Empire Station Complex CB5 Response
At the regularly scheduled monthly Manhattan Community Board Five (CB5) meeting on Thursday, March 11, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 35 in favor; 1 abstaining; 2 present not entitled to vote:
WHEREAS, ESD had introduced a General Project Plan (GPP) to upzone and override local zoning laws around Penn Station in CB5 and parts of CB4; and
WHEREAS, The joint Land Use, Housing & Zoning and Transportation & Environment committees of CB5 held a hearing on March 3rd; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five reviewed and analyzed the GPP, the Design Guidelines, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the Neighborhood Condition Study; therefore be it
RESOLVED, the following documents spell out Community Board Five's position as well as questions regarding the General Project Plan, the DEIS, the Design Guidelines and the Neighborhood Condition Study.
EMPIRE STATION COMPLEX
DESCRIPTION AND CHRONOLOGY
The New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a as Empire State Development (ESD) is the sponsor of a land use proposal to override New York City zoning rules, to redevelop all or a portion of nine tax blocks around Penn Station, on blocks 783, 809, 808, 807, 781, 780, and 806 located in Manhattan Community Board Five (MCB5) and blocks 755 and 754 located in Manhattan Community Board Four MCB4.
The proposed land use action would facilitate the development of 8 sites with 10 buildings, with a total of approximately 20 million square feet of mostly office space, as well as retail and hotel use, and a potential small residential development alternative.
On July 1st 2020, ESD issued a Draft Scope of Work (DSOW) delineating the scope of the project in order to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
On July 13th, Manhattan CB5 held a joint Transportation & Environment and Land Use, Housing & Zoning committees meeting to discuss the DSOW and issued recommendations to change the Scope of Work, including relocating Madison Square Garden to blocks 908 and 909.
On July 20, 2020, ESD held a public hearing at which CB5 delivered comments.
On December 21, 2020, ESD issued the Final Scope of Work (FSOW) and did not incorporate CB5’s recommendations, except for an affordable housing alternative.
On February 18, 2021, ESD Directors approved the General Project Plan (GPP) for the Empire Station Complex Civic and Land Use Improvement Project.
On February 24, 2021, ESD issued the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
On March 3, 2021, CB5 held a joint LUHZ and T&E committees meeting to review and discuss the DEIS, the GPP, the Design Guidelines, and the Neighborhood Condition Study.
The goals stated in the DEIS, and the GPP are
- Goal 1: Revitalize the area surrounding Penn Station with new, sustainable, high-density mixed-use development.
- Goal 2: Improve passenger rail and transit facilities and pedestrian circulation, access, and safety.
- Goal 3: Support improvements to address substandard conditions in Penn Station.
- Goal 4: Support and accommodate future capacity increases at Penn Station.
The proposed land use action would facilitate the development of ten new buildings, doubling the current density by adding approximately 20 million sq/ft, and would propose modest public realm modifications as well as additional subway egress. The proposed land use action, although embracing the goal of improving Penn Station and or facilitating Penn Station expansion, would not directly cause any of those goals to be reached. Penn Station upgrades are not in the scope of work, they are not described, detailed, or evaluated in this proposal; their cost is not disclosed, or even projected in this land use action. The land use action does not detail how and how much it would contribute to the Penn Station upgrades, how the funds would be allocated, over what period of time or who would control them.
Penn Station expansion is not in the scope of work, it is not described, detailed, or evaluated in this proposal; its cost is not disclosed, or even projected in this land use action. Furthermore, the DEIS states that Penn Station expansion would be a federal action, coordinated by Amtrak, necessitating federal environmental review (NEPA), under which sites 1, 2, and 3 may or may not be slated for redevelopment. The land use action does not detail how and how much it would financially contribute to the Penn Station expansion.
The proposed land use action is not conditional on any public realm, transit or infrastructure improvements of any type. Project financing is not part of the EIS scope. Revenue structure is not part of the EIS scope.
Community Board Five supports Penn Station renovation. However, we believe that any proposal to address Penn Station’s current condition, Penn Station expansion and any land use action must be addressed under the same application, the same environmental review and conducted in a comprehensive fashion to properly evaluate the environmental impacts of all these actions. It is essential to understand in quantifiable terms (scope, cost, funding mechanism), what improvements are needed, and proposed first, before any land use action to support such improvements can be evaluated. The current proposal uses improper segmentation that prevents cumulative impacts analysis of the project.
Funding, revenue structure, fund allocation must be part of the scope. They must be thoroughly detailed, in a transparent fashion. The project in its current iteration is too vague, too opaque and fails to reach the basic level of community engagement.
In order for the applicant, ESD, to justify proposing a land use action in a municipality, pursuant to UDC Act Section 10, it must establish the following findings:
“Civic Project Findings: UDC Act Section 10(d)
There exists in the area in which the project is to be located, a need for the educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic facility to be included in the project.
(4) The plans and specifications assure or will assure adequate light, air, sanitation and fire protection.”
“"Civic project" definition. A project or that portion of a multi-purpose project designed and intended for the purpose of providing facilities for educational, cultural, recreational, community, municipal, public service or other civic purposes.”
While the GPP affirms that Penn Station itself is part of the project, Penn Station is not in the scope of work; improvements and expansion to Penn Station are not part of this project and are not in the scope of work. The project calls for the development of ten commercial buildings with no educational, recreational, cultural or public service purpose. CB5 notes that the project would cause the demolition of a higher education facility (Touro College) and a church, a homeless services provider facility, as well as a number of other facilities that serve the public and the community (NY Department of Motor Vehicle office).
The plans and specification demonstrate that the shadows caused by the developments will be massive, will impact open space and light sensitive historic resources, and that they will be mostly unmitigated. The Design Guidelines also eliminate the sky exposure plane regulation currently existing in the zoning and will offer no mechanism to assess and protect access to light at street level. The proposed density will cause the streets surrounding the sites to be plunged in semi-permanent twilight. The project will not assure adequate light and air. The project fails to fall within the definition of a Civic Project.
“Land Use Improvement Project Findings: UDC Act Section 10(c) (1)
The area in which the Project is to be located is a substandard or insanitary area, or is in danger of becoming a substandard or insanitary area and tends to impair or arrest sound growth and development of the municipality.”
“(c) "Land Use Improvement project" Definition. A plan or undertaking for the clearance, replanning, reconstruction and rehabilitation or a combination of these and other methods, of a substandard and insanitary area, and for recreational or other facilities incidental or appurtenant thereto, pursuant to and in accordance with article eighteen of the constitution and this act. The terms "clearance, replanning, reconstruction and rehabilitation" shall include renewal, redevelopment, conservation, restoration or improvement or any combination thereof as well as the testing and reporting of methods and techniques for the arrest, prevention and elimination of slums and blight.”
Community Board Five believes that this area of our district cannot be qualified as a slum and blight, nor can it be described as substandard or unsanitary and that the characterization is offensive, grossly inaccurate and serves the only purpose of erroneously applying a portion of the UDC Act to justify an action that should not be permitted. The area is home to Madison Square Garden, a large and world-renowned sports arena, as well as iconic Macy’s, an equally renowned department store; the retail presence in the area includes the largest clothing companies in the world, including brands such as H&M, Target and Old Navy. These brands typically are never found in slums and unsanitary areas. The Neighborhood Condition study commissioned by ESD underscores that the commercial vacancy rate is among the lowest in the borough, clearly establishing that the area is economically strong, dynamic and in no need of salvation. The area is home to Hotel Pennsylvania, a grand historic building designed by McKim, Mead and White in 1919. The building is owned by Vornado, the real estate entity that will most benefit from the State proposed land use action. The hotel maintenance and necessary upkeep has been grossly neglected by its owner, its condition is therefore self-inflicted and cannot be used to justify the land use project. The Neighborhood Condition Study notes that Madison Square Garden (MSG) is a windowless structure that creates an unpleasant streetscape, but the current proposal does not plan to relocate MSG, despite CB5’s and other civic groups’ advocacy. The area is also home to a DMV office, run by the State and if the condition of this State run facility is deemed unsanitary, it is self-inflicted and cannot be used by the State as an argument to demolish and redevelop the area under State action. The GPP notes elements of the public realm, including poorly designed plazas and streetscapes. CB5 notes that the majority of plazas were designed and built by Vornado, in exchange for a generous density bonus. They are owned and maintained by Vornado, the partner in the proposed Project.
While the GPP claims to be comprehensive, it is everything but comprehensive: The transit oriented actions, Penn Station expansion and Penn Station improvements are not part of this proposal.
While outreach is compliant with requirements, pursuant to SEQRA, it fails to properly and meaningfully engage with the public. The CAC, the Community Advisory Committee, appointed by ESD has failed to engage with many community groups, including the Korean community of the nearby K-Town. CB5’s representative to the CAC, Mr. Wally Rubin was appointed by ESD without consultation with CB5 and against the objection of CB5’s Chair. Mr. Rubin, a former district manager of CB5 is now retired, but is still listed as the representative, although now the Chair of CB5’s LUHZ Committee is invited to participate in the CAC meetings. At the February 16, 2021 CAC meeting, the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer asked ESD to give a presentation to Community Board Four and Community Board Five to which ESD agreed. ESD appeared at a joint Transportation & Environment and Land Use, Housing and Zoning Committee of CB5 on March 3rd, 2021, but did not deliver a presentation. The ESD team left the CB5 committee meeting early.
The New York State Urban Development Corporation d/b/a Empire State Development (ESD) is considering the adoption and affirmation of a General Project Plan for the Proposed Project. The GPP and the DEIS were adopted by the ESD directors on February 18, 2021. The directors, all appointed by the Governor, will be tasked with adopting and affirming the GPP for the proposed project once the environmental review process concludes, after the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement. Once adopted, the project will be referred to the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). ESD projects must receive a resolution of approval from PACB prior to entering into any project-related financings. The Public Authorities Control Board is made up of five members. All members are appointed by the Governor.
Community Board Five believes the review and approval process is entirely one-sided. The process does not afford responsiveness to the various constituencies. It rather favors one single developer and provides no real opportunity to compel any modifications to the project.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
Madison Square Garden (MSG), is an arena located on block 781. It sits directly above Pennsylvania Station. In 1963, the original Pennsylvania Station, a four-square-block colonnaded colossus, designed by famed architects McKim, Mead and White, built in 1910, was demolished and its remains were disposed of in a marsh in Secaucus. Penn Station was replaced by a sports and entertainment complex bearing the name Madison Square Garden. In order to build the new arena, columns and girders were installed through the subterranean train station, around the tracks and into the platforms, to reach terra firma.
MSG was granted a fifty-year special permit by the NY City Council in 1963, to operate as an entertainment and sports venue with a capacity in excess of 2500 people. The Special Permit established a maximum capacity of 22,000 seats. In 2013, the NY City Planning Commission recommended and the NY City Council voted to extend MSG special permit for 10 years, with the express condition and recommendation that MSG be relocated as it impedes any meaningful, sustainable and significant renovation, reconstruction and expansion to Penn Station. The proposed project under consideration encompasses block 781, where MSG is located. The Neighborhood Condition Study notes: “The existing station consists of vestiges of the below-ground portions of the original station, punctuated at all levels by structural columns that support MSG and 2 Penn Plaza. These structural elements, together with the remnants of the original station’s subterranean infrastructure and the low priority given to intuitive design resulted in the disjointed and confusing station layout observed today.”
The Neighborhood Condition Study further notes: “Because large swaths of MSG’s building façade are windowless and ground floor retail is limited, there is an inhospitable pedestrian environment along significant portions of the streets framing the north and south sides of the Penn Station block. Due to modern needs for the arena, the interior loading configuration of MSG is no longer viable for the building. Service and loading takes place on West 31st Street and West 33rd Street, as well as within the former Taxiway north and south of the pedestrian bridge and the area to the immediate west of the former Taxiway north of the pedestrian bridge (which is identified as a public plaza). These loading conditions adversely affect the quality of the public realm. Fewer pedestrians make use of these blocks: on a typical day, approximately 1,500 pedestrians were observed using the sidewalk on the south side of West 33rd Street during the morning one-hour peak period, while approximately 975 pedestrians were observed on the north side of West 31st Street.”
Given that MSG special permit will expire in 2023 (in 2 years from the issuance of the GPP), and given the inadequacy of the arena, given the inhospitable streetscape it creates, given its poor functionality, and given its grave impediment in redeveloping Penn Station, the only conclusion is that MSG must be relocated.
Along with numerous civil organizations, Community Board Five has been advocating for the relocation of MSG since 2012, and even before. CB5 strongly urges ESD to use the opportunity created by the massive demolition plan proposed in this current Project to effectuate the relocation of MSG to a superblock bound by 6th and 7th Avenues, and by 32nd and 34th streets. While Penn Station renovation is not part of this proposal, it is clear that Penn Station structural limitations cannot be properly addressed without relocating MSG. To be viable, the proposed project must address this serious land use and infrastructure issue, in a comprehensive way.
COMMENTS TO DEIS
Chapter 2: Analytical Framework
"As discussed below, any commercial development on the proposed Penn Station expansion sites would be contingent on those sites first being deemed the preferred alternative for a station expansion by or for Amtrak, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and New Jersey Transit pursuant to an independent approval process and federal environmental review that will be undertaken for the proposed Penn Station expansion."
"Although ESD has no authority to approve or dictate the location of a Penn Station expansion, it has included Sites 1, 2, and 3 within the proposed GPP boundaries"
CB5 believes that segmentation is a deep flaw of this proposal. Furthermore, we believe that the three separate actions are introduced in the wrong order. The first actions should be Penn Station expansion and Penn Station upgrades. Once those have been determined, scoped and their cost estimated, then can a land use proposal be introduced and properly evaluated.
Chapter 3: Land Use, Zoning, and Public Policy
The proposed density is very high: (for example, Empire State Bldg is 27 FAR, One Vanderbilt is 30 FAR, the densest bldg in Hudson Yards is 33 FAR)
Area Net FAR
Site 1 16.20
Site 2 32.26
Site 3 32.26
Site 4 25.60
Site 5 33.88
Site 6 31.32
Site 7 26.66
Site 8 26.66
The DEIS concludes that The Proposed Project would not result in significant adverse impacts related to land use, zoning or public policy.
The proposed density would not be permissible under the current zoning. Such density, ranging from 16 to 33.8 FAR would double the current built density. While higher density is desirable at and around transit rich areas, the agglutination of nine supertall buildings in a very small footprint will dangerously overburden the area and will cause substantial negative impacts, as revealed in the DEIS.
The current zoning, Special Midtown District (SMD), has a sky exposure plane threshold and requires a sky exposure plane analysis to protect and preserve access to air and light at the street level. The design guidelines eliminate this massing criteria and will cause access to light and air to be drastically diminished. Community Board Five believes that the Special Midtown District sky exposure plane criteria must be restored.
Chapter 4: Socioeconomic Conditions
The proposed action would cause direct and indirect residential and commercial displacement.
Community Board Five is concerned that lack of outreach has prevented proper community engagement. Residents and businesses in nearby K-town must be consulted and dual language outreach must be done, even if they may not be directly impacted by the project. Residents in and around the project area would be displaced and it is unclear whether they are aware of this massive land use proposal.
The DEIS shows that the area will lose hundreds of good-paying hotel jobs for a minimum of 10 years if demolition and construction schedules proceed as currently forecasted. This job loss is not taken into consideration in the current DEIS.
Chapter 5: Community Facilities and Services
The DEIS concludes that there would be no impact to community facilities and services as no residential development is proposed.
Community Board Five believes that substantial fully affordable residential development should be included in this proposal, therefore community facility and services forecast should be part of the review. Community Board Five advocated for affordable housing as well as community space during the SOW comment period. We stand by this statement and believe this project should include a large community facility such as an indoor sport facility to serve the needs of the residential population and the numerous schools around the area.
Chapter 6: Open Space
"As shown in Tables 6-10 and 6-11, with a total worker population of 325,523 and 10.12 acres of passive open space, the passive open space ratio would decrease from 0.034 to 0.031 acres per 1,000 workers in the With Action condition. The open space ratio would remain well below the City’s goal of 0.15 acres per 1,000 workers."
"[...] although the Proposed Project would introduce new and enhanced open spaces and other public realm improvements that would benefit workers and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, it would also introduce a substantial new worker population that would overburden existing and proposed passive open spaces, particularly during the midday hours when the open spaces would be most heavily utilized by a multitude of users in addition to workers. Therefore, the Proposed Project would result in a significant adverse indirect impact to open space."
Open space in the study area is already grossly inadequate, and among the lowest in the entire city of New York. The project would eliminate the POPS on block 783, as it would be taken over by sites 4 and 5. Community Board Five is deeply troubled and disappointed that its meager open space resources would be reduced and overburdened by the proposed developments to such magnitude. While the project would develop additional open space on block 780, it would be unacceptably insufficient and would result in a substantial net loss.
Chapter 7: Shadows
"However, nine sun-sensitive resources would experience substantial durations and occasionally large extents of new shadow, significantly reducing their attractiveness and usability, or, in the case of the historic resources, obscuring a sunlight-dependent feature. Phase 2 of the Proposed Project would result in significant adverse shadow impacts to the following sunlight-sensitive resources: Madison Square Garden (MSG) privately owned public space (POPS), Plaza 33, Herald Square Park, Chelsea Park, the Penn South open spaces, the Farley Building, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, St. Francis of Assisi Church, and the former Greenwich Savings Bank."
Jane Jacobs said: “Shadows are erasers of humans.” Sunlight is essential to the enjoyment of open space, especially in winter when shadows are the longest and travel the slowest. The proposed developments would cause large shadows onto sensitive resources and open space, both in the 2028 and the 2038 phases. The only shadow mitigation the DEIS offers is outdoor electric lights to two churches. Community Board Five in general, and the area around Penn Station in particular, are needful of light. Shadows will linger for extended periods of time and will render the existing and new open space inhospitable. An acceptable mitigation would be to reduce the density.
Chapter 8: Historic and Cultural Resources
"** The 2038 With Action development on Site 6 would almost fully obstruct views of the Empire State Building in eastward views along West 34th Street, and the 2038 With Action development on the east (Seventh Avenue) portion of Site 2 would block partial views northeast to the Empire State Building available from the east portion of Chelsea Park along Ninth Avenue, from the south side of the Ninth Avenue and West 28th Street intersection, and along the western portion of West 28th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues."
"The Proposed Project would result in significant adverse impacts to visual resources in the 2028 and 2038 analysis years. Demolition of the Church of St. John the Baptist on Site 2 is projected to occur as of the 2028 analysis year and demolition of the copper skybridge spanning from Site 8 across West 32nd Street is projected to occur in the 2038 analysis year."
Community Board Five is troubled by the blunt damage caused by this project to historic resources. Some of these buildings and structures could be saved by incorporating them into the proposed developments, with a more tactful urban planning approach. The proposal makes no effort to address the historic resources. This approach is as misguided as the demolition of the original Penn Station itself.
Chapter 9: Urban Design and Visual Resources
The DEIS wrongly concludes that the proposal would not have adverse impacts. The proposed developments would be as tall or taller than the most iconic building in the city and possibly the world, the Empire State Building (ESB). The sprouting of nine buildings directly in the sightline of the Empire State Building would obstruct its views from most west side vantage points.
The Photo Location Reference Map Figure 9-1 p 7, identifies and documents 60 existing views. But only 14 Illustrative No Action and With Action Massing View Locations are studied. (Figure 9-41 p 70). Visual impact to ESB is only represented in one view. Views at 32nd, 33rd & 34th street looking east are not represented. CB5 requests that these views be represented.
The visual impact is not properly assessed and illustrated. It deprives the public of the ability to fully appreciate the adverse impact of the proposal. It is imperative that the Final EIS include illustrative views matching the documented existing condition in Figure 9-1 map p 7, especially views within the project area, looking east to assess the impact to the Empire State Building.
Chapter 14: Transportation
Total subway trips would increase from 4,217 (no action) to 16,364 (with action).
"The Phase 1 and Phase 2 net incremental trips are shown in Tables 14-14 and 14-15, respectively. In comparison, the Phase 2 development-generated trip increments would generally be 10 times or more than those under Phase 1 for vehicle, transit, and pedestrian trips."
The traffic increase for all modes of transportation would be extremely high, ranging from 500% to 1000%. The proposal includes modest subway access and new egress improvements, but it fails to demonstrate that it will mitigate the transit adverse impact in an already acutely congested area. The DEIS concludes that there will be no impact to bus ridership; a conclusion that CB5 disagrees with. CB5 requests that bus ridership be evaluated. The proposal does not have a comprehensive plan for vehicular traffic, especially to address congestion caused by MSG patrons.
It is unclear whether the projections are based solely on the increased density caused by the 10 new buildings, or whether they account for Penn Station improvements and expansion, as well as other land use actions (Macy’s upzoning) as each action would further increase traffic.
Chapter 19: Neighborhood Character
“The Proposed Project would not result in a significant adverse impact on neighborhood character.”
The DEIS concludes erroneously that the proposal would have no adverse impact on the neighborhood character. The loss of light, air, open space, views on the Empire State Building, demolition of the Gimbels Bridge as well as other historic resources would tremendously impact the neighborhood character. The area currently has a strong streetscape articulation with straight building walls topped with robust cornices and a continuing retail streetscape at the ground level, punctuated by other use types such as churches or educational institutions. Under the proposal, the new buildings would rise like those of Hudson Yards, and would create a vastly different streetscape. The neighborhood character would be drastically altered.
Chapter 20: Construction
“[…] the Proposed Project’s construction activities would result in significant adverse impacts in the areas of transportation, noise, localized neighborhood character, and historic and cultural resources.”
According to the DEIS, construction will span for 18 years. It is unclear what traffic, noise and pollution mitigations are proposed for residents of the area. Construction noise in open space will not be mitigated. The mitigation for construction adverse impacts is inadequate.
Chapter 21: Alternatives
The DEIS proposes alternatives, including a residential alternative and a low-density alternative. Community Board Five believes that these alternatives would be better proposals than the current one, and urges ESD to seriously consider alleviating the burden caused by the project by proposing sound, comprehensive planning.
Community Board Five cannot confirm how the GPP’s Goal 1 (a sustainable mixed-use development) is achieved when the DEIS primarily analyzed only commercial use and overwhelmingly only office use. Community Board Five would like to see the GPP attempt to use a more inclusive & traditional definition of “mixed-use” by including residential and community facilities.
The lack of any information on improvements to Penn Station, the Penn Station Master Plan, or any recognition of Madison Square Garden’s engineering infrastructure as an impediment to substantial railroad station improvements proves impossible for Community Board Five to confirm that the GPP will achieve Goal 2 (a safer Penn Station). The current Penn Station is a known firetrap and obvious terrorism target. The current GPP brings more fire safety issues with mega tall towers and a continuous, supersized underground transit facility connecting 6th Avenue, Broadway, PATH, 7th Avenue, LIRR, NJTransit, Amtrak, and 8th Avenue lines. There will be more need for clear communication channels & equipment between all of the police agencies at Penn Station (Amtrak Police, NYPD, NYS National Guard, NY State Police, MTA Police, and NJ Transit Police) and, with the 33rd Street PATH station being connected to the enlarged complex, the Port Authority Police Department. Equipment that facilitates communications between FDNY and all relevant policing agencies in Penn Station has been an issue for many years. The DEIS doesn’t address any of these public safety issues and Community Board Five sees them as of great importance and a glaring void in the proposal.
Community Board Five doesn’t see how Goal 3 (addressing substandard conditions) is met by this GPP. Below, we outline how we think the DEIS makes arbitrary characterizations, incorrect characterizations, or has yet to consult the community for what are the actual deficiencies in the neighborhood.
Community Board Five has been working on Goal 4 (supporting future capacity at Penn Station) for over a decade. The current DEIS does not contain the Penn Station Master Plan, a clear proposal for an East-West Corridor, or a clear assumption for Federal support of the Gateway Tunnel. It is very difficult to judge this GPP given that so many of its stated goals are inadequately addressed.
Community Board Five believes that Penn Station must be modernized to provide a safe environment to users, to allow further growth and adaptability. Community Board Five believes that it is sensible to increase density around transit rich areas.
Unfortunately, the proposed project, a land use action, only provides the framework for additional built density and market-rate commercial use (with a modest affordable housing alternative). It fails to provide analysis or the framework for Penn Station renovation and expansion. The proposed project is ill guided. It does not serve a civic and land use purpose that would serve the public. The proposed project does not provide data on financial and economic correlation to Penn Station.
The City of New York has created a framework for a transit-oriented upzoning around Grand Central Terminal, with the enactment of the East Midtown Subdistrict in 2018. The city land use review process (ULURP) that permitted this new zoning was more transparent, equitable and comprehensive than the current proposal introduced by ESD. It allowed great community engagement from community boards as well as civic groups. It acknowledged the role and value of historic resources. It provided a clear framework and mechanism for bonus density in exchange for tangible transit upgrades. It is currently permitting the construction of numerous transit related projects administered by MTA. The GPP fails in all these categories.
On its merits, the GPP proposal is of a magnitude never contemplated in CB5. Even the East Midtown Subdistrict, the latest transit-oriented land use rezoning in CB5 (2018), is more restrained (max 30FAR, including TDR from landmarked buildings), with much clearer transit upgrades mechanisms.
Overall the myriad adverse impacts caused by this proposal are too large, too broad, too all-encompassing, regardless of the alleged revenue they would generate, or the alleged needs they would serve. And furthermore, the alleged revenue is not presented, assessed or discussed. This proposed project serves the needs of a developer and its shareholders who will greatly benefit from this land use action. Under this proposal, Community Board Five would be forced to carry the brunt of these impacts in a very sacrificial way. While the majority of Penn Station users are New Jersey commuters, it may be sensible to leverage their interest by proposing modest upzonings in New Jersey communities that use Penn Station, so as to share the burden more equally. In order to fund Penn Station’s purpose and needs, other revenue streams may include direct funding from New Jersey as well as from the Federal government that owns Penn Station in title. Unfortunately, the burden this project placed on our district is too high. While CB5 is not opposed to upzonings in transit rich areas, this proposal’s magnitude is unacceptable.
- It seems that although it is a SEQRA review process, the CEQR manual is being used in many chapters. What is the rationale for using one vs the other?
- Does the DEIS account for Farley air rights?
- Does the DEIS account for Macy’s upzoning?
- What is the surface area of site 2A and site 2B? What is the proposed density for each specific site?
- What was the cost of the EIS?
“All or most of Project Sites 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are owned or controlled by Vornado. It is anticipated that prior to development of a Project Site, ESD will acquire an interest in title to the applicable Project Site and in turn ground lease the sites to Vornado and the as-of-yet unidentified future developers of Project Sites 1, 2 and 3. Whether or not ESD undertakes the initial acquisitions of Project Sites 1, 2 and 3, it is anticipated that ESD would acquire an interest in title to those proposed Penn Station expansion sites and thereby effectuate the ground leases.”
- How long is the lease?
- How much will Vornado pay for the lease?
- What is the Payment schedule?
- Have these terms already been agreed upon with Vornado?
- Lease payment would be made to which entity? ESD? Other?
“The revenues generated by the Project will be structured in a value-capture framework to support such uses and may include PILOT, PILOST, PILOMRT, payments for development rights, and proceeds from the sale of land and/or ground lease payments as applicable.”
- What is the value capture framework?
- How much will the valuation for development rights (TDR) be?
- Which agency is tasked with TDR valuation? - How will they be valuated?
- What is the valuation specifically for the bonus FAR obtained in exchange for a POPS at One Penn?
- Does this proposal compensate or pay for Farley air rights?
- Who owns Farley air rights?
- How is the PILOT, PILOST PILOMRT structured?
- How is the tax value assessed?
- Which agency/entity is responsible for assumptions and assessments? (Please provide methodology)
- What is the expected upfront payment for each tax incentive??
- How long is the tax exemption?
- Is Vornado, and or ESD or any other entity being party to the Project in discussions/contact with NYC IDA? NYC-EDC? New York City Transitional Finance Authority?
- Who is the NYC entity that will issue the PILOT/PILOST/PILOMRT agreement? IDA? Or EDC? Or other?
- Who approves the PILOTs, PILOSTs, PILOMRTs?
- Please provide the cost-benefit analysis for PILOTs, PILOST and any other tax incentives.
“The developer of any of the Project Sites would pay to ESD PILOT, PILOST and/or PILOMRT and other amounts as applicable (e.g., proceeds from the sale of land and/or ground lease payments with respect to Project Sites 1, 2 and 3 only),”
- This paragraph seems to contradict the paragraph above. Will ESD acquire interest in title for sites 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and ground-lease them to Vornado. Will Vornado pay for development rights? Will Vornado pay PILOT, PILOST and/or PILOMRT? Has Vornado already agreed to those terms?
“The 1 Penn Site and any improvements thereon may be maintained or rebuilt utilizing the existing 2.3 million gross square feet, notwithstanding any inconsistent provisions of zoning.”
- Have you discussed 1 Penn with Vornado? Do you know whether Vornado plans to demolish and rebuild the building? What would be the permitted massing envelop for such new building? Have you assessed the shadow and visual resources impact of such redevelopment? If yes, please share. If not, why not?
- Does ESD have a general agreement with Vornado on the financial terms of this partnership? Is Vornado in agreement with ESD’s terms? When did ESD and Vornado initiate discussions over the proposed Project?
Potential sky concourse over Plaza 33
- What is the potential sky concourse over Plaza 33?
- This sky concourse would connect 1 Penn to which building or structure?
- Can you show schematics?
- What is the approval process for the sky concourse?
- The Design Guidelines will override the existing Special Midtown District zoning: Does the Design Guideline have Sky exposure plane max penetration? Have you done a Waldram analysis. What’s the result? Can you provide a Waldram analysis?
- Is the Non-Program Area accounted for in the Total GSF or does it not count towards total SF?
- In your design guidelines, you don’t express density in FAR. Why don’t you use FAR, a metrics/unit well understood to quantify density?
- You assume that non-programing space will be approximately 19% of the total GSF. Where do you base this assumption from? Is this common standard? Provide comparative examples.
- Do you have a mechanism to regulate the height of mechanical rooms? Are you addressing mechanical voids?
- The massing calls for a set back at 75% of the total height of the building. How do you assess 75%? How do you measure the height? What effects do you expect from such massing?
- Who is the governing authority/entity of the Penn Station Master Plan?
- Who is the governing authority/entity of the Penn Station expansion?
- Who is the lead agency for Penn Station expansion?
- After the ESD Board of Directors votes on this proposal and assuming it passes, how does the money pass from ESD (or some other entity) to the governing entity of the Penn Station Master Plan to implement the projects at Penn Station?
- After the ESD Board of Directors votes on this proposal and assuming it passes, how does the money pass from ESD (or some other entity) to the governing entity of the Penn Station expansion?
- What is the review process from PACB?
- Which city agencies are tasked with authorizing any parts of the Project?
- Have you prepared a cost-resource analysis?
- What methodology is used for air rights valuation?
- What is the air rights valuation for sites 1, 2, 3
- What is the air rights valuation for sites 4-8?
- What is the air rights valuation for the One Penn POPS?
- Which entity will be compensated for the loss of POPS at One Penn? (City or state, or other)
- What is the air rights valuation in phase 1, in phase 2?
- What methodology is used for evaluating and securing allocation of resources?
- The lower density and residential alternatives are noted to not generate as much revenue as the full proposal -- what is the difference between these options and the Project?
- Have office space financial projections and feasibility changed at all since original proposal? i.e. are a bunch of office towers still a good idea?
- Will a substantial amount of the PILOTs have to be paid before demolition of sites 1 to 8, or will the Penn Station Master Plan implementation entity be taking a loan and using the PILOT payments to pay off the loan?
- What happens to the PILOT, PILOST, PILOMRT if the buildings do not get redeveloped?
- What is the process for appropriation through the annual budget?
- How do budget funds get allocated?
- FY 2022 budget proposes $1.3 billion for land acquisition necessary to Penn Station expansion. How would this budget be allocated?
- Would $1.3 billion fund the entire land acquisition?
- Table 2-1 2038 No Action Condition Development Program, Site 5 lot area is 23,703sq/ft. In Table 2-3, Proposed Project Development Program (With Action Condition), Site 5 lot area is 45,425 sq/ft. Can you explain the discrepancy? Will One Penn be demolished? Altered? Is there an agreement in place with Vornado?
- What is the analysis for residential use at Sites 1 and 4 as an alternative to hotel use?
- What is the analysis for hotel use at other sites (not Sites 1 or 4) as an alternative use?
- Is it correct to read the double-asterisks footnote on Table S-1 on page S-15 as only 734 hotel rooms are guaranteed to replace the 1,700-room Hotel Pennsylvania and the 600-room Stewart Hotel rooms?
- What is the analysis on additional pedestrian, bus, subway, and taxi traffic caused by the removal of at least 1,000 hotel rooms from the adjacent blocks to Madison Square Garden?
- The DEIS says analysis for residential use as an alternative use was done only at Site 8. What is the analysis for residential use as an alternative at any of the other sites? Was site 1 residential use analyzed?
- In the residential use alternative, what is the percentage of affordable housing? What kind of affordable housing program would oversee the affordable housing? How affordable would it be? (what percentage of AMI?)
- Given that the Church of St. John the Baptist provides some homeless services and momentary shelter during the day, have any of the sites been analyzed for a community facility that would benefit (at least in part) to the large homeless population in the area?
Madison Square Garden
- Is the MSG portion of transportation traffic segregated within the With-Action transportation analysis or within the No-Action transportation analysis?
- How has ESD incorporated into the DEIS the arena’s potential move within any chapter (Transportation, Open Space, Urban Design, etc)?
- Given that Madison Square Garden’s special permit will expire before the end of Phase 1 has completed and it is possible that MSG will begin operations at another location by the end of Phase 2, how has ESD accounted for Madison Square Garden’s operations, staff, and visitors at its current location?
- MSG special permit expires in 2023, and the city may come to an agreement with MSG for relocation. The EIS must evaluate the proposal in light of MSG potential re-siting. Thank you for adding an alternative no-action and with action where MSG is relocated.
- What is the size of the POPS at One Penn Plaza?
- What is the process to convert POPS to buildable area at One Penn Plaza?
- Does the building owner return the FAR bonus granted in exchange for the POPS?
- What is the size and dimensions of the proposed open space on site 2?
- Will any of the buildings cantilever over sidewalks or open space?
- Does the With Action Scenario include the development of Farley Air Rights, Macy's upzoning, Port Authority Bus Terminal, in subway, pedestrian,, train analysis?
- Methodology: Some DEIS data is from FEIS for 15 Penn. Special Permit. This study was done in 2010. Has this data been updated for current and future use?
- Methodology: Can you provide methodology for pedestrian count, subway ridership and projections?
1 Train O5/O6 Stair Questions:
- Page 14-36 lists the O5/O6 stair between the southernmost Downtown local platform and the 32ndSt underpass/Control Area 135 as needing analysis by NYCT, where is that analysis in the DEIS?
- Why is the 7th Ave mezzanine-level stairway O5/O6 not included as a recommended transit improvement to the 7th Ave 34th St subway station?
- Why is the 7th Ave mezzanine-level stairway O5/O6 not included as a required transit improvement to the 7th Ave 34th St subway station for the developer of Site 7?
- In Figure 14-9 (DEIS, Transportation p. 42 of 184), within the 32nd St Subpassage diagram, there is a note next to Stair O5/O6 that says “STAIRS BARRICADED AS PER 2 CONTRACT C-52038”. Does this contract prevent Stair O5/O6 from being either widened or redesigned for a greater flow of traffic?
- Is a widening of Stair O5/O6 within the 7th Ave 34th St subway station included in the Penn Station Master Plan?
East/West Gimbels Passageway
- Will the East-West Corridor (whether Gimbels Passageway is used or not) be continuous at one level (no doors or steps) between the 7th Ave 6th Ave subway stations, in order for ADA access to be efficient? For example: how easy will it be for a wheelchair user to move from the PATH platforms to 7th Ave Express platform?
- Will there be a privately used underground connector between sites?
- Will the East-West Corridor be within NYCT fare-control zone (like 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Aves) or not (like Rockefeller Center’s lower corridors)?
- Will the East-West Corridor be operated and maintained as a POPS/“subway bonus” by the owners of Site 7 and 8 or will it be operated and maintained solely by NYCT?
- Assuming retail will be in the corridor, how much pedestrian walkway will there be within the East-West Corridor (the width of the “useable” corridor designed for only walking unimpeded)?
- Will the East-West Corridor ventilation be separated from Penn Station? Will the East-West Corridor have positive air pressure versus Penn Station in order to assist in reducing fire, smoke, and terror attacks on Penn Station and not spread contaminated air to the 6th Ave/Broadway/PATH stations side of the corridor?
- If there will be a robustly wide East-West Corridor, why does the proposal still see the need for the pedestrianizing of both 32nd and 33rd Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues into “Shared Streets”?
- If the Gimbels Passageway is not used as part of the East-West Corridor, what will that space be used for?
- DEIS, Page S-18, second to last sentence states: “As part of the development of Sites 1, 2, and 3, the Proposed Project would accommodate bicycle lanes between Sixth and Ninth Avenues along West 31st Street.”
What analysis has been done by DOT for a bike lane on these blocks?
- What is the analysis for a bike lane on the 6th to 7th Ave block of West 31st St specifically?
- Bus line haul analysis was deemed not needed in the DEIS. 50,000 net additional workers would come to the area and the DEIS notes that there would be notable subway ridership increases. Was this a surprising result for ESD? Can bus line haul analysis be included?
- Does an evolved use of the curb (e.g. more rideshare pickup spaces, reduced parking, scooter shares, etc.) impact any of the traffic/transportation assessment?
- Are rideshares evaluated in taxi or in cars assessment?
- NYC DOT is heavily implicated in what is included in the DEIS. How do they feel about all this? Are they on board to do everything laid out for them in this document?
- When will the Penn Station Master Plan be released?
- Is ESD in charge of the Master Plan?
- Is the Penn Station Master Plan part of the EIS?
- Is the Penn Station Expansion part of the Master Plan?
- What kind of review and approval process will be needed for the Penn Station Renovation Master Plan?
- What kind of review and approval process will be needed for the Penn Station Expansion Master Plan?
- What control exists between the land use action and the Penn Station Master Plan?
- Is there a mechanism to change the Penn Station Master Plan after ESD Directors approve the proposal?
- Who will decide if there needs to be any augmentations or modifications to the Master Plan in the future?
- How will the public and Community Boards know if a change to the Master Plan has been made?
SHADOWS AND NOISE
- Given that Herald Square will be greatly impacted by shadows from Sites 2, 3, 7, and 8; the new Moynihan Train Hall’s glass skylight will be diminished by Sites 1, 2, 5, and 6, Plaza 33 will lose sunlight because of Sites 1, 2, 6, and 7; the One Penn West Plaza POPS will be impacted by Sites 1, 2, and 4; and Penn South complex’s lawns will also lose sunlight because of Site 2, what mitigations will the residents, workers, and tourists in Community Board Five receive from the Proposed Project’s additional shadows, reduced open space, and reduced greenery?
- The DEIS Transportation section estimates ten times the amount of people will be in the Project Area after 2038 as there is today, thus creating a substantial amount of additional street traffic. What noise mitigations have been proposed for the residents on West 30th and West 31st Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues?
- Figure 20-1 on Page 3- 10 (Land Use, Zoning Public Policy Chapter), shows all the open space within a one block radius of the Project Area will have to deal with construction noise until 2038. What construction noise mitigation is proposed for this area that already is bereft of sufficient outdoor open space?
- Open space mitigation — big use of High Line and consideration of CB4-focused mitigation (e.g. with Chelsea Park). What mitigation would they propose specifically in CB5?
- Nearly 500 firms will be displaced under the full project -- how will they be supported in their transition?
- How will the residents displaced under the full project be supported?
- When will the FEIS be completed?
- Will Community Board Five and other civic groups have a chance to provide comments that include what the Penn Station Master Plan says that can be considered before FEIS is finalized?
- What is the timeline for securing resources?