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Developer Backs Out of Public Meeting About Plan to Alter 86th St. Station

By Shaye Weaver | March 22, 2016 5:57pm
 The planned tower on 86th Street and Lexington Avenue will have retail on the bottom floors.
The planned tower on 86th Street and Lexington Avenue will have retail on the bottom floors.
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UPPER EAST SIDE — A developer that struck a behind-doors deal with the MTA to make changes to the entrance of the 86th Street subway station backed out of a public meeting, scheduled Monday to discuss details of the project, an hour before it was due to start.

Community Board 8 invited the developer, Ceruzzi Properties, last week to attend the meeting in order to shed light on a plan to move a stairwell of the 86th Street station located at the base of the site where it wants to build an 18-story luxury tower.

But after agreeing to show up to the meeting, a representative for the developer sent an email to Elizabeth Ashby, the co-chairwoman of the board's zoning committee, at 5:30 p.m. Monday saying he wanted to reschedule because he didn't have enough information to share, Ashby said.

"I was going to ask how the MTA negotiated this without no public input ... it makes no sense," said Upper East Side resident Andrew Fine during the meeting.

"What is the plan to reconstruct this subway station? I would love to hear an explanation but unfortunately we have nobody here to offer one."

Representatives for Ceruzzi did not immediately return requests for comment on Tuesday.

The little details residents have learned about the plan were gleaned from published reports and public records, according to Elaine Walsh, president of the East 86th Street Association and co-chairwoman of the board's zoning committee.

To make way for its proposed residential tower at 147 E. 86th St., Ceruzzi plans to remove the subway staircase, the northeast exit, from the base of the building on East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue and install a new stairway and elevator on the sidewalk in front of the building.

The developer agreed to cover the costs, including the installation of the elevator, which must be built to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But residents are concerned about the impact of possibly closing down one of the 86th Street station stairwells during construction, which they fear would force commuters to cram through the single remaining entry/exit point.

MTA data shows that more than 20 million travelers pass through the 86th Street station each year, and it's considered the ninth busiest subway station in the city.

"This would force everyone to use one staircase on the southeast corner of Lexington and 86th. It's a mess now and it will be a disaster," said Rita Lee Popper, a board member. "God forbid there’s an emergency. What are those plans?"

Ceruzzi's project does not require public approval since no special rezoning is involved, but residents feel they've been left out of a plan that would impact their daily lives.

The board had hoped to get more information on how the construction would be done and how long the existing stairwell would be closed. Information about how much space will be taken up by the new staircase and elevator is still unclear as well, they said.

"We are very concerned because we are not quite sure what all this quite looks like," Walsh said.

The transportation and zoning committees passed a series of resolutions on Monday, stating that the northeast subway exit must be kept open during construction, asking that the staircase and elevator be kept within the new building and that the developer's plans are shared with the community.

The committees also requested that the city look at the feasibility of adding an underground cross-over tunnel while construction is on-going.

A spokesman for the MTA said the agency did not send representatives to the meeting because they weren't given enough notice.