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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

Access to The Region’s Core (ARC) Zoning Resolution Text Amendment

WHEREAS, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and New Jersey Transit have made an application to amend the Zoning Resolution to permit an underground train station under West 34th Street and a Special Permit under the new provisions to build two fan plants (with certain bulk waivers also allowed by Special Permit) and several entrances to the station in Community Board 5; and

WHEREAS, The Board has previously expressed its position on the overall design and location of the Access to The Region's Core ("ARC") tunnel project by our resolution of  May, 7, 2008; and

WHEREAS, The Board still finds that the proposed station is far too deep and should be linked and integrated with Pennsylvania Station with continuing service to Grand Central Terminal but the Board does not find it necessary to address those issues again and will limit its comments and findings to the station entrances, fan plants and pedestrian circulation issues presented by the project; and

WHEREAS, The ARC project, when completed, will bring tens of thousands of new pedestrians each day to the already severely overcrowded section of West 34th Street between 6th and 8th Avenues;  and

WHEREAS, The proposal is for five entrances from sidewalks in Community Board Five, two each at Broadway and 7th Avenues and one at 8th Avenue, a reduction from eight entrances in the 2007 station plan.  To their credit and in keeping with new construction requirements, all of the entrances will replace existing subway entrances located on the sidewalk and move them into adjacent buildings; and

WHEREAS, The applicant believes that its proposed underground link between 6th and 7th Avenue which requires descending to the ARC station mezzanine 153 feet below the surface is an enhancement to the area, the Board believes that few rational pedestrians would use this "amenity"; and

WHEREAS, At Sixth Avenues, the ARC proposal calls for entrances on the northwest corner of 34th and Broadway and on the south side of 34th Street near the corner of Sixth Avenue.  These entrances and the adjoining passageways would greatly improve the underground accessibility to the subways at this crowded NYC Transit station; and

WHEREAS, The proposed entrance on the northwest corner of 34th Street and Broadway is limited to the area now occupied by a sunglass vendor on the corner lot.   Consequently, the entrance is too small and its design does not make significant improvements to the existing pedestrian circulation options in this area; and

WHEREAS, The Board believes that to improve pedestrian circulation in this area, the corner building on this intersection should be setback from the sidewalk (perhaps in a rounded chamfer fashion) with a larger station entrance along Broadway utilizing portions of the existing Macy's; and

WHEREAS, The proposed entrances at 7th Avenue on the northwest and southwest corners will provide some improvements to pedestrian circulation in the area by moving the sidewalk entrances into buildings and providing a new underground passage to Pennsylvania Station from the north side of 34th Street; and

WHEREAS, The 8th Avenue entrance is proposed for the southeast corner of 34th Street and would provide access to Pennsylvania station.  But this is the only new entrance proposed for this intersection, a previously proposed entrance on the northeast corner of 8th Avenue and 34th Street and an optional entrance on the southwest corner of 8th Avenue and 34th Street having been removed from the station plan, so that passengers coming from the north and west would have to cross large and already overcrowded intersections to utilize this station entrance; and

WHEREAS, The Board believes that an additional entrance on the northeast and southwest corners of 8th Avenue and 34th Street would greatly improve pedestrian circulation in the area and help alleviate the increased crowds in the area as well as provide additional entrances to the planned Moynihan Station; and

WHEREAS, There are also alternative plans for the southern entrance at 7th avenue and the 8th avenue entrances which would place the station entrance in the public space running between 34th and 33rd Streets and in the public space at 9th Avenue and 34th Street.  These alternatives would be necessary in the event that the proposed Penn Plaza development moves forward before construction begins on the new station.   While  the Board objects to the use of  public space for new entrances where private space would also be available, any such proposal would be subject to a ULURP process and the Board would have the right to review these proposals if they materialize; and

WHEREAS, The ARC project includes two 10 or more story fan plants to be used in emergencies.  One plant will be located on the north side of 33rd Street between 7th and 6th Avenues and the other on West 35th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues; and

WHEREAS, The preliminary designs for the fan plants seek to "blend in" to the surrounding cityscape so that they are unobtrusive, bland and completely forgettable; and

WHEREAS, The Board feels that these plants present an opportunity for a public project which might include a park-like setting, a simple water feature or landscaped wall or an art piece on the exterior and the applicant should be required to use these opportunities to improve the existing cityscape instead of seeking to be subsumed by it; and

WHEREAS, All of the proposed entrances and fan plants will require the use of eminent domain and will displace existing businesses; and

WHEREAS, Many, if not most, of the displaced businesses are occupied by tenants with long-term leases which have marginal value in an eminent domain proceeding but which may have an established and reliable customer base which might not be transferable to another location.   The Board feels that these lease holders should be compensated in full for the value of their leases.  Leaseholders should also be compensated for the costs associated with relocation and the value of the good will built up over many years in operation and which may not be transferrable to a new location; therefore be it

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five continues to oppose the proposed NJ Transit railroad terminal 175 feet beneath 34th Street centered on 7th Avenue and instead, as previously proposed in a CB5 resolution (May 2008), strongly supports connecting the new ARC tunnels into existing Penn Station and resuming planning and rapid completion of a track connection from Penn Station to Grand Central Station, thereby:

1.      Avoiding the sidewalk, intersection and street congestion created by the underground train station under 34th Street; and

2.      Eliminating the local property takings required for fan plants and entrances required by such a facility; and be it further

RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends denial of the Special Permit unless the applicant:

1.      Enlarges the entrance area on the northwest corner of Broadway and 34th Street and chamfers (round off) the acute angle building corner so as to improve pedestrian circulation; and

2.      Includes new entrances to the station on the north and west sides of 8th Avenue and 34th Street; and

3.      Agree to submit any proposals for the use of public space for new entrances to a consultation process; and     

4.      Includes plans for fan plants and station entry portals which enhance the cityscape in their surrounding areas with aesthetically pleasing or artistically challenging enhancements to the area; and

5.      Renews efforts to study alternative locations for the fan plant on 33rd Street and agrees to provide adequate compensation to all current leaseholders on property to be taken for fan plants and station entry portals, including the costs of relocation and the loss in value of the goodwill of those businesses.

 The above resolution passed with a vote of 31 in favor, 0 opposed, 2 abstaining.

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