What goes up must now fix what’s down below.
That’s the deal skyscraper developers made with New York City to create the first expansion of the Midtown East skyline in decades.
“It’s not optional. It’s mandatory,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for economic development.
Glen told the I-Team that a long-delayed rezoning of some 78 blocks near Grand Central comes with a critical catch: developers must pay for better access to the subway: wider concourses, better lighting and in some cases, brand new entrances and exits directly to the street.
“It’s $220 million of capital that’s going into the system that doesn’t come from higher fares,” said Andrew Matthias, president of S.L. Green Realty. S.L. Green Realty is the developer of the first skyscraper to benefit from the new zoning: the 1,401 feet-high One Vanderbilt, across the street from Grand Central Terminal.
Matthias said the transit improvements should be especially appealing to New Yorkers.
“It doesn’t come from increased taxes. It comes from developers in the city," he said.
Some commuters are skeptical that wider stairwells and better concourses can do much to improve service.
“It’s not the entrances,” said Tony Turner of Flatbush. “It’s the railbed itself.”
But Glen says wider concourses can help people enter and exit more quickly which could mean the MTA could run more trains.
Another 15 skyscrapers are expected to grow in the Midtown East Zone over the next 20 years.
One Vanderbilt – with retail, office space and a planned observation deck -- is a $3 billion project set to open in 2020.