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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

Application # N 190180 ZRM, 270 Park Avenue, JPMorgan Chase Bank

WHEREAS, Community Board Five (“CB5”) adopted recommendations in March 2017 on the Greater East Midtown rezoning proposal, reflecting community priorities including governance structure, public space, the use of funds created by transferred development rights for public improvements, and limitations on floor area ratio (FAR), (together, “CB5 Precedent”); and,

WHEREAS, The Greater East Midtown rezoning proposal was adopted by the City Council on August 9, 2017 (the “Rezoning Plan”), after a comprehensive process consulting community stakeholders to inform rezoning, capital commitments, funding mechanisms and other policy decisions affecting East Midtown; and,

WHEREAS, The Applicant has previously requested a certification to allow a transfer of Air Rights from the landmarked Grand Central Terminal to 270 Park Avenue for development of a proposed office tower, designed by Foster and Partners, comprised of 1,871,763 net sq. ft. of Class A office space (and 2,400,000 gross sq. ft.) pursuant to the newly adopted Zoning Text; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant is submitting a revised plan for the site, including modified retail plans and an enclosed 7,000 sq. ft. privately owned public space (“POPS”), citing the Grand Central Terminal train shed sitting under approximately two-thirds of the site as a limiting factor that prevents the addition of a 10,000 sq. ft. POPS as required by the Greater East Midtown Zoning Text; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant is choosing to enlarge the sidewalks on East 47th Street and East 48th Street, in part accommodate the surge in pedestrian traffic caused by increased number of employees, as well as to render the building compliant to the sky plane exposure requirements while utilizing all the available FAR; and

WHEREAS, The proposed POPS designed by architect Vishaan Chakrabarti would have a green wall and water features, would have seating that can be used as work space, with seating and tables of different heights, a kiosk that would sell coffee, cold and hot beverages, but would have no public bathroom; and WHEREAS, The proposed zoning text amendment would allow JPMC to close the POPS to the public to hold private functions six times per year; and

WHEREAS, The JPMC headquarters currently accommodate 6,500 employees and the proposed tower will accommodate 12,500 employees; and

WHEREAS, The increased density at the site will increase the total number of workers, employees, and pedestrian traffic in the area, even factoring in the consolidation of other JPMorgan Chase offices in the neighborhood, which are likely to be replaced with equivalent workers in addition to the new added density, with no proposed new transit capacity or transit entrances; and,

WHEREAS, CB5 is sympathetic to the technical and engineering limiting factors on the site, but is disappointed and chagrined that the Applicant has proposed no substitution in form of a public benefit or significant replacement for the loss of 3,000 sq. ft. of public space envisioned by the letter and spirit of the Greater East Midtown Zoning Text; and,

WHEREAS, The site is the first to be considered under the Rezoned Plan and thus sets an important precedent for all forthcoming applications to be considered under the letter and spirit of the Rezoning Plan, which defines an expected public benefit from development taking advantage of the Rezoning Plan; and,

WHEREAS, The proposed text amendment is specific to the site, and designed to be inapplicable to other sites with similar conditions, though it has not been proposed as a variance, and thus will have a likely effect on future text amendment proposals and should be considered in that context; and,

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has asked for substitute POPS designs and locations but the applicant has refused to consider alternative options such as a POPS on Park Avenue, a thru block north-south covered POPS mid-block, or an additional POPS area connected to the proposed POPS via escalator on a higher level deeming them not feasible while not elaborating on the rationale; and

WHEREAS, The applicant is not considering any measures to compensate for the loss of POPS; and

WHEREAS, The sidewalk enlargements considered by the Applicant are not commensurate with the loss of 3,000 square feet of POPS, especially given that the number of employees occupying the tower will double; and

WHEREAS, CB5 is concerned about additional planned operating characteristics of the POPS, including the limited operating hours of 7 AM–10 PM as proposed, the sustainability and feasibility of the proposed “green wall,” the lack of public bathrooms, and the proposal to close the POPS to the public for private events; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application proposing a zoning text amendment modifying existing requirements specific to 270 Park Avenue and reducing the required onsite public space to 7,000 sq. ft; and be it further

RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests the applicant considers making meaningful offers to either find 3,000 square feet of additional quality space or include a substantial public benefit to compensate for the loss of public space.

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