NEW YORK—For New York City to maintain its position as one of the world’s premier business centers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sees a need to update East Midtown.
If proposed rezoning in the area around Grand Central station is to go ahead, the development that would likely follow would create a dramatic shift in the number of people going to and from the area.
The MTA recently proposed solutions to accommodate increased pressure on the subway.
In light of building stock advancements in competitor cities around the globe, Bloomberg said the buildings of East Midtown could soon be less desirable.
The area is largely made up of buildings constructed 50 years ago or more. Many buildings hold offices that have 10-foot-high ceilings and relatively more columns supporting each floor, in comparison to contemporary class A offices suites that have considerably fewer columns and 14-foot-high ceilings, creating more open space.
The proposed rezoning extends from 39th Street to 57th Street around Grand Central station, between Fifth Avenue and Third Avenue, and extends to Second Avenue between 40th Street and 48th Street.
The new plan could see buildings up to 870 feet around Grand Central Terminal, and some in excess of 1,200 feet, for buildings that can significantly contribute to the skyline, according to a presentation by the Department of City Planning. This would be higher than the neighboring Chrysler Building, and even higher than the 1,200-foot spire on One Bryant Park.
In the event that proposed rezoning does go ahead, the city estimates the area could welcome up to an additional 16,000 people. Suitable public places and amenities would be needed to accommodate this increase, along with adequate transportation.
Proposed Subway Improvements
Expected added pressure to an already strained local subway network has prompted the MTA to devise a plan that will accommodate the growth. The agency has targeted three locations for subway improvement in the area.
The MTA analyzed pedestrian flow in stations for projected populations in 2030. The projections included growth due to anticipated development in the area as well as other locations in the city. The MTA team considered all potential “choke points,” solving each one to arrive at the proposed solutions.
Major alterations are proposed to improve connections between Grand Central Terminal and the subway station, with a reconfiguration of the mezzanine level adding connections to Lexington (4,5,6) and Flushing (7) line platforms.
Important secondary alterations are proposed for entrances to the 5th Avenue and 53 Street, M and E stations and 53rd Street and a Lexington Avenue connection between the M and 6.The driving idea is to get more people down on the platforms, so that they can all get on the trains efficiently. Improvements include altering stairs and column widths, and adding more stairs to access platforms. Escalators and corridors would also be added. The idea is to optimize all the systems to improve flows, according to an MTA official. If this can be achieved, the MTA will then be able to add more train services.
Officials were certain that all of these additions are important to maintain an efficiently run subway in future years, and to avoid predicaments such as with London’s underground where at certain times, some stations were so overcrowded that they had to evacuate to relieve pressure.
Although the MTA team is ambitious to see all the improvements made, they said that the majority of ideas were on their wish list, whereas connections to Lexington (Nos. 4,5,6) and Flushing (No. 7) lines were their top priority.
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