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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

341-347 Madison Ave, an application by BP 343 Madison Associates LLC, in partnership with the MTA, for two Vanderbilt Corridor Special Permits to facilitate the redevelopment of the site at 341-347 Madison Ave..

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 35 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, BP 347 Madison Associates LLC (the developer of the site and an affiliate of Boston Properties) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), jointly the applicant (the “Applicant”), have applied for a set of waivers and special permits related to the redevelopment of the properties at 341-347 Madison Avenue between East 44th and 45th Streets, collectively known as 343 Madison Avenue, aka MTA HQ; and

WHEREAS, The current building on the site was constructed in 1917, and beginning in 1979 served as the headquarters for the MTA that subsequently moved out of the buildings in 2014 with a request for proposals (RFP) in 2013, seeking a partner to redevelop the site for the purpose of generating revenue to the MTA; and

WHEREAS, In 2016, after a bidding process, the MTA selected Boston Properties for a 99 years ground lease and to develop the site; and

WHEREAS, In 2020, in accordance with the rules of the Vanderbilt Corridor subdistrict, the Applicant put forward this proposal to obtain special permits and waivers to facilitate the development; and

WHEREAS, The proposed building would comprise approximately 753,120 square feet, with a base 15 FAR and a 15 FAR bonus for transit and public realm improvements, reaching the maximum authorized density of 30.0 FAR on a 25,104 square foot parcel, with a height of approximately 1,050 feet; and

WHEREAS, To qualify for a bonus FAR, the Applicant is proposing the following transit upgrades:

WHEREAS, On-site transit improvements would be performed at the expense of Boston Properties; and

WHEREAS, Off-site transit improvements would be funded via bonds issued by the MTA, and the MTA would service these new bonds with the monies the agency receives from the developer in the form of ground lease payments and payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT); and 

WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to widen the sidewalk on East 45th Street from approximately 10 feet to 15 feet wide; and

WHEREAS, The proposed building would abut two buildings to the east, the Yale Club and 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, a commercial building, and would cantilever over the East Side Access vent building along East 44th Street next to the Yale Club; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant has recently engaged the Yale Club in substantive discussions to address concerns about the impact of the proposed new building on the Club’s operations and representatives of the Club testified to the progress of those discussions; and

WHEREAS, The proposed project would produce important economic benefits for New York City as it recovers from the pandemic in both the construction and operations of the building, as was testified to in the public hearing; and

WHEREAS, The building as proposed could not be constructed as of right and would require the following special permits and waivers in order to do so

WHEREAS, A special permit is requested to increase the base 15.0 FAR to 30.0 FAR in connection with the on-site and off-site public transit improvements; and

WHEREAS, The proposed off-site transit improvements under the East Midtown Special District would qualify for a 6.4 additional FAR bonus, which leaves 8.6 FAR for consideration beyond the bonus generated by these off-site transit improvements; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes that development around major transit hubs such as Grand Central is generally appropriate in principle and that the proposed transit improvements are essential additions to the area; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five, however, does not believe these improvements as proposed are sufficient to justify the additional FAR requested given the substantial density the building will bring to the area and the resulting increased demands on public transit in a corridor that already is experiencing a significant increase in density from the East Midtown and Vanderbilt Corridor rezonings; and

WHEREAS, the building massing is not compliant with the Vanderbilt Corridor daylight evaluation requirements, causing the sidewalks to be darker than a compliant massing would, and Community Board Five believes the building massing should comply with the requirements of the existing zoning, to minimize the encroachment on the sky exposure plane; and

WHEREAS, Retail frontage on Madison Avenue is a priority to maintain a vibrant and welcoming street experience for pedestrians, and the proposed lobby width is unnecessary and should be reduced to comply with the existing zoning; and

WHEREAS, CB5 recognizes that a street wall height in excess of the compliant 150 feet may be appropriate, the proposed 321 foot street wall height is excessive and should be lowered; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 does not object to the special permits requested related to entrance recess, curb cut, loading berth, and street wall design to accommodate the entrance to East Side Access; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the special permits requested in this application unless the above concerns are addressed, specifically enhanced below grade public transit improvements, a lower street wall height, compliant daylight evaluation score, and a reduction in lobby width to accommodate the required retail frontage on Madison Avenue.

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