There’s a bit more to say about Midtown East rezoning, especially in light of some of the Grand Central renderings the Daily News published earlier this week, but for now, I’d like to direct you to Stephen Smith’s post on the transit impact. As he’s argued in the comments here, he says on Next City that “Transit is not an issue when it comes to Bloomberg’s Midtown East rezoning.”
The argument is one I’ve pushed before as well. Essentially, there is a significant amount of transit capacity arriving in Midtown in the form of East Side Access and transit capacity on the whole shouldn’t be any sort of barrier to the rezoning effort. In fact, there’s going to be more capacity than demand along certain routes. Smith writes:
According to the Department of City Planning, the rezoning is realistically expected to yield 3.8 million square feet, net, of new office space — enough room for, the department estimates, 15,000 more office workers. Contrary to some press coverage, the rezoning will actually be relatively small. For comparison’s sake, around 25 million square feet of new offices alone, with millions more in housing and hotels, are zoned to rise at Hudson Yards.
Meanwhile, there is an enormous amount of new transit capacity coming to Midtown East, many times that provided by the one new Hudson Yards station on the 7 train…With an estimated 200,000 weekday riders, the $4.5 billion [Second Ave. Subway] project will divert many more commuters from the most crowded segment of the Lexington Avenue line than the rezoning will add. Next up is East Side Access, the Long Island Rail Road’s $8.4 billion effort to bring its trains to a cavernous terminal of its own near Grand Central, estimated to host 162,000 rides each weekday and set to open in 2019. Its projected ridership alone dwarfs the impact of any new buildings in the area. Most commuters heading to the new LIRR terminal will be diverted from Penn Station, from which many of them rode the E train to the east side, meaning that space will free up on that service as well…
Short of rebuilding the Third Avenue el or finishing the Second Avenue subway, it’s hard to imagine what other transportation improvements critics could want out of the rezoning. There may be other reasons for opposition, but anyone who takes a cursory look at the infrastructure under construction in the neighborhood can’t help but conclude that it’s slated for way more extra capacity than 15,000 office workers could ever fill. Simply put, transit is not an issue.
There are certainly discrete areas where transit is an issue. Without the rezoning, East Side Access won’t connect directly to the subway. But East Side Access itself won’t impact the subways because the vast majority of riders coming from Long Island won’t need a subway connection. Rather, the issues focus around Grand Central’s passenger flow. Crowding on the subway platforms may reach critical conditions without upgrades, but it’s already a situation that should be addressed, as I wrote this week, Midtown East rezoning or not.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to put a temporary halt on Midtown East rezoning if the major players feel it is appropriate, but Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio Dan Garodnik, the area’s councilman, have both vowed to move it forward. Any opponents who cite transit as an issue though are using something that isn’t a true overarching problem as a crutch.