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City Hires Consultants to Improve East Midtown Transit and Streetscapes

 New York City is pursuing a plan to rezone a 73-block section of East Midtown around Grand Central Terminal to allow newer and larger skyscrapers.
Consultants to Develop Plans to Upgrade East Midtown Transit
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MIDTOWN — The city has turned to three global architecture and construction firms to draw up plans to improve transit and streetscapes as part of a proposal that would rezone a 73-block swath around Grand Central Terminal.

The plan, which would allow for newer and larger skyscrapers in the area, would require developers to contribute to a District Improvement Fund to upgrade area subways, buses and streets, which are already operating above capacity.

The fund will be overseen by a five-person committee comprised of the City Planning chairman and four mayoral appointees.

To date, proposals to improve and expand East Midtown's infrastructure have remained vague, save for a controversial City Planning proposal introduced in March that would convert Vanderbilt Avenue near Grand Central into a pedestrian plaza.

But with Monday's announcement of the new three-firm "consultant team" — comprised of Jonathan Rose Companies, Gehl Architects, and Skanska — the planning and transportation departments hope to provide "a comprehensive plan describing specific improvements to the East Midtown streetscape that will make the area a desirable place to live, work, pass through and visit," the agencies said in a press release.

"East Midtown's much-needed street makeover will reinvigorate its streets, bringing them into the 21st century and worthy of one of the busiest transit-oriented commercial districts in the world," DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said in a statement.

The multi-board task force on East Midtown Rezoning, which is made up of representatives of Community Boards 1, 4, 5 and 6, convened a public hearing on the rezoning proposal Monday night that attracted hundreds of local residents, including politicians and elected officials.

The proposal needs final approval from the Department of City Planning and the City Council.

Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilman Dan Garodnick and community groups from Community Board 5, among others, have urged the city to develop a specific plan detailing how it would upgrade East Midtown's infrastructure, and to do so before approving any rezoning proposal.

“From the beginning, we told the City that a comprehensive public realm plan was a crucial piece of this proposed rezoning,” Councilman Dan Garodnick said in a statement. “In order to achieve a Class A office district, we need more than just new office towers.

"My colleagues and I asked the city to approach the public realm with the same level of detail that they studied other elements of this proposal," he added. "And, to their credit, the city heard our calls and responded."

The consultant team will hold three public workshops this spring and summer. The dates have not been announced.

The team's firms did not immediately respond to calls and emails for comment Tuesday morning.