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Land Use, Housing & Zoning

41-47 West 57th Street application for Zoning Authorization for additional floor area for Mass Transit Station Improvements (Subway Improvement Bonus) to facilitate the development of a 63-story, 1,100-foot development

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, the following resolution passed with a vote of 29 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, BOB 57 LL, (“Applicant”) seeks to build a new mixed-use building (the “Building”) at 41-47 West 57th Street/50 West 58th Street (the “Development Site”), Manhattan; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant seeks additional floor area in exchange for mass transit station improvements under section 66-51 of the New York City Zoning Resolution for the Subject Property; and

WHEREAS, ZR 66-51 (ZR) is included in a series of proposed amendments to the Zoning Resolution under Zoning for Accessibility (“ZFA”); and 

WHEREAS,  Zoning  for Accessibility encourages private funding of major improvements in mass transit stations in high density districts in exchange for a floor area bonus; and

WHEREAS,  Under Zoning for Accessibility, qualifying transit improvement sites may receive up to a 20% floor area bonus pursuant to an authorization for construction of major improvements to a transit  station identified and prioritized by the MTA; and   

WHEREAS, The Development Site is a qualifying transit improvement site under the Zoning for Accessibility amendment; and

WHEREAS, ZR66-51 allows for a maximum bonus of up to 20 percent for FAR above the underlying district regulations maximum FAR permitted for commercial or mixed-use buildings in the Development site; and

WHEREAS, In exchange for proposed major improvements to the 57th Street Station on the 6th Avenue INDF line, the Applicant is seeking the maximum bonus permitted under the ZR; and 

WHEREAS, The bonus would allow for a total of 143,871 zsf of commercial floor area for the hotel and retail space (7.48 FAR) and 174,301 residential floor area (9.06 FAR) for a total proposed Building of approximately 318,172 zsf (16.53 FAR), and

WHEREAS, The Building will be 63 stories and 1,100 feet tall including 58 floors for the tower and 5 stories for the podium including all mechanical levels (which are below the 25 feet height  limit): and

WHEREAS, There will be four mechanical/structural outrigger floors not including a five story mechanical bulkhead; and 

WHEREAS, The Building will have a podium of 85 feet along the frontage of 57th street; and  

WHEREAS, The Building is intended to be mixed use; with ground floor retail, hotel and approximately 33 residential units (this number subject to change); and

WHEREAS, This is the first application under ZR66-51 to be heard by the City Planning Commission; and  

WHEREAS, The extra square footage from the FAR bonus will be added around the “middle” of the structure in the recessed areas so that the additional bonus space will be used to make the building thicker rather than taller; and 

WHEREAS, The Building is the same height that it would be as of right (without the FAR bonus); and

WHEREAS, Mandatory inclusionary housing is not required under zoning for this project;  and 

WHEREAS,  No affordable housing will be offered; all residential will be luxury market rate units; and 

WHEREAS, The subway bonus area is not permitted to be used in the residential portion; and

WHEREAS, The environmental review examined the difference between what could be built as of right versus what could be built with the bonus; and 

WHEREAS, If the Applicant had not applied for the ZR bonus, the Community Board would have no opportunity to review the as-of-right build; and 

WHEREAS, The NYC Planning commission determined that the proposed action would not have a significant adverse effect on the environment; and 

WHEREAS, The shadows cast by this building will be virtually the same whether or not a FAR bonus is supplied; and 

WHEREAS, The rear yard courtyard will be used by hotel/retail and side yard on the east side will not be used; and 

WHEREAS, The terrace on the south side of the building, rooftop and set back entrance will be utilized most likely by hotel guests; and 

WHEREAS, The proposed subway improvements have been designed to make the station accessible to people with disabilities; and 

WHEREAS, The improvements include the installation of a single  elevator at the southwest corner of 56th Street and Sixth Avenue which will take passengers to the mezzanine level of the station and a second  elevator located at mezzanine level which will transport passengers to the platform with direct access to an ADA boarding area (already created by MTA); and

WHEREAS, The planned subway elevator provides no redundancy; and 

WHEREAS, Redundancy was not considered in this instance although the infrastructure might support it;   and

WHEREAS, Additional improvements by the Applicant include the construction of a elevator machine room to service both elevators and reconfiguration of the fare control line and new Automated fare card access gates to accommodate the mezzanine to platform elevator; and 

WHEREAS, The subway improvement also includes eight ADA crosswalk ramps that are Dept. of Transportation (DOT) standard requirement configurations used throughout the city; five foot wide at the top and 9 foot 10 inches when splayed at the curb; and

WHEREAS, Accessible (ADA-compliant) crosswalk ramps will be placed on the four corners closest to the elevator; and  

WHEREAS, The location of the subway improvement is separate and apart from the Building and will be operated within the envelope of MTA property; and

WHEREAS, Instead of undertaking maintenance and repair, the Applicant will make a lump sum payment to the MTA to fund the ongoing maintenance for two life cycles of each elevator and one replacement obligation for a term of 36 years and and a one-time replacement of the elevator discounted to present value; and 

WHEREAS, This sum will be deposited in the MTA’s general operating fund; and 

WHEREAS, The total cost of improvements including lump sum payment is approximately $30 - $35 million dollars based on current design today (NB: all has not been costed out yet); and 

WHEREAS, Site conditions at subway stations differ so that any direct  comparison with other elevator installations would not be clear cut; and 

WHEREAS, The MTA stated that getting a developer to build subway improvements is more cost efficient for many reasons; and 

WHEREAS, The Building will not be able to get a temporary certificate of occupancy until the work in the station is completed and the fund is completely financed; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant and MTA worked closely on design and location of the subway improvements; and 

WHEREAS, The MTA and the Department of City Planning have indicated their approval of the plan and deemed the plan sufficient for qualification under Section 665-11; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 is confronting the use of ZR for the very first time; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 must also look to its precedent and history when assessing and balancing whether the bonus provided to the Applicant is commensurate with the benefit the Applicant is providing to the general public; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 recognizes public transportation accessibility is essential; and 

WHEREAS, 40% of midtown subways are not ADA-compliant; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 recognizes the incredible import of ADA accessibility; and 

WHEREAS, The additional square footage provided under ZR allows for buildings that are more likely to cast shadows than buildings without additional FAR; and 

WHEREAS,  CB5 has been a relentless  advocate for tools to address the shape of buildings in order to address shadow impact; 

WHEREAS, CB5 believes there should be a tool that provides automatic review of super tall buildings so as not to allow casting shadow as of right; and

WHEREAS, CB5 believes that the MTA should prioritize accessibility and should not rely upon giveaways that lead to supertall canyons in order to effectuate accessibility; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 believes the MTA should develop better tools to create transportation accessibility; and 

WHEREAS, This particular Building is a luxury tower with no affordable housing that will be built  in a neighborhood of luxury towers with a 42% vacancy rate as per the census; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 is on record noting the tremendous need for affordable housing in the District; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 believes that the Department of City Planning and the MTA can both do better when negotiating for the people of the City when awarding special permits; and  

WHEREAS, CB5 believes that while a single building itself is unlikely to impact the environment/community, the impact of many buildings collectively does impact the environment; and

WHEREAS, CB5 is on record that environmental impacts of buildings should be assessed in totality rather than in isolation; and 

WHEREAS, CB5 is on record with its belief that zoning regulations should require mandatory inclusionary housing when any special permits are provided; and

WHEREAS, In this first application, the Applicant’s building is no taller with the bonus as could build as-of -right; and

WHEREAS, CB5 have been assured the Building will have exactly the same shadow impact, and no more,  as if the building was as-of-right;  and

WHEREAS, The Applicant is to provide ADA accessibility to a subway station which is currently non-accessible; and 

WHEREAS, The improvement itself is deemed substantial and meritorious; and

WHEREAS, while CB5 strongly endorses the goal of ADA accessibility, it objects specifically to a number of the elements in this application; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial for the proposed zoning authorization unless certain conditions are met. Those conditions are:

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