Testimony from the Real Estate Board of New York to the City Planning Commission

The Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. (REBNY) is a broadly based trade association of over 16,000 owners, developers, brokers, managers and real estate professionals active throughout New York City.  We have been long time advocates for the rezoning of East Midtown and support the proposed Vanderbilt Corridor Text Amendment and the Special Permit Application for One Vanderbilt. The Proposed Actions will strengthen East Midtown and New York City’s economy and we hope will be the beginning of the rezoning of the greater East Midtown area.

The East Midtown business district is critical to the City’s tax base and economy. It is the city’s most prominent commercial district and regional transit hub with approximately 70 million square feet of office space and numerous commuter transit connections into Grand Central Terminal. However, to retain its position as a preeminent global business district, the City needs to address the problems of its aging office buildings and of its insufficient office development. 

The Department of City Planning has developed a sound proposal along the 5-block Vanderbilt Corridor to encourage modern commercial development by allowing more flexibility in the transfer of landmark development rights.

The proposal to create a mechanism to link new development to much needed infrastructure and public realm improvements in the Grand Central area is important and the only realistic source of funding in the foreseeable future.

In addition, the new buildings will reflect modern ideals and set new standards in sustainability and design. This proposal provides the most appropriate way to ensure that meaningful transit improvements are fully integrated into this plan so that all five blocks can take full advantage of Grand Central, especially once East Side Access is completed.

Relatedly, the Proposed Action would permit SL Green to construct an approximately 1.8 million gross square foot mixed use office building (“One Vanderbilt”) with an enclosed public space at ground level. One Vanderbilt is exactly the type of dense, transit-oriented development that belongs immediately adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. We think this building will be a model for the type of development we can look forward to on Vanderbilt. Designed with careful attention paid to the needs of modern tenants, One Vanderbilt will feature open and efficient floor plans and will be a LEED-certified, Class A building. SL Green will finance and facilitate the construction of all public improvements, including enhanced transit connectivity and new public spaces. In fact, the applicant has worked diligently with the Community Board and Borough President’s Office to further improve urban design elements that may impact public space.

In total, SL Green will invest $210 million in transit infrastructure and public realm improvements and complete this work as a condition of occupancy of their new building.  We want to stress the significance of the commitment to complete this work as a condition of occupancy. Below ground transit work is costly, uncertain and prone to overrun. This investment will immediately improve pedestrian circulation in and around Grand Central Terminal.

Additionally, One Vanderbilt is projected to create 5,200 construction jobs, 190 permanent union building service jobs, and approximately $50 million in annual tax revenues.

There is general agreement that East Midtown’s existing zoning is an impediment for the necessary modernization of its aging building stock. The Proposed Actions are an important effort to strengthen East Midtown. SL Green’s One Vanderbilt proposal will ensure that much needed public improvements are completed before additional density is constructed next to the Terminal and will be a model of the high quality design and meaningful transit improvements that we can expect from the other potential development sites in the plan. These actions are needed for East Midtown to remain competitive in a global market, and we urge the City Planning Commission to approve these actions that will strengthen our city’s economy.