on the Grand Central – 42nd Street mezzanine to provide more pedestrian circulation space and improve pedestrian flow;

5)      8,475 square feet of an expanded Grand Central – 42nd Street station mezzanine in the cellar of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and the creation of two new stairs from one of the new mezzanine areas to the 4, 5, and 6 subway platform;

6)      replacement and widening of an existing street-level subway entrance at the northwest corner of 42nd and Lexington with wider stairs and an elevator;

we are concerned that two off-site improvements (the stair between the mezzanine and platform at the Pershing Square Building and the two stairs at the north end of the platform and the enlargement of the mezzanine there) were identified mitigations for the Flushing line extension and East Side Access and were to be paid for through the capital programs of the MTA and/or the City; and

there are no sidewalk subway entrances on 42nd street from Third Avenue to Madison Avenue, but under this application one is proposed on the southeast corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue; and

we are concerned that nothing in this proposal would improve the connectivity between the 7 Line and the Lexington Lines; and

we continue to have questions and concerns about the nature and maintenance of the Public Place on Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd:

while the proposed on-site public realm improvements include:

1)      a new ground-level subway entrance on East 42nd Street with escalator, elevator and stairways providing access to the Shuttle subway station and providing below-grade connections through the Intermodal Connector to the Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7 Subway lines at the Grand Central Terminal concourse level and to the Long Island Rail Road at the East Side Access concourse level;

2)      a new ground-level Transit Hall (approximately 4,000 square feet) with entrances at East 43rd Street, providing stairway and elevator connections to the new below-grade corridor, with connections to East Side Access, the Shuttle, Grand Central Terminal, and the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines;

3)      new elevator and escalator connections from East Side Access through the Development Site that will allow for connection from the East Side Access concourse to street level or the 4, 5, 6, 7, or Shuttle subway lines without the need to traverse the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal;

4)      the new day-lit, below-grade Intermodal Connector (10,100 square feet) providing connections between Long Island Rail Road (East Side Access), Metro-North Rail Road (Grand Central Terminal), and the 4, 5, 6, 7 and Shuttle subway lines;

we are also concerned about the lack of sidewalk widening on a heavily trafficked East 43rd Street, which leads directly to GCT;

further, the proposed office building lobby dominates and privatizes, along the marginal Transit Hall, almost the entire Vanderbilt Avenue frontage;

we are concerned that the proposed Transit Hall (which should have included seating and public restrooms) at Vanderbilt and 43rd is not optimally located to provide connectivity for passengers to and from the West Side, and propose an entrance hall at Madison and 42nd as well as a B2 level connection from East Side Access to NYC Transit at 42nd and Vanderbilt; and  

we believe that the requirements of the Special Midtown District for through-block access to the lobby should be maintained; and

we take note that with the entire site to be excavated, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to find solutions that will best serve the public at this dense and vital crossroads; and

B.   Sustainability and the Environment

While the Applicant has committed to construct a LEED v4 Certified Gold building, only the highest level of sustainability is acceptable if the goal, as stated, is to keep East Midtown as the premier business district; therefore, the Applicant must commit to a LEED v4 Certified Platinum building which will be designed to perform 30 percent better than ASHRAE 90.1, 2010; and

The proposed building lobby should publicly display a comprehensive building water usage and energy performance dashboard showing where and how energy and water is continuously being conserved; and

We are concerned that the requested modifications to the Special Midtown District Height and Setback regulations (Daylight Compensation and Daylight Evaluation) are excessive, radically lowering daylight levels in Midtown to pre-1916 pre-zoning daylight levels (Daylight Evaluation score is negative 62 % v. 75 % of the sky left open); this reduction in daylight is not adequately addressed by either DCP or the DEIS; and the magnitude of the reduction in daylight will set a precedent for future development in Vanderbilt Corridor and East Midtown; and

C.   FAR Bonus Size

As with the rest of the Vanderbilt Corridor, any increase in FAR granted by a special permit needs to ensure that public realm improvements, and improvements to the transit network surrounding the site, do more than mitigate existing system deficiencies , but rather look forward to the public needs in the decades to come; and

The Department of City Planning needs to provide a quantifiable measure of how the 12.3 FAR public realm improvement bonus was earned; and

WHEREAS, We praise the Applicant for taking Community Board Five and Six's concerns regarding the harmoniousness of their proposed building with Grand Central Terminal into account and for attempting to resolve them by revising the design, the specific concerns raised by the proposed building's asymmetrical façade, use of glass and cacophonous base have not been alleviated; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant must create a Community Construction Task Force (CCTF) to keep the community stakeholders fully informed and consulted on all aspects of the development and sequencing of changes to the immediate vicinity; and

WHEREAS, This CCTF would meet before the onset of demolition, then hold regular meetings weekly at the outset, then monthly or once a quarter;  therefore be it

RESOLVED, Manhattan Community Boards Five and Six recommend denial of the C 150128 ZSM, C 150129 ZSM and C 150130 ZSM special permits unless the following conditions are met:

  1. The development will be LEED v4 Certified Platinum; and
  2. A major public space is created at street and concourse level, through or adjacent to and connecting with the main lobby of One Vanderbilt, and connecting the corner of Madison Avenue and 42 Street and the main concourse of Grand Central; and be it further

RESOLVED, While the following recommendations are not conditions for our approval, we strongly recommend:

  1. Placement of the subway entrance should be within the building at the Southeast corner of 42nd and Lexington and not on the sidewalk; and
  2. Further widening to the extent necessary so that a minimum sidewalk width of 20 feet is achieved for Madison Avenue and East 42nd Street;  and widening East 43rd Street to a minimum of 15 feet is achieved; and
  3. Reduce the width of the office lobby on the Public Place and consider pedestrian uses in lieu of the Transit Hall; and
  4. Creation of a Community Construction Task Force; and
  5. The Department of City Planning provide a quantifiable measure of how the 12.3 FAR public realm improvement bonus was earned; and
  6. One Vanderbilt should:

(i) Provide the required 4,200 square feet of mandatory, unbonused pedestrian circulation space required by the Special Midtown District;

(ii) Include a significant improvement to the Terminal City pedestrian circulation system for the privilege of transferring the development rights of the Bowery Savings Bank remotely;

(iii) Not receive a bonus for improvements to the subway station that are mitigations for East Side Access or the extension of the 7 line; and

  1. The Department of City Planning provide a rationale for what amounts to a waiver of the Height and Setback/Daylight regulations which, for example, have resulted in a daylight score for One Vanderbilt of negative 62% (Daylight Evaluation) rather than the Midtown standard of 75% of the sky left open; and be it further

RESOLVED, The conditions listed above are necessary to recommend approval and therefore unless and until these conditions are met, we recommend denial at this time.

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