Jan
13

A century later, Grand Central still spurs development

By

For some reason or another, the concept of transit-oriented development seems to rankle nerves and raise eyebrows. Outside of the city, at least, in suburban areas where “density” is a bad word, issues surrounding class and race often lead to intense debates over TOD. But within New York City, it’s a fact of life. In fact, the city is one giant transit-oriented development, made possible because of the reach and frequency of our transit network.

After so many decades and years of development, it’s easy to lose sight of how transit has spurred development — both residential and commercial — in New York City, but a new spate of projects serves to remind us of New York’s origins and showcases its future growth. As Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year, a big dig underneath it will soon usher in over 80,000 new commuters per day to the area, and across town at 34th St. and 11th Ave., a new subway stop will deliver New Yorkers to one of Manhattan’s last truly undeveloped frontiers at the Hudson Yards.

In this week’s Crain’s New York, a big story on Grand Central drives home this point. Daniel Geiger looked at the planned and expected growth around Midtown that stems out of Grand Central and its importance to the city. Opening with the story about the owners of 140 E. 45th St. building out a real entrance that leads to Grand Central on East 44th St., Geiger’s piece highlights the up-building that will soon happen throughout Midtown.

Rockwood’s move is just one of many by which countless landlords and tenants alike are demonstrating that even at the ripe old age of 100, the grand dame of New York’s transit hubs is more central and vital than ever. What’s more, with the planned arrival by 2020 of Long Island Rail Road trains in Grand Central’s sub-basement and the expected rezoning of the surrounding neighborhood to spur development of a whole new generation of bigger, smarter office buildings, the terminal is destined to become only more important.

“When the LIRR link opens, it will bring about 80,000 new commuters per day through the terminal,” said an MTA spokeswoman. Those new faces will add to the roughly 800,000 people—including tourists and, increasingly, shoppers—who will pass through the building each day by the end of the decade.

Similarly, the extension of the 7 subway line—which runs beneath the station out to Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, Hudson Yards, just beginning to rise west of Penn Station—will further knit the terminal into the city’s future growth. In a sort of virtuous circle, it is those beefier transportation links that effectively lay the groundwork for the big new towers, which are expected to add 10 million square feet or more of additional space in the coming decades—the equivalent of more than three Empire State Buildings—and their tens of thousands of additional tenants. They could begin arriving as soon as 2020.

In addition to the increase in office space in the area, the New York City Planning Commission with some prodding by the Regional Plan Association and Municipal Art Society will reassess how the space surrounding Grand Central is utilized as well. Parts of Vanderbilt Ave. may be turned into pedestrian plazas, and the city will consider widening sidewalks along Madison and Lexington Avenues. As midtown occupancy numbers increase, wider sidewalks will become a matter of safety for the tens of thousands of new workers in the area.

So Grand Central — the epicenter of Midtown East — continues to deliver transit-oriented development benefits a century after it first opened its doors. I can’t help but to draw comparisons to the way the city and its politicians treat transit today. It is so clearly the economic driver of the city. People clamor to live near subway stops, and rents increase as commute times decrease. Businesses want to be located closer to train stations, and an increase in commuting capacity is driving a push to rezone Midtown and add density to one of the denser areas in the country.

Still, when it comes to political priorities, transit takes second fiddle to just about anything else. It is a struggle to move rail projects forward, and future funding is up in the air. We look for tiny incremental improvements rather than transformative initiatives that could easily see the light of day with a political champion and some progressive funding. Let the Grand Central Terminal be a reminder of what transit development in New York City can do and what it still does. It’s a powerful driver indeed.



78 Responses to “A century later, Grand Central still spurs development”

  1. …Grand Central’s sub-basement…

    …future funding is up in the air.

    These things are not unrelated. Obligatory link to George Haikalis’ East Side Access links (Delcan study especially is worth reading).

  2. Justin Samuels says:

    NYC does not need to encourage additional development. For starters, if global warming is truly here and if rising sea levels are a problem, certain areas will end up underwater anyway.

    If a Katrina style hurricane hits NYC, where would they put people, especially the poorer ones. There’s already enough weeping and wailing over those displaced by Sandy (and I was one of them).

    • Walter says:

      Constantinople/Istanbul has faced earthquakes, floods, plagues, and war, and has remained one of the most important cities in the world for two thousand years. Are you saying that New York, our most important city, should be abandoned or allowed to stagnate because sea levels are on the rise and every few years we get smacked by a hurricane?

      Grand Central is in a pretty good location anyway that flood waters shouldn’t be a problem, so if anything more development should occur there and not on the coast.

      • Justin Samuels says:

        Pompeii, a city in Italy, was once bured by a volcano.

        Natural disasters can indeed wipe out cities, or seriously set them back. New Orleans has not quite been the same since Katrina. Some parts were abandoned.

        With that said, I did not say NYC should be abandoned. It should not overdevelop, or encourage more dense development. Its fine the way it is, and trying to make the city even more dense would simply set the stage for further disaster when the next major storm comes through. That, with rising sea levels simply make parts of NYC not necessarily a viable place.

        And this decision is not left to the public. Its left to bankers and insurers, who are refusing to cover waterfront properties (unless substantial improvements are made and in some cases not even then) and various levels of government.

        • Walter says:

          Pompeii was simply a resort town, and not an important trading center. Naples (Neapolis at the time of Pompeii’s destruction), the actual major city of that region, sits an equal distance from Vesuvius in the opposite direction, and has been devastated multiple times by Vesuvius, as recently as 1908, yet it has always rebuilt and remains an important city.

          Density only occurs if enough people want to live and work in a certain area. If people choose to live here, then shouldn’t those parts of the city be made dense enough to accommodate residents and businesses who want to locate here? Should the city stagnate because we get hit by hurricanes?

          • Someone says:

            Should the city stagnate because we get hit by hurricanes?

            Look at Tokyo. It was destroyed in 2011 by an earthquake. Yet two years later, it is still prosperous. Even if something catastrophic were to happen to NYC, New Yorkers would still rebound from it. It’s happened already, during 9/11.

            • al says:

              Define “destroyed”. Sendai was hard hit, but there was far less impact in Tokyo.

            • Justin Samuels says:

              9/11 was not that catastrophic. The WTC complex was destroyed, but as iconic as that way, it was just a complex of several buildings. Nowhere near the same threat as mass flooding of low lying areas from rising seas.

              Growth of any city is hardly guaranteed, the once thriving rust belt cities have shrank.

              I don’t think trying to pile more things on a group of small islands that are facing rising sea levels and possibly increased hurricane risks make sense. Why should the government waste resources in expanded transit in areas that may not be viable?

              • Even the most pessimistic of projections don’t show any impact on the area surrounding Grand Central. This is alarmist and defeatist.

              • KA says:

                Justin – 9/11 was more catastrophic to Lower Manhattan than Sandy was. Quite a few buildings had to be torn down – such as Fitterman Hall (BMCC) and the Deutsche Bank Building (which I was in just a few days before the attack). I remember you couldn’t even walk certain places a week later because the sidewalks buckled. Stations weren’t flooded – they were destroyed. Etc. etc. PPl were kept away not because of lack of utility – but because they were afraid of pollution.

                In any event. Don’t think just retreating from the shore will save anything from rising sea levels. Rising temps and sea levels will cause more intense droughts and even tornado activity. Regions that get mud slides will get more… and on and on and on. Places even like Austin, Texas which experiences periods of flooding… and they will see more of it. It’s not just ocean front.

        • FivePoint says:

          “It should not overdevelop, or encourage more dense development. Its fine the way it is”.

          That is, essentially, akin to giving up on New York’s future. Great mentality.

          • SEAN says:

            Exactly.

            I read a great comment a few years ago. Americans hate two things regarding development, urban density & suburban sprawl.

            Most of the towns along the railroad lines large & small alike were designed with TOD principles. Look at Morristown, South Orange, Ridgewood, Bronxville,White Plains, Stamford amung others where the train is a focalpoint of the downtown with stores, restaurants & otherwise a hub of activity. Also residents should be able to walk to the train if they wish or live in proximity to the station so driving time is reduced if not outright eliminated.

        • Bolwerk says:

          That might be the dumbest comment I read here in months. If you are worried about natural disasters, we need development to prepare for them. Earthquakes? NYC didn’t have an earthquake code until 1996. That’s a lot of building stock to redevelop. Replacing that profitably calls for higher density. NYC is probably due for a big earthquake in the next few hundred years.

          Now, I can buy that we should reconsider how we develop, and how we develop zone A (where hurricanes are the biggest threat) especially, but “no development” is as good as asking for more trouble. Certainly density isn’t a problem on higher ground, though you seem to be ignoring how much low-density, auto-oriented development is responsible for our climate change problems to begin with.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Actually, the parts of the world that shouldn’t overdevelop are the ones whose existence contributes to more hurricanes and floods – you know, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, and other energy hogs.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Probably not quite as offensive, but the single-family housing conveniently located in the lowlands of Brooklyn and Queens, even Long Island, is hardly praiseworthy.

  3. Eric F says:

    The Grand Central area is extremely crowded and has essentially no park space. I understand that the administration wants to upzone the area, but I don’t see how this is going to work. The sidewalks are already beyond carrying capacity. Ideally, the city would demolish a block or two of obsolete space and create an east side version of Bryant Park, but there are no plans of this nature. Sticking a few more hundred thousand people at midtown east sounds dystopian to me.

    You lost me here:

    “Outside of the city, at least, in suburban areas where “density” is a bad word, issues surrounding class and race often lead to intense debates over TOD”

    Ok, but how are those ‘intense debates’ resolved. There are many places where density has taken flower in your metro area.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Low sidewalk capacity? Widen the sidewalks.

      With friends like parks advocates, I don’t see why urbanist/public transport movements even need enemies.

      • Henry says:

        There are certain places where this is infeasible due to the sheer amount of things trying to pass through a single point (Chinatown and Flushing come to mind), but I digress.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Then price them away or be rid of them entirely. There is little need to keep most of the traffic Chinatown gets in Chinatown.

    • KA says:

      Bryant Park is too close to Grand Central for them to build another one. Plus those closer to the east river will eventually have the east river “greenway” as it moves uptown.

  4. Someone says:

    As Grand Central Terminal turns 100 this year, a big dig underneath it will soon usher in over 80,000 new commuters per day to the area.

    And also putting more load into the surrounding area. I don’t see how that is good, it’s still going to be a terminal, but at least there are going to be transfers.
    There is such a thing as overdevelopment.

    • Eric F says:

      I think that statement is wrong. The ‘big dig’ is just getting the commuters to midtown east directly, rather than routing them there via the west side. I’m not sure the east side access project itself will do much to change midtwon east crowding conditions, though it may make GCT itself somewhat more crowded. The project, however, expand access points for GCT to address some of that concern.

      • Henry says:

        It won’t even make GCT itself more crowded – it’ll make the 4,5,6, and 7 more crowded, which is why they’re building SAS.

      • KA says:

        Just as Long Islanders who work on the east side will get off in Grand Central… people in the Hudson Valley and Connecticut who work on the west side will go to Penn when Metro North starts going there.

  5. Someone says:

    Similarly, the extension of the 7 subway line—which runs beneath the station out to Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, Hudson Yards, just beginning to rise west of Penn Station—will further knit the terminal into the city’s future growth.

    With only one station, I think that the 34th Street station would soon be overloaded with passengers arriving from the Javits centre and the Manhattan West development. There should be a second station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street, and perhaps someone would find funding for that station.

  6. Jerrold says:

    Speaking of that area, what about the absurd situation regarding the GCT entrance on 47th St. between Park and Lex?
    It has been finished for some time now, but it has NOT been opened for use by commuters.

    • Eric F says:

      I think the MTA finally gave up. They realized that this entrance is the most complicated project in the history of mankind. It has an escalator, doors and a ticket purchase machine. Something like that would require at least 20 years of work and cutting edge design. They would have to assemble a team of design experts so large, putting it together would exhaust the entire professorial staffs of MIT, Yale and NASA. This says nothing of the draining of the craftsman labor pool needed to build the specialty components of the entrance. It’s probably for the best that this project remain unfinished for the good of the stability of the city.

      • Someone says:

        How could a simple entrance become a complicated project? Just remove the ticket machines, the doors, and the escalator, and the entrance could be easily opened.

        This does not look like much of an entrance anyways…

        • Jerrold says:

          To “Someone”:

          Eric was obviously being sarcastic, and doing a damn good job of it!
          I wish I could say the same about how the people who run the MTA do THEIR jobs.

        • Jerrold says:

          And as for that Google street view, it seems to be showing the area immediately to the WEST of that entrance, and NOT even showing the actual entrance. (I have been on that block many times.)

          • Someone says:

            Oh. I’ve been there many times and I thought that the building was just being renovated.

            By the way, I know Eric was being sarcastic.

            • Jerrold says:

              Note that the scaffolding did not go up on the building until recently, so it seems to be part of a different project from the GCT entrance.
              When they were still building the entrance, it was surrounded by wooden walls.

              • Someone says:

                So, where is this entrance anyways? I never figured out whether it was inside the building itself, or on the sidewalk.

                • Eric F says:

                  The scaffolding is upm in connection with an extensive rennovation project for 245 Park Ave. It’s timing with the entrance work is purelyu coincidental. Ideally, they’d just blow up the ugly building and start over, but that’s not in the cards.

                  The “entrance” which may or may not ever open, but appears to have been complete for months now, is on 47th street, near the Lexington side of the block. The entrance blends in with the building, but it does have an MTA awning on it now.

                  • Someone says:

                    If the entrance has an MTA awning on it, then the MTA surely plans to either convert it to a passenger entrance, or use it as an emergency exit, rather than abandoning it.

                    • Eric F says:

                      I’m sure it will be used as originally intended, which is as an additional ingress/egress point for GCT. It just took them forever to get it done, relative to common sense and to the published schedule, and now it lies closed off, with no explanation as to why. Very odd.

  7. Rob says:

    As I’ve read, one byproduct of East Side Access was to sever the one-seat ride from points east of Jamaica to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave terminal.

    I can’t help but wonder whether in our haste to bring about East Side Access, we have inadvertently denigrated the downtown Brooklyn connection. Obviously, nobody imagined the renaissance of Brooklyn when East Side Access was planned.

    How many LIRR riders go to work in downtown Brooklyn? And with its impending growth, how many more will be going? If I were a recent college grad living with my parents in Valley Stream or Mineola, I’d want to find a job in Brooklyn more than one near Grand Central.

    If we could have seen into Brooklyn’s future, would we have spent the billions on East Side Access?

    • The LIRR is not severing the one-seat ride to Brooklyn. Where did you read that?

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        I had heard that one possible service pattern was for all electric trains for east of Jamaica to travel on to either Grand Central or Penn, with Brooklyn requiring a change across the platform to a shuttle.

        I don’t think that would be the end of the world.

        In fact, at one point City Planning suggested running the Atlantic Avenue branch as a super express subway-like service for SE Queens with a few stations added east of Jamaica, to take pressure off the A/C.

        • Think twice says:

          In fact, at one point City Planning suggested running the Atlantic Avenue branch as a super express subway-like service for SE Queens with a few stations added east of Jamaica, to take pressure off the A/C.

          I always liked this idea. Especially the RPA idea of connecting it to a Brooklyn extension of the SAS via Hoyt-Schermerhorn.

        • Eric F says:

          I had read the same thing. Effectively, Brooklyn service would be via ‘shuttle’ from Jamaica. That is one aspect of the change that makes things incrementally more difficult for Long Islanders who want to see hockey games in Brooklyn when the team moves there in 2015.

          • AG says:

            depending on ridership they will probably run special trains to Barclay’s as they have been doing. The Metro North trains are packed going to Yankee games… even for the ones who have to pass the stadium and go to 125th street to go back up to the Bronx. The elevated platform at 125th street is filled with people coming from points north… and Yankee Stadium holds more than 30k more than Barclay’s… so I think the Islander fans can make do.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Pressure off the A/C? It doesn’t seem overloaded.

          • Someone says:

            No, especially when you realise that the A/C is the only line in the area (excluding the Eastern Parkway Line).

          • Alon Levy says:

            Cranberry Street is actually the most crowded Brooklyn-Manhattan tunnel.

            • Bolwerk says:

              I know. Even that’s only a side-effect of the unusual A/C tracking sharing arrangement though. Take a look at the number of people on a typical rush hour train (2,000?).

              It’s seeing a lot of trains, but there is plenty of capacity.

              • Bolwerk says:

                Fuck, somehow I deleted half that comment. I’m squeezed into a tiny space on a Bolt Bus next to some snoring fat paragon of Amerikana. :|

                What I meant to say was: take a look at the number of people on a typical train (2000?).

                There is plenty of capacity for more passengers.

          • Someone says:

            Oh, and the A/C is the only IND line to the Rockaways, Lefferts Avenue, and Euclid Avenue. Those services get crushed onto two tracks between Canal Street and Hoyt-Schermerhorn. The A/C is by far the most crowded of the lines in the area.

      • Rob says:

        @Benjamin Kabak

        Here’s the link to the quote from Douglas Epstein, chair of the LIRR Commuters Council, describing the severing of the one-seat ride from points east of Jamaica to Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn.

        http://archive.longislandpress.....ain-steam/

    • KA says:

      I say yes – East Side Access would have happened…. and here is why… Downtown Brooklyn’s growth didn’t happen organically. It was strategic starting in the 1980′s. It started with Forest City building the still growing Metro Tech Center. That was city policy – which accelerated after 9/11. Long Island City was supposed to be the same thing… but it’s taking longer. Citibank built that huge tower there – Jet Blue just opened its headquarters there – and there is a smaller tech company entrenchment than the Brooklyn version. There are quite a few boutique hotels though and road improvements. Again – none of that is by accident. What should happen next in my view is that the Hub area in the South Bronx from 149th & 3rd and up to civic buildings on 161st by the Concourse (really should be from Yankee Stadium back to 3rd Ave.) should be the same focus in the South Bronx. 30 years ago nobody though Downtown Brooklyn or LIC would be where they are now. It’s certainly got subway (4/B/D/2/5) and commuter rail (153rd-Yankee Stadium and Melrose stations)… The courts and Yankee Stadium are “lonely”. There are actually similarities. Fulton Mall was like the equivalent of the Hub. 3rd Ave. is almost the equivalent of Flatbush. Just as the county seat and courts are there… so is the case at 161st. Barclay’s just got built.. and Yankee stadium has been there since the 1920′s. The only major difference is there are more prestigious schools in the area of Downtown Brooklyn – which plays a big part.
      The Bronx has a highly successful version of Metro Tech… but it’s way up in the east Bronx at the Hutchinson Metro Center… so it can’t develop in the same manner.

      • Henry says:

        For a neighborhood that has its link to Manhattan cut fairly often, Flushing has been doing quite well for itself for years now. It’s certainly doing better than the Jamaica hub that DCP has tried to set up.

        • AG says:

          Flushing is doing very well – mainly do to Asian immigration and investment… but it’s not meant to be a commercial district on par with what is proposed and taking place in LIC and Downtown Brooklyn.

  8. Think twice says:

    I work in 140 E. 45th St. I like that it has entrances right through the block, but I’m surprised that 44th Street was ever intended to be the “back door”. The 45th St “front door” is closed for renovations, but it’s hardly an inconvenience for anyone coming from GCT.

    Another surprise in the neighborhood are the number of one and two story buildings within steps of GCT. Definitely room for more density. However, the 4/5/6 platforms are sardine cans. Here’s hoping the SAS get’s to 42nd Street in my lifetime.

    Lastly, GCT itself has underutilized air rights. As illustrated here (via lofter1 on Wired New York) the space above the main concourse could hold a high rise. The one shown would’ve been ideal, but anything more graceful than the Met Life building would work.

    • Someone says:

      Also in the same area, a 108-story skyscraper was planned in 1956 above Grand Central. Shown here, it was never built; instead the MetLife Tower was built on the site.

    • Eric F says:

      It’s not just the train platforms. The sidewalks around GCT are filld to overflowing. It’s one area where it would help to drop a travel lane and widen the sidewalks. The problem with that is that Lexington is already a narrow roadway, and I’m not sure how it functions with a lane dropped. I could see third avenue losing a lane without much trouble, but that area doesn’t have the crowing problem.

      • Subutay Musluoglu says:

        The LIRR is currently in the process of designing a complete rearrangement to the track approaches to Jamaica Station. This multi-phase program will be implemented over the next 2-3 Capital Programs. When complete, it will effectively eliminate the Jamaica “crawl and the “change at Jamaica” for most services. The objective is to offer riders boarding at east end stations the choice of a direct service to either Penn Station or GCT at their origin point. Doing so will eliminate the cross platform transfers and much of the associated track switching that takes place on both sides of Jamaica Station. However, this new service pattern will also mean the sacrifice of services between Brooklyn and east end stations, replaced with a Jamaica-Brooklyn service instead. The first phase is essential to be in place prior to the opening of ESA. In this phase, a new Platform F with two new tracks will be built in the space between Platform E and the AirTrain building. When complete, this platform will accommodate the initiation of “scoot” shuttle services between Jamaica and Brooklyn, operating at a higher frequency with quicker headways. Thus the “change at Jamaica” will continue for all passengers to and Brooklyn. The recent Jay, Dunton, and Hall interlocking renewals were built to accommodate the future track arrangements. In my opinion, this does ideally set up the Atlantic Branch to be turned over to NYCT in the future.

        • Someone says:

          Huh? The Atlantic branch is already owned by NYCT. Do you mean NYCS?

          • Subutay Musluoglu says:

            The Atlantic Branch is currently owned by the LIRR.

            • Someone says:

              The LIRR is a subsidiary of the NYCTA.

              • No, the LIRR is publicly owned by the MTA. NYCTA has no control over the LIRR and is a separate part of the MTA.

                The corporate structure at MTA is both confusing and ridiculous.

                • Someone says:

                  And I stand corrected.

                  I agree, the MTA/NYCTA/NYCS/NYCT/NYC Bus/MTA Bus organization is really confusing. They should consolidate some of those different divisions.

                  • Alex C says:

                    Bus Operations needs to be one agency already. Same for LIRR/MN, with MN folks in charge (though keep the names for appearances and not in legal terms, LIRR name is over a century old, keep it on the trains).

                    • Henry says:

                      Buses are actually all under Regional Bus Operations now – the MTA Bus and NYCT logos are really just there for branding purposes.

                      LIRR and MNRR didn’t merge because the unions couldn’t work out how seniority in the new organization wold work (and didn’t want to).

        • Rob says:

          Thanks for the great description. I used to take the LIRR decades ago — before AirTrain — and recall what a bummer it was when my connection wasn’t just across a platform. Nothing worse than sprinting up and down staircases while worrying that your connection might leave.

          This Platform F for Brooklyn sounds like it will require walking up and down stairs. I can’t find a map of Jamaica once East Side Access is completed. Can you post a link to such a map?

      • Think twice says:

        One solution to crowding in the GCT vicinity is actually personal wish; more subway entrances on the east side of Lexington Ave. Every work day it’s just a mass of people pouring in and out of the two entrances on the west side of Lex. Folks crossing the street then gum up traffic. It’s hard to describe, but subway entrances on the east side would help. But yes, as you implied in an earlier post, the Third Temple would be built first.

        Agreed on widening the sidewalks along the entire length of Lexington Ave. They were wider once upon a time. When I attended Hunter College I always had the uneasy feeling that the Lex sidewalks were too narrow. How true that was.

  9. Jerrold says:

    [I was not able to put this message where it belongs, because the limit for replies has already been reached on that thread.]

    Eric, you’re darn tootin’ that it’s weird!
    Like you say, first they take forever to build it, then they leave it shut. You’d think they would at least post up some signs there about what’s going on and when it will finally open.

    • Someone says:

      Actually, you could have replied to the previous comment.

      Anyways, it’s about time they opened it. Otherwise, the MTA would have done all that work for a super-expensive emergency exit.

  10. Brook says:

    The 8 Billion that East Side Access is going to cost would have been better spent on a full re-creation of the Original Pennsylvania Station. It is a more simple solution to spare the Long Island rail commuters from the dungeon of the current Pennsylvania Station by implementing East Side Access than for the political leadership to use their eminent domain powers and have to confront the Madison Square Garden Corporation and the owners of the Pennsylvania Plaza Office Building.

    • KA says:

      sorry – totally disagree… East Side Access actually affects the Tri-State Metro Area. It connects Metro North and LIRR in 2 places and it connects Metro North with NJ Transit. A person could live in Newark and work in Stamford and not have to drive. A person in White Plains flying out of the country – could get to JFK without having to drive without too many transfers with their luggage. It delivers a big bang for the buck because it opens up more options. The original Penn Station can’t be re-created anyway. The best bet is the conversion of the Farley Building into Moynihan Station… and a Gateway Tunnel.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Who the hell is going to care that much what Penn station looks like? Make trains run on time, and make them accessible. Nobody wants to mill around a train station when they don’t have to, aesthetics be damned.

      For all its flaws, ESA at least is adding capacity.

  11. Boris says:

    TOD in New York City is a fact of life for only about half the population lucky enough to live near pre-Moses Era transportation facilities. And even for many of those, the city makes life difficult by favoring motorists in various ways.

    The reality is, NYC government is fundamentally opposed to TOD, with the handful of exceptions mentioned in this article only proving the rule. The Department of City Planning’s policy is to accommodate existing transportation facilities, not to actually do planning that nudges communities towards TOD goals.

    TOD and suburban development are not necessarily in opposition to each other. You can have a low-density “urban village” near a transit station that is just as walkable and attractive as the area around Grand Central. Whenever I visit in the Washington, DC metro area I’m always amazed at the quality of their joint land use-transportation planning, something our planners apparently have no concept of.

    The question I would ask about NYC development is, do we want a city of extremes, or a city of moderation? Average population density of NYC is actually quite low. I would much rather see the development of a network of moderately dense TOD nodes rather than focus all development into a few already crowded areas like Midtown. Not everyone should have to travel to or live near Grand Central or Hudson Yards to reap the benefits of TOD. TOD is most needed where there isn’t any already.

  12. KA says:

    I always laugh when I hear of the “new urbanism” words like “transit oriented development” and “mixed use” sites. It’s not just the suburbs but even in cities across the country. I laugh because they spend the 1960′s through the 90′s saying NYC was dead and too antiquated. Yet since the 90′s NYC has boomed precisely because as Ben said it is majority “transit oriented” and likewise I’d add “mixed use”. New developments for instance always tout “ground level retail”… hello – millions of ppl in NYC lived above stores throughout the decade. “what’s old is new again” I guess.

    As it relates to the area around Grand Central… the area does need to be rezoned. I fully support preserving historic architecture at the same time. The office space in that area doesn’t fit the needs of many modern companies. The zoning should be modified ASAP. Lower Manhattan only began to modernize and become more desirable ironically after the disaster of 9/11 caused it to do so. Now after Hurricane Sandy Lower Manhattan will have to modernize further. The area around Grand Central should afforded that opportunity – while protecting the worth historical architecture.

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