Preservation Issues

Update on Rezoning Near Grand Central Terminal

-Rendering of One Vanderbilt and Grand Central Terminal, looking north from 42nd Street up Vanderbilt Avenue. Image courtesy Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates

-The Yale Club, 50 Vanderbilt Avenue - 1915 James Gamble Rogers

-52 Vanderbilt Avenue - 1915 Warren and Wetmore

-Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street - 1925 George B. Post

-51 East 42nd Street - 1912 Warren and Wetmore

January 2015

Public review of the Vanderbilt Corridor rezoning and the new One Vanderbilt tower reached another milestone when the Multi-Board Task Force issued a resolution opposing the plans on December 29, 2014. The Conservancy testified in front of the Task Force in November, asking that preservation be a more prominent part of rethinking Midtown East (Read our testimony here).

The Task Force resolution picked up on those points. In regards to the glassy base of the proposed 1,500-foot tower, they wrote, “ Whereas we praise the Applicant for taking Community Board Five and Six’s concerns regarding the harmoniousness of their proposed building with Grand Central Terminal into account and for attempting to resolve them by revising the design, the specific concerns raised by the proposed building’s asymmetrical façade, use of glass and cacophonous base have not been alleviated.” They also requested that the Landmarks Commission calendar landmark-quality buildings along Vanderbilt Avenue before the public review is completed, and be required to review any new developments with respect to their harmonious relationship with Grand Central Terminal.

The next step of the mandated public review process is the recommendation of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The Conservancy will issuing a letter to her in January.


November 2014
Conservancy Questions Vanderbilt Avenue Rezoning Proposal

As the proposed Vanderbilt Corridor Rezoning began its public process, the Conservancy continued to raise questions about the rezoning, and the design of the giant tower proposed for the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. Our remarks came at a November 17 public hearing of Community Boards 5 and 6 and the Tri-Board Task force on East Midtown.

The Conservancy asked that the Landmarks Commission and Department of City Planning work in concert so that the Commission could quickly designate the landmark quality buildings on Vanderbilt Avenue.

We reiterated that we do not see a harmonious relationship between the proposed One Vanderbilt tower and Grand Central Terminal, despite some design modifications to the base.

And we expressed concern that proposed Public Realm Improvement Bonuses could set the two public goals of preservation and transit against each other. Up until now, transit bonuses have been used in tandem with landmark transfers. But the proposal calls for an unprecedented increase of up to 15.0 FAR for transit bonuses, possibly diminishing the environment for landmark transfers. The Vanderbilt Corridor Rezoning also includes provisions to ease landmark transfers but the most likely development site—at One Vanderbilt—is already off the table.

The Conservancy will continue to speak out on this rezoning and serves on a task force examining the larger Midtown East area.


July 2014
Conservancy Calls for Preservation to be part of Midtown East Plan

Conservancy testifies on Midtown East at Landmarks Preservation Commission and Department of City Planning, demanding that preservation is part of the plan.

The Conservancy is once again working to ensure that preservation is part of the plan to rezone Midtown East. The first proposals are focused on Vanderbilt Avenue, a five-block stretch across from Grand Central Terminal (GCT), that includes four buildings the Conservancy believes are landmark quality: the Yale Club, 52 Vanderbilt, the Roosevelt Hotel, and 51 East 42nd Street.

Warren and Wetmore, the architect of Grand Central, designed 51 East 42nd Street as part of Terminal City, a complex of buildings meant to complement GCT. Now that building is likely to be demolished and replaced by One Vanderbilt, a 1,300 foot-plus tower. In order to comply with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), the architects were required to present the plans for the building and whether it has a harmonious relationship with Grand Central Terminal. The Conservancy’s Public Policy Committee reviewed the proposal and found that the relationship was not harmonious. At a July 22 hearing, the LPC determined that it was.

The new building also requires a special zoning permit. The permit application is being presented in tandem with a proposal to rezone the rest of Vanderbilt Avenue to allow buildings with 30 FAR (floor area ratio), doubling the existing limits. The developers of One Vanderbilt will be required to provide substantial transportation improvements; however, the improvements are not yet binding and there is no clear outline of what other developers on the block would be required to provide in exchange for the floor area bonuses. Once again, the first draft of the plan does not acknowledge the value of the exiting historic buildings, as the Conservancy testified at a Department of City Planning public meeting on July 16. The full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) public review process is expected to start in September.

The Conservancy is a member of a task force that will explore a plan for the larger Midtown East area. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Daniel Garodnick have brought together community leaders, planning and transportation experts, and civic advocates to meet through next fall and winter to develop a comprehensive vision for Midtown East.

Read more about the Conservancy’s involvement with Midtown East Rezoning.