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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

Application N 190080 ZCM by JPMorgan Chase, Co. requesting 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 pursuant to Art 81.682 of the RZ

WHEREAS, Community Board Five (the “Community Board”) 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 not yet settled on or disclosed most of the critical details of the Proposed Project including the ultimate height, massing, gross square footage, architectural design, potential ground floor activation, the Proposed Project will be built to include 1,871,763 net sq. ft. of Class A office space (and 2,400,000 gross sq. ft. ), built to 21.6 FAR in the southern subarea of the receiving site, and 25 FAR in the Park Avenue subarea of the receiving site, averaging to 23.3 FAR for the entire receiving site achieved via the transfer 666,667 sq. ft. of unused development rights from Grand Central Terminal under the framework of the Rezoning Plan; and,

WHEREAS, The Applicant has indicated that the proposed development could be a 70 story tower; and

WHEREAS, Subject to the Rezoning Plan, the Proposed Project would result in a contribution of $42 million dollars to the East Midtown Public Realm Improvement Fund; and,

WHEREAS, Following the completion of the transaction, the granting site, Grand Central Terminal is mandated to dedicate $10.4 million to the continuing maintenance of the Grand Central Terminal, specifically for the restoration, maintenance and repairs of historic elements; and

WHEREAS, The granting site must comply with the continuing maintenance plan approved and administered by LPC, including by issuing a report every five years; and

WHEREAS, After this transfer, the granting site will have 618,245 sq. ft. of TRD available; and

WHEREAS, The Proposed Project will widen adjacent sidewalk along Madison Avenue to accommodate the increased pedestrian flow and generate a 10,000 sq. ft privately owned public space (the “POPS”) as required by the Rezoning Plan; and,

WHEREAS, The applicant has intents to secure the perimeter of the new building with bollards, financed privately and without any public funding, a funding arrangement that Community Board Five commends and believes should become the norm; and,

WHEREAS, The Transfer is an issue of first impression before the community board, as the first time development rights are being transferred according to the Rezoning Plan in order to construct a structure not previously possible under the previous zoning text and therefore raises important questions affecting the community; and,

WHEREAS, Under the Rezoning Plan’s Reasonable Worst Case Development Scenario, the redevelopment of the Existing Building was not contemplated, meaning its environmental impacts were not specifically studied and it does not trigger certain obligations under the Rezoning Plan such as the imperative to improve transit infrastructure in partnership with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (the “MTA”); and

WHEREAS, The Community Board is concerned about the Proposed Project’s environmental impacts including and especially the demolition, height, light and shadow impacts; the design and intended function of the Project’s required POPS; proposed improvements to the adjacent Metro North stations; and that the Project is a missed opportunity to secure MTA improvements as intended by the Rezoning Plan; and,

WHEREAS, The Community Board regrets the loss of the Existing Building, which is an architecturally significant mid-century structure designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Natalie de Blois and Gordon Bunshaft; and,

WHEREAS, The Community Board recognizes that the Proposed Transfer will increase the Applicant’s Class A office space from the current 1,204,998 sq. ft. to 1,871,763 sq. ft., which will, according to the Applicant, allow them to locate their headquarters in East Midtown indefinitely and is pleased that the Rezoning Plan is beginning to work as intended by keeping business in the Manhattan commercial core; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Given that the site was not identified by the NYC Department of City Planning and therefore was not studied in any iteration of the Great East Midtown rezoning EIS or EAS, lack of factual information prevents any informed opinion to be established, therefore Community Board Five requests that a number of steps be taken to enable best zoning and planning practices, including
- a transit improvements requirements study for the site, had it been included in the original rezoning proposal
- a full shadow study and its impact to open space, parks, POPS and other light sensitive resources;
- a demolition environmental impact study and remediation plan
- a traffic impact study during construction
- a close assessment of the use of mechanical space so as to avoid any hollow mechanical voids, an issue of particular concern given difference between the gross and net square footage for the development (2.4M sq. ft. vs 1.8M sq. ft.); and further be it,

RESOLVED, Community Board Five looks forward to continued engagement with the Applicant about the Proposed Project and anticipates close collaboration on all of the concerns raised in this resolution, ensuring that the Proposed Project accords with CB5 Precedent and engaging with relevant city agencies to ensure that the Zoning Plan adequately supports the community with sufficient environmental assessments and public contributions now that we are engaging with a real world use case.

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