109 East 42nd Street, Grand Hyatt Commodore Project Draft Scope of Work
The Community Board Five Executive Committee unanimously passed the following resolution with a vote of 10 in favor; 0 opposed; 0 abstaining; 0 present not entitled to vote:
WHEREAS, The Grand Hyatt Commodore tower is being proposed for redevelopment and is the subject of review by the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five has reviewed the Draft Scope of Work for the development and believes that the following areas should be addressed; and
The development site is currently occupied by the The Grand Hyatt Hotel, formerly known as Hotel Commodore, a 294.00 ft tower originally designed by Warren and Wetmore and built in 1919, subsequently altered by architects Der Scutt in association with Gruzen & Partners for Trump Organization in 1980. The Applicant proposes to demolish the existing building and redevelop the Development Site with up to approximately 2,982,740 gross square feet (gsf) (2,246,515 zsf) of mixed non-residential development, including up to 2,108,820 gsf of office space, up to a 500-room hotel, approximately 10,000 gsf of open-air publicly accessible space, and up to 43,370 gsf of retail (including MTA-controlled retail) on the cellar, ground, and second floors. In connection with the Proposed Development, the Applicant would provide a variety of transit and public realm improvements to improve circulation and reduce congestion at Grand Central Terminal and the Grand Central/42nd Street subway station and provide connections between the subway and mass rail transit systems.
The below-grade mezzanine level would continue to contain the existing subway station and rail station areas, with circulation improvements. The ground floor would contain the hotel lobby and office lobby, a reconstructed Lexington Passage and MTA retail located along the passage, an approximately 6,350 sf Transit Hall, and approximately 2,400-sf of additional area for subway entries off 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The hotel lobby would be located on the eastern frontage on Lexington Avenue, while the office lobby would be accessed from East 42nd Street. The second floor would contain office lobby and open-air publicly accessible space fronting on Lexington Avenue. Office space is planned to be located on floors 7-63, and the hotel on floors 65-83. The building envelope would be a tower rising to approximately 1,646 feet tall.
The Development Site is located in a C5-3 Zoning District, in the Special
Midtown District; in the East Midtown Subdistrict, in the Grand Central Core Area, and the Grand Central Transit Improvement Zone Sub-area.
The base commercial FAR for the site is 15. The maximum amount of as-of-right floor area that can be developed is 27 FAR. An additional 3 FAR can be granted by Special Permit. The maximum FAR can be reached using three mechanisms: the district-wide transfer of unused landmark development rights, a payment to a district improvement fund to reconstruct overbuilt floor area, and the construction of pre-identified transit infrastructure projects.
The Qualifying Site would encompass the perimeter of the development site, the Lexington Passageway, Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central Market, and Depew Alley. The Project Area includes Block 1280, Lots 1, 30, 54, and 154, and consists of 203,872 square feet (sf). Specifically, the Project Area consists of Lot 30 (Development Site). The 57,292-sf Development Site contains a 26-story, approximately 1,028,120 sf hotel (the existing Grand Hyatt Hotel). And Lots 1, 54, and 154 are on an existing merged zoning lot and contain approximately 322,664 sf of floor area comprising the Beaux-Arts-style Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central Market and Depew Alley. Depew Alley, a public thoroughfare, has been demapped and has been incorporated into the Qualifying Development Site. The FAR would be calculated using the entire surface of the Qualifying site
The following actions would be required from the CPC in accordance with the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
› A CPC special permit pursuant to ZR Section 81-621 to allow hotel use;
› A CPC special permit pursuant to ZR Section 81-644 for transit improvements;
› A CPC special permit pursuant to ZR Section 81-645 for public concourse improvements;
› A CPC special permit pursuant to ZR Section 81-685 to modify qualifying site, floor area, height and setback, street wall, district plan elements, loading, and publicly accessible space regulations;
› Zoning text amendments to amend existing special permits in ZR Sections 81-644 and 81-685, and update a section reference in ZR Section 81-613;
› A CPC authorization pursuant to ZR Section 36-72 to reduce the number of required bicycle parking spaces; and
› Approval for the disposition of City-owned real property pursuant to Section 197-c of the New York City Charter with respect to the Development Site.
Additionally, the following non-discretionary actions would be required:
› A joint certification from the CPC Chairperson and the MTA pursuant to ZR Section 81-673(a) as to the size and location of transit easement volumes on the zoning lot;
› A joint certification from the CPC Chairperson and the MTA pursuant to ZR Section 81-673(b) as to whether a transit easement volume is required on the zoning lot.
Approval by the Empire State Development Corporation or its subsidiary would also be required for the conveyance of the Development Site to the City of New York, subject to the existing ground lease between UDC/Commodore Redevelopment Corporation and Hyatt Equities L.L.C. (or its successor/assign). A lease extension would be approved pursuant to actions to be determined. Disposition of the Development Site from the City of New York to a local development corporation would require approval by the Mayor and Borough Board pursuant to Section 384(b)(4) of the New York City Charter.
The Development Site sits above a transit rich network of subway and train infrastructure. MTA would also be a stakeholder in the redevelopment.
The Development Site is located in one of the densest parts of the country, an area that has not yet reached its full permissible density, as other development sites in the immediate vicinity are being developed with high-density commercial office towers. While the East Midtown Rezoning goal was to increase density in the area, the new zoning is still untested and has already revealed flaws by not properly assessing potential development sites (JP. Morgan Chase Headquarters), or undervaluing redevelopment density (the Grand Hyatt, subject of this application Development Site was evaluated for a 27 FAR with a qualifying site matching the development site).
The area around the project site is heavily congested. It will require careful impact evaluation as the new building will bring an additional 1705 office workers, 187 hotel workers and 75 retail workers. The 5ft sidewalk widening may not be significant enough to provide relief to pedestrian congestion on sidewalks.
The transit and below grade improvement must be evaluated with the full breadth of the potential development, including East Side Access and increased connectivity to other transportation hubs (ARC, etc.)
The proposed elevated publicly accessible open space’s use should not be limited by lack of accessibility, or other challenges. The open space anticipated usage should be carefully evaluated, as an elevated open space may be perceived as less accessible. It is paramount that the space is designed in a way that does not rely on heavy commercial presence to activate the area.
During the East Midtown rezoning, it was discussed that Depew Place could become pedestrianized to mirror Vanderbilt Avenue on the west side of Grand Central Terminal; the effects and feasibility of the pedestrianization of Depew Place should be evaluated.
Shadows Air Light
The building will be 1605 ft high. Its penetration into the sky exposure plane will be very substantial. Shadows cast by the building will be long, possibly reaching open spaces such as Bryant Park. It will also significantly reduce the amount of air and light reaching the streets, negatively impacting the pedestrian experience.
While shadows are a standard environmental impact in a study, it is paramount that thermic comfort also be evaluated. The proposed design and massing bears the risk of wind tunnels, especially at the north and east sides of the elevated open space. It could also have a heat trapping effect that would render the open space unusable in the summer months.
The building would use 195,580 mBTU per week and would consume more than 1 million gallons of water per pay. The building’s environmental impacts must be evaluated using the most stringent codes and requirements. The building impact should not only consider energy consumption, but also energy sources. The building’s water consumption and sewer usage should be scrutinized.
FAR Bonus Size & Valuation
The FAR calculation is based on a lot that encompasses Development Site, Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central Market, and Depew Place. This lot aggregation substantially increases the numerator for the FAR base density calculation, thus increasing the allowed density (either as-of-right or by special permit) in a way not anticipated. Any increase in FAR granted under the provisions of the East Midtown Subdistrict 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.
Valuation of transit upgrades should be captured as part of the scope, measured in dollar amounts, with those amounts associated with each proposed upgrade and that formula should be part of the scope.
Finally, the formula itself for calculating bonus density should be part of the scope. A formula calculating bonus based on FAR (a ratio), may not be appropriate in this particular instance. Instead, the formula for bonus density should be a dollar for square feet formula, where the dollar value for a specific transit upgrade translates into a set number of square feet of bonus density.
SPECIFIC TASKS TO BE REVISED
Task 2: Land Use, Zoning and Public Policy
The Development site is located in the East Midtown subdistrict, an area recently rezoned to provide a framework for high-density development. The data used for the rezoning may have to be corrected to match the way developers are creatively using the text.
The scope should include:
Task 3: Socioeconomic Conditions
The new building will generate 2,108,820 sf of commercial office space. The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the office market. The new building impact must be evaluated in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. It must also be evaluated in the context of other large scale developments, including One Vanderbilt, the MTA site redevelopment (347 Madison Avenue), the JP Morgan Chase Headquarters redevelopment (270 Park Avenue), the Rudin Management redevelopment (415 Madison Avenue), the Penn Station redevelopment, aka Empire Station Complex Redevelopment, and Macy’s upzoning (151 West 34th Street).
The scope should be revised to increase the study area radius to one mile to properly capture the large influx of additional office space in a depressed office market.
Task 4: Open Space
The project requires the creation of at least 10,000 sf of publicly accessible open space. While creating open space is a creative way to fulfill this requirement, it is imperative that the space’s projected usage be adequately evaluated. The space must be fully accessible, and must be perceived as accessible. Security and safety issues must be strongly assessed and addressed during the design process. Overall programming and activation should rely on the public's organic desire to patronize the spaces and should be planned with very little commercial activation. The space should not rely on commercial activity to activate the space. Public bathrooms should be part of the scope.
Task 5: Shadows
The building will be 1601 ft tall. Its shadow will reach parks and open space. Shadows must be quantified using not only the shadow length but also the duration that the shadow lingers in any specific open space, including parks, POPS and other open public spaces. A shadow heat-map should be part of the scope for proper review and consideration of negative impacts. If shadow lingers in a specific public space for more than 45 minutes between September 21st and March 21st, the building massing should be altered to reduce shadow duration.
Task 6: Historic and Cultural Resources
Within the 400-foot study area, there are 11 designated architectural resources located within the Study Area, two of which are also in the Project Area. There are also 20 individual structures previously determined as eligible for NYCL and/or the S/NR within the study area, The building is surrounded by some of the most significant historic resources of the City, including Grand Central Terminal, The Chrysler Building, The Bowery Savings Bank, to name a few. Obstructing vista corridors is tantamount to privatizing views on the skyline. The building design and massing must be evaluated so that it minimally obstructs views on historic resources, especially on Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.
Task 7: Urban Design and Visual Resources
Given the significance of the visual resources, the EIS analysis framework must be based on the absolute impact, rather than on the impact relative to the no-action scenario. The design and massing of the proposed building must be as minimally impactful to the existing urban context and the visual resources. The building should defer to Grand Central Terminal and to the Chrysler Building. The design must also be evaluated in the context of newly constructed or newly designed buildings so as to create a harmonious streetscape that retains the spirit of Terminal City.
Task 9: Water and Sewer Infrastructure
The building is anticipated to use more than 1 million gallons of water per day. Water usage should be addressed with the most stringent environmental norms in mind.
Task 10: Transportation
Travel Demand Analysis
The project impact to travel demand should be evaluated in absolute terms rather than in comparison with the no-action scenario. The development requires transit upgrades. They should not only mitigate the new development impacts but also address the transportation challenges of the next 20 years.
The transit analysis should evaluate impact on subways and busses. But it should also evaluate impact on train and commuter rail transit. These analyses should be based on projected rail and public transportations plans.
This should be assessed and measured with objective data including data around throughput such as train/hour capacity, pedestrian capacity, and whether a measurable increase in these metrics will be achieved
Pedestrian Traffic Analysis
The project impact to pedestrian traffic should be evaluated in absolute terms rather than in comparison with the no-action scenario. The area is already severely congested. The proposed development will bring greatly increased density, combined to multiple high-density office towers currently in development. Mitigation measures must be significant and aggressive, so that the existing systemic deficiencies are addressed.
This should include an assessment of whether stairs are preferable to ramps to get to the open space given many people who travel have large bags with wheels.
Pedestrian Connection Analysis
Evaluation should include the broad impact not only to pedestrian traffic but also to new potential pedestrian connections via the Viaduct. New pedestrian space could create new through-corridors of pedestrian access across the entire block.
Bicycle Space Analysis
Evaluation should study the effects of either reduction of bicycle parking spots on premises or need for more in the surrounding area relative to traffic created by the building as well as growth in projected use by 2030 and 2040.
Task 11: Air Quality & Task 12: Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Change
The building energy efficiency and its contribution to CO2 emissions must be evaluated based on the most stringent norms. The energy consumption must be properly evaluated and mitigated. The energy sources must also be scrutinized and must incorporate renewable and self-created sources of energy.
Task 15: Neighborhood Character
The building impact to the neighborhood character must be evaluated in the context of its historic neighbors, in the context of the historic Terminal City and in the context of the new Terminal City, a Terminal City 2.0, made up of new developments rendered feasible by the East Midtown Subdistrict as well as the Vanderbilt Corridor Subdistrict. It is paramount that a sense of space and a cohesive streetscape be developed during this fluid phase of development.
Task 16: Construction
Construction of the new building will present challenges that include demolition of an existing historic 1916 building on site, and the anchoring of the new building above a mostly hollow site. Construction nuisance must be carefully mitigated. A Construction Task Force must be created and should be evaluated as part of the scope of work.
Additional Task: Community Facilities
The proposed development provides the opportunity to increase community facilities in an area that has very few such facilities. A large homeless population lives and congregates in and near Grand Central Terminal. While the project will not result in the direct impact to existing community facilities, the scope should evaluate its ability to contribute to an existing need of our district. Such community space may be educational space, performance and rehearsal space, and community facility for homeless and vulnerable individuals.
Community Board Five urges city agencies and the developer to carefully assess and properly mitigate the proposed building impacts. While we support a strong business core, the framework of the new East Midtown Subdistrict must be very carefully used and adapted to accomplish a vision of strength and resilience, indispensable criteria to sustainable growth.
The Environmental Impact Statement should very carefully evaluate vehicular and pedestrian congestion; transit needs and challenges, public realm improvements, impacts to historic and visual resources.
This large-scale development is a unique opportunity to address some of the district’s systemic challenges and should aspire to create a strong and resilient 21st century midtown; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that Community Board Five recommends that the above mentioned recommendations be incorporated into the Final Scope of Work and be thoroughly evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.