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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

237 West 54 Owner, LLC - application to allow the transfer of 24,100 Square Feet of theater development rights from the Booth Theater to a Development site located at 237 West 54th Street

WHEREAS, The Booth Theater, located at 222 West 45th Street in the Theater Subdistrict of the Special Midtown District, is a "listed theater," pursuant to Section 81-742(a) of the Zoning Resolution and qualifies as a "granting site" under Section 81-744 which specifies the transfer of development rights from listed theaters to qualified receiving sites; and

WHEREAS, 237 West 54 Owner, LLC seeks a certification to become a "receiving site" and purchase and transfer 24,100 square feet of development rights from the Booth Theater for the construction of an approximately 142,300 square foot transient mid-priced hotel at 237 West 54th Street with approximately 34 floors, 400 guest rooms, with a ground floor restaurant; and

WHEREAS, The exterior and interior of the Booth Theater were designated as individual landmarks in 1987 and has previously made one development rights transfer of 60,618 square feet of development rights to a receiving site located at 247-267 West 54th Street/910-928 Eighth Avenue/242-264 W. 55th Street, leaving approximately 35,398 square feet; and

WHEREAS, For the certification to be granted, several criteria must be met by both the receiving and granting sites:

1)      The Booth Theater must show how it has computed its available development rights and upon the transfer of 24,100 square feet of its unused development rights, will irrevocably reduce the development potential of that property by that amount;

2)      Once completed, the transfer is irrevocable;

3)      The maximum increase of FAR at the receiving site cannot exceed 20%, which in this case would increase the applicant's development FAR from 15 to 18;

4)      The receiving site must be located within the Theater Subdistrict;

5)      The Booth Theater must: contribute $14.91 per square foot of transferred floor area, for a total of $359,331 to the Theater Subdistrict Fund and its grant program to further the goals of the Theater Subdistrict but as the City Planning Commission is reviewing a proposal to increase the contribution to $17.60 per square foot, if the proposal is approved the Applicant will make the contribution to the Fund at that level, or $424,160; provide a signed lease or a written commitment from its owner for occupancy of the theater and its operation as a legitimate theater for a period of not less than five years; provide to the Department of City Planning and Landmarks Preservation Commission a licensed engineer's and/or architect's report certifying the theater is physically and operationally sound so as to permit its use as a legitimate theater and were it not, it would have required a plan, program, and timetable to upgrade the theater to make it so; a legal commitment providing for the inspection and ongoing maintenance of the theater to ensure its continued availability for theater use; and a legal commitment for its continued use as a legitimate theater for the life of the related development at 237 West 54th Street; and

WHEREAS, Upon review, Community Board Five believes that all of these criteria have been met or will be met upon the granting of the CPC Certification; and

WHEREAS, Although the applicant has met these criteria, Community Board Five has several concerns pertaining to this project in particular as well as to the surrounding neighborhood, one that is just north of Times Square:

WHEREAS, The applicant has agreed to work with a community liaison to help receive and address neighborhood issues pertaining to the construction site; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five acknowledges that this applicant has met the criteria for this transfer and that the Theatre Subdistrict Fund will receive a significant contribution, but because of larger policy issues raised by this neighborhood's extensive development strongly urges:

1)      The Department of City Planning to examine revising the street wall regulations in Midtown to ensure that new buildings reflect the strong street wall context of Midtown and potentially apply a minimum street wall height of 50 feet as is the case for new buildings within the Theater Subdistrict Core; 

2)      The Department of City Planning to consider the feasibility of allowing an applicant to waive the loading dock requirement for those buildings on relatively narrow lots and where a loading dock or multiple loading docks exist on an adjacent property provided that site on-street loading will not unduly inhibit vehicular or pedestrian movement.  This waiver would allow for some relief on blocks like West 54th Street, which have a concentration of loading docks;  

3)      The Department of Buildings to coordinate with residents of the block to ensure that the three very significant new buildings being built on West 54th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway, adding hundreds of thousands of new square feet to the block, are constructed so as to minimize the interruption to residents' lives and to ensure that residents are aware of relevant construction schedules and timelines;

4)      The Department of City Planning to take into consideration the density of the immediate area around the receiving site as one criterion when making the determination whether a transfer of air rights to a particular site is appropriate; and therefore be it


RESOLVED, That Community Board Five recommends approval of the application for a CPC certification pursuant to Zoning Resolution Section 81-744(a) to allow the transfer of 24,100 square feet of theater development rights from the Booth Theater to a development site located at 237 West 54th Street.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 35 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 abstaining.

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