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The Future of Midtown

The latest WTS-Young Professional’s event, The Future of Midtown: The Cross-Section of Rezoning, Real Estate, and Transportation, took place on November 5th.  The event was part of the WTS-YP Trending Topics networking series in which panelists share their experiences and stories in an informal setting over a glass of wine or a cold brew.

The night’s panel consisted of Northeast Regional Director of Environmental Services at VHB Nancy Doon; Managing Director at SL Green Realty Corp Robert Schiffer; and Co-Chair of the Transportation Committee of Manhattan Community Board 4 Christine Berthet. The discussion highlighted how rezoning efforts in east and west midtown were woven together by lucrative development interests that spurred major transportation improvements.

In her role as the environmental lead for the Greater East Midtown Rezoning project, one of Ms. Doon’s responsibilities was the execution of the environmental impact statement (EIS). Because the rezoning was designed to allow for increased density, the EIS indicated a significant increase in traffic volumes and congestion in the 78-block rezoning area.  As a result, the City committed to various measures to diminish the effects on all forms of transportation, which included the creation of new zoning mechanisms that will minimize transportation impacts and allow for street-level enhancements.

One of those zoning strategies is pre-identified transit improvements, such as the construction of new entrances, stairways, and elevators to the existing transit stations in the rezoning area. At the street level, developers could use the landmark transfer and overbuilt floor area mechanisms that would require contributions to the Public Realm Improvement Fund. Improvements to the public realm include enhanced public plaza areas, sidewalk and curb extensions, widened medians, construction of shared street space construction, and new bus stop and lane facilities.  For more information on the Greater East Midtown rezoning proposal, see the NYC Planning’s project page.

Mr. Schiffer, who has worked on the development of One Vanderbilt, a high-rise across from Grand Central Station, spoke about ways in which the rezoning mechanisms have allowed developers to achieve higher densities in the Vanderbilt Corridor adjacent to the station. In exchange, they contribute funds to improve pedestrian flow through the introduction of a new public plaza on Vanderbilt Avenue and a new subway entrance on 42nd to connect to the pending East Side Access concourse.  

Ms. Berthet focused on the challenges and opportunities driven by rapid redevelopment to the west, describing how the development of Hudson Yards and in Hell’s Kitchen has greatly affected nearly every aspect of transportation, from vehicular traffic patterns to pedestrian movement and transit facilities.

The panel discussion was followed by a dynamic Q&A as well as networking. WTS-YP hosts several of these events throughout the year, so keep an eye out for the next “trending topic!” In addition, the Young Professionals Committee is always open to ideas for new topic discussions. Please feel free to provide your ideas to us at wtsgny@gmail.com.

Event volunteers: Tiffany Cummings, Ece Koch, Portia Henry, and Aimee Jefferson.

2018.11.5_TT_Christine_Berthet 2018.11.5_TT_Attendees_Listening

To view more photos from this event, click here.



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