MANHATTAN — The developer of an 18-story luxury tower planned for East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue quietly inked a deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to transform the 86th Street station for the uptown 4, 5 and 6 trains — and Upper East Siders are furious that they’ve been shut out of the planning process.
To accommodate the 210-foot-tall building set to rise at 147 E. 86th St., the developer plans to remove a subway station stairway that’s currently in the base of the existing building on East 86th Street near Lexington Avenue to use that space for highly coveted retail, insiders said. The developer, Ceruzzi Properties, would then pay for the MTA to build a new, wider stairway on the sidewalk.
The developer agreed to cover the costs to build an elevator for the station that would also be on the sidewalk, according to people familiar with the project. (Because of the changes being made, the project must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, sources explained.)
The MTA did not disclose the estimated cost of the construction.
Because the 86th Street stop is such an important — and crowded — hub, locals believe they should not only be briefed on the changes but should also have some input on what’s happening there.
More than 20 million riders annually pass through the 86th Street subway station on the Lexington Avenue line for the 4, 5 and 6, making it the ninth busiest station in New York City, according to MTA data.
Ceruzzi Properties does not need any public approval since it requires no special zoning.
But that hasn’t stopped residents from trying to shed light on what’s happening by asking the developer to share its plans. The local community board added the project to its agenda Monday night and invited the developer to make a presentation.
“I am totally shocked that a developer comes into a community and doesn’t think they have to be transparent and involve the community,” said Elaine Walsh, president of the East 86th Street Association.
After getting concerned phone calls from residents and businesses about the possible changes gleaned from published reports about the project, Walsh requested that the area’s community board add the project to its agenda in hopes of getting specifics on how the newly imagined sidewalk might impact pedestrian traffic and the trucks delivering goods to the new stores on the block.
In renderings of the project, the elevator shaft and sidewalk subway stairs are barely perceptible, drawn with translucent walls.
Walsh was also concerned that the developer got approvals to build higher in exchange for affordable housing, but that housing will be built off-site, she noted.
A representative for the company declined to comment on specifics, telling DNAinfo New York that there was no definite plan yet and there was still “a lot of potential for change.”
To address sidewalk traffic as a result of construction, the MTA was working with the city’s Department of Transportation to widen the sidewalk on East 86th Street to provide pedestrians with extra space, MTA officials said.
A stop for Select Bus Service would be moved to the west side of the intersection.
The transit agency believes the changes have merits, especially given that the new stairs will be wider than the current ones and that an elevator will be added.
“The project will yield some positive benefits for our customers,” MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. “Wider stairs will greatly improve egress and the elevator will provide ADA access for uptown customers.”
Jim Clynes, chairman of the Upper East Side’s Community Board 8, hoped the changes the developer wants to make to the subway station will open a discussion about building an underground passageway to connect the north and southbound trains, a sorely missing link at this busy station, many believe.
“I hope that issue is explored,” said Clynes. “This is the community hub of the Upper East Side, and certainly a lot of plans will have to go into effect to alleviate any problems on the sidewalk with the daily morning and evening commute.”
Though Ceruzzi isn’t required to appear before the board, many developers who don’t need public approvals often do so in an effort to show good will, Clynes added.
“I hope they want to be good neighbors,” he said.