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$465 Million in Grand Central Transit Upgrades Included in Rezoning Plan

By Alan Neuhauser | August 20, 2013 8:28am
 The MTA would upgrade subways in and around Grand Central Terminal under the proposed 73-block rezoning.
The MTA would upgrade subways in and around Grand Central Terminal under the proposed 73-block rezoning.
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DNAinfo/Alan Neuhauser

MIDTOWN — More rush-hour subway trains, wider stairways, new escalators and a pedestrian connection to regional rail lines are all part of the MTA's planned upgrades for Grand Central Terminal under a proposed rezoning of the area, the Department of City Planning said Monday.

The projects, estimated to cost $465 million, were presented to the City Planning Commission, which is reviewing the Bloomberg administration's application to rezone an aging 73-block area around Grand Central with newer and larger skyscrapers.

"This may not be the sexiest thing," city planner Frank Ruchala acknowledged during his presentation, but "it's a significant improvement to the system."

An accompanying slideshow touted "less congestion, improved sight lines, and additional Lexington Avenue express-track capacity."

The upgrades would be funded, at least in part, by a District Improvement Fund, an account paid into by developers planning to construct high-density buildings in the East Midtown rezoning area. The money would be overseen by a five-member, mayor-appointed committee, and would be earmarked for transit projects and other infrastructure upgrades.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also promised to allocate city funds for East Midtown infrastructure projects, but he and the city have yet to offer any firm commitments.

The measures presented to the City Planning Commission at Monday's meeting included adding an underground walkway between the Lexington Avenue subway lines and the Long Island Railroad, which is being extended to Grand Central Terminal as part of the MTA's East Side Access program.

Other plans include widening stairways and adding escalators at Grand Central and subway stations at Lexington Avenue and 51st Street, Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street, and Madison Avenue and 53rd Street.

All told, these improvements and others would allow one more northbound 4 or 5 train to pass through Grand Central during the evening rush-hour, and another southbound train during the morning rush.

"It may not sound like much," Ruchala said, "but it's a big improvement."

The City Planning Commission has until the end of September to vote on the East Midtown rezoning application, but it is expected to do so at its final meeting of the month on Sept. 25. The application will then head to the City Council.

The application has been opposed by eight of Manhattan's 12 community boards, which have expressed strong reservations about how money in the District Improvement Fund would be raised and disbursed, the timing of infrastructure improvements, and other measures.