First Look: Grand Central Terminal Transit, Re-Envisioned

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Transit improvements underneath the proposed One Vanderbilt

A developer wants to build the city's second-tallest building across the street from Grand Central Terminal. But first, it has to pick up the tab for some transit improvements.

One Vanderbilt will take up an entire city block, stretching from Vanderbilt to Madison Avenues and 42nd to 43rd Streets. At 1,395 feet — before a spire is added — it's intended to be the city's second-tallest building, behind One World Trade. And it's the cornerstone of an effort to rezone Midtown East, one that gives developers the ability to build taller buildings in exchange for funding public infrastructure improvements.

Now, SL Green, the developer behind One Vanderbilt, is unveiling a suite of transit improvements designed to fulfill that bargain with the city. The improvements, some of which have been on the MTA's to-do list since at least 2002, include a 4,000-square foot waiting room for Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road passengers (who will be coming into the terminal via East Side Access); a pedestrian plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue; a new entrance (complete with escalators) from the street level to the Times Square shuttle; and new stairways from the 4/5/6 subway platform to the mezzanine designed to reduce crowding.

The latter is particularly critical, given how overcrowded the 4/5/6 line is. If loading and offloading of passengers can be completed faster, the MTA can operate subways more frequently.

A proposed MTA concourse under One Vanderbilt (image courtesy of Studio AMD/KPF)

Token booths and entrances throughout the Grand Central subway station will also be improved to enhance the flow of passengers.

Robert Schiffer, managing director of SL Green, says the transit improvements will cost roughly $200 million and will "be delivered on an agreed-upon schedule with the MTA, and implemented by us as the developer," he said. "We're responsible for cost overruns, we're responsible for construction oversight. It is our project to build, not the MTA's."

Proposed design changes to the 4/5/6 platform at Grand Central. Note narrower staircases and columns, allowing passengers more room on the platform (Stantec/KPF)

Per the terms of its agreement with the city, SL Green must complete the work prior to receiving a certificate of occupancy.

A street level view of One Vanderbilt leading down to the subway system (image courtesy of By-Encore/KPF)

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen lauded the plans in a statement. “We believe smart planning isn’t just about buildings, but about the infrastructure investments and services we need to support growth," she said. "Our vision for East Midtown puts transit first, and the changes coming to the Vanderbilt corridor exemplify that approach. Before the first office worker walks through the doors of this new building, we will have in place improvements to subway platforms, concourses and entrances that will increase capacity at Grand Central and make life easier for thousands of commuters. This is the kind of smart growth we intend to pursue across the city.”

Rendering of the public plaza at Vanderbilt and 42nd Street (Studio AMD, James Corner Field Operations/KPF)

But first One Vanderbilt must clear the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which will begin later this month.

Gene Russianoff, the head of the Straphangers Campaign, said the plans looked promising and could "improv(e) the lives of millions of riders who use Grand Central Terminal." 

"We will be listening,” he added.

SL Green hopes to complete One Vanderbilt in 2020.

Street level view of the proposed One Vanderbilt, which leads down to the transit system (By-Encore/KPF)