Home Manhattan A glimpse at the $200M transit plans for One Vanderbilt

A glimpse at the $200M transit plans for One Vanderbilt

by Benjamin Kabak
A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

Toward the end of his third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious plan to rezone Midtown East for density. As part of the plans, the Mayor, consulting with the MTA, unveiled a few hundred million dollars worth of transit upgrades. These upgrades were Key in securing then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s sign off and when the lame-duck mayor saw his rezoning dreams falter, I bemoaned the end of the transit upgrades.

Less than a year later, though, the rezoning plans are provisionally back on the table, albeit in a different form that doesn’t concern us. The transit upgrades too have survived the transition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, and yesterday, SL Green in conjunction with the MTA and Kohn Pedersen Fox unveiled their $200 million plan for transit access in and around Grand Central. Their goals — to be completed by 2020 — will streamline passenger flow and expand space in a constrained area, and, most importantly, the costs will be borne by the developers.

The project that developers and the MTA showed off yesterday is One Vanderbilt, a 65-story office building that will be open before East Side Access is scheduled to wrap. It will be directly to the west of Grand Central with multiple access points to the transit infrastructure below, and plans include closing Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd Sts. to vehicular traffic.

As far as transit improvements, the renderings are extensive and necessary. Plans include:

  • new ground-level entrances directly to the Shuttle platform along 42nd St.;
  • a below-grade corridor and escalators connecting directly into East Side Access;
  • a 4000-square-foot transit hall in One Vanderbilt;
  • a new entrance to the Lexington Ave. IRT from the Pershing Building;
  • narrower stairs and columns to provide more platform space and better pedestrian flow; and
  • the reopening of enclosed spaces to improve passenger flow on the IRT mezzanine.

All in all, the improvements are a significant part of the $400 million the MTA and City had said they needed to spend when the rezoning efforts were first announced in early 2013.

Although the MTA and SL Green recognize that community boards will still need to weigh in on this plan, transit advocacy groups and other interests are aligning in favor of the plan. “As a transit rider group, the Straphangers Campaign believes the proposed deal between SL Green, the City and the MTA holds much promise for improving the lives of millions of riders who use Grand Central Terminal. In October, the official land use process kicks in, with community boards, elected officials and the public getting a chance to have their say. We will be listening,” Gene Russianoff said.

Others echoed these sentiments. “The public access points, escalators, and waiting area will be a tremendous improvement for Grand Central and East Side Aces and this private investment will ensure the public reaps the full benefit of this world class transit hub,” Jennifer Hensley, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York, said.

For now, we have promises and renderings. The streamlining of the columns alone are nearly worth the cost of the project, and the rest is just gravy. We’ll see when, if and how long this takes to come to fruition.

After the jump, a gallery of renderings of One Vanderbilt’s transit improvements, all via KPF.

New entrances to the Shuttle platform along East 42nd St. (Via KPF)

New entrances to the Shuttle platform along East 42nd St. (Via KPF)

A glimpse into One Vanderbilt's Transit Hall. (Via KPF)

A glimpse into One Vanderbilt’s Transit Hall. (Via KPF)

Smaller columns and narrower staircases will open up more platform space on the Lexington Ave. line. (Via KPF)

Smaller columns and narrower staircases will open up more platform space on the Lexington Ave. line. (Via KPF)

The Grand Central subway's mezzanine level will see more space as columns are narrowed. (Via KPF)

The Grand Central subway’s mezzanine level will see more space as columns are narrowed. (Via KPF)

A new entrance will funnel riders from the Shuttle to One Vanderbilt. (Via KPF)

A new entrance will funnel riders from the Shuttle to One Vanderbilt. (Via KPF)

Expanded fare control area will be a part of the $200 million in transit upgrades. (Via KPF)

Expanded fare control area will be a part of the $200 million in transit upgrades. (Via KPF)

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Eric September 9, 2014 - 4:33 am

No Stegosaurus? Surely the MTA has a few billion dollars lying around for such an important station feature.

Benjamin Kabak September 9, 2014 - 8:30 am

Functional and useful are what happens when a private company concerned with its bottom line puts out the plans.

AG September 9, 2014 - 9:01 am

The MTA is not paying for any of this… The private developer is. That makes me confident that it will actually get done on time and within budget (though that doesn’t matter as much since our tax dollars are not at stake).
Then again – maybe you were being sarcastic. Fulton Center was a better use of funds than what the PA is throwing at their dinosaur downtown.

JJJJ September 9, 2014 - 10:18 am

Yeah, private developers are always perfect. Look at the Meadowlands mall. On time and on budget! Thanks private sector!

AG September 9, 2014 - 10:40 am

Ummm – the Meadowlands project is state land and requires state funding. Shows the folly of that project to begin with.
The one thing that would probably cause this to be delayed is interference.
When you are a private developer you are on the clock. The banks want their money when they want it. You don’t have endless spigots or elections to look forward to. Developers that don’t manage their budgets well go out of business – it’s that simple.

JJJJ September 9, 2014 - 12:02 pm


Shell companies go out of business, and the same group of people do it again with a new name.

You’re really going to argue that private developers always are on time and on budget? Really? REALLY?

AG September 9, 2014 - 12:31 pm

Well no – you are simply making things up. I never made any argument about anything. I said I was confident. I never said I would bet my life on it. Speaking from experience – I am much more confident than if this was an MTA project (though they can still muddle things up by interfering).

“Shell companies”? You must be thinking about the mafia. If you are a “normal” company in the building business that deals with private – rather than public projects – your reputation counts for a WHOLE lot. If you don’t perform you won’t get future jobs. If you can’t meet budgets you go out of business. That is why more and more companies and banks are less willing to take risks with ppl who can’t “get the job done”. Do you have any actual experience in the industry???? Or are you just one of those who thinks private entities are all evil?

Kapuasuite September 9, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Space X, for example, stands head and shoulders above NASA in terms of cost efficiency. Space X was able to develop a series of practical rockets for less than $400 million. NASA estimated that attempting to build the same system in-house would have cost anywhere between $2-4 billion.

Nathanael September 10, 2014 - 11:17 pm

Elon Musk is not an example of anything. He’s a one-off, a unique case Other private businesses are NOT like Elon Musk’s businesses.

I’ve dealt with enough *vulture* capitalists to know what the typical situation is like. Loot, open a new shell company, move on. πŸ˜›

Bolwerk September 12, 2014 - 10:22 am

Elon Musk businesses are not like what people imagine Elon Musk businesses to be. He gets presented in the same kind of personality cult P.R. that Steve Jobs, Lee Iococa, and Jack Welch get wrapped in.

Nathanael September 20, 2014 - 8:11 am

Elon Musk businesses are not nice to the workers, and tend to be somewhat dishonest, but they have one very unusual feature which is abnormal in American business.

The man’s goal is NOT to make money. If he wants to convert the world to electric cars, that’s his goal, and he doesn’t really care whether he makes money doing it. If he wants to go to Mars, that’s his goal, and he doesn’t really care whether he makes money doing it.

(So investor beware, by the way.)

Nathanael September 20, 2014 - 8:13 am

….and this is what differentiates him from a vulture capitalist. There’s often a chance for a big short-term monetary gain by destroying the company. Most capitalists will take the gain. Musk won’t because that’s not what he *cares* about.

He will happily burn all of his company’s resources on a manned Mars flight, though.

AG September 20, 2014 - 5:20 pm

He doesn’t want to make money??? LOL. That’s what they said about Microsoft and Amazon and Google too. They need money to buy up everyone and everything and control everything.

As to Tesla – well they get all kind of giveaways from the government – so you can’t even compare that business model to other car companies.

Bolwerk September 9, 2014 - 11:06 am

Don’t fret. It looks like they have the toilet paper aesthetic nailed.

AG September 9, 2014 - 9:04 am

The only strange thing I saw in one news report was that they are “considering” adding the LIRR as a part of the project. That’s ridiculous if that report is correct. Integrating the LIRR should be an absolute necessity.
Other than that – not much to complain about.

Now my next question is WHY CAN’T THIS BE DONE TO GET THAT STATION AT 41st and 10th BUILT…??? I’m sure allowing huge residential/commercial towers there could yield half the money to build that station on the #7 line.

Christopher September 9, 2014 - 9:19 am

Wondering the same thing since the beginning. I’m actually wondering why a developer hasn’t PROPOSED it. That’s how the NY Avenue in-fill station in the DC Metro got built. The land owners made it happen to increase the value of their holdings. (Heck that’s a big reason why the new silver line goes through Tysons Corner). What’s wrong with our private developers that they don’t see the value in the transit that lies beneath their feet?

AG September 9, 2014 - 9:23 am

Well it’s not that they don’t see the value. Part of the reason NYC real estate is so expensive is because of the transit system. And really – Hudson Yards wouldn’t be happening without the #7 extension. Yeah – though – 41st and 10th doesn’t make sense. I understood at the time it didn’t happen because of the economic crisis. Now that things are turning I would expect it… Then again – maybe there are plans that are being negotiated. I hope so anyway.

Peter September 9, 2014 - 11:59 am

Keep in mind that not all New Yorkers view proximity to a subway entrance as a virtue. See: Upper East Siders filing frivolous lawsuits to try to prevent SAS entrances on their block. To a certain class of New Yorker, “subway” means poor people and panhandlers. The new buildings on West 42nd are high-end luxury rentals. I’m sure quite a few of those residents would be happy if the 10th Avenue station never materializes.

Bolwerk September 9, 2014 - 1:23 pm

Meh, I doubt there are many who care that much. It just so happens the ones who do are the ones who slither out of the woodwork to complain to community boards and the press.

It’s a prima facie irrational argument to make, in any case. We could just as easily argue for prohibiting roads because gang members like Escalades. Truthiness. Gotta love it!

Eric September 11, 2014 - 8:07 am

Maybe they are just whining about the disruption of construction.

tacony September 9, 2014 - 3:37 pm

The problem is that there is actually far more demand to build towers in Midtown East than there is in Hudson Yards. HY is already pretty heavily subsidized in general. It’s a project that planners and city boosters love but it’s not an established market with value the way Midtown East already is.

In Midtown East you just change the zoning and people are lining up to build with no subsidies. In Hudson Yards it takes massive subsidies to even get the ball rolling. If you ask your average class A tenant if they want their office a block from Grand Central or on 10th Ave, you obviously know the answer. Value reflects that.

SEAN September 9, 2014 - 4:21 pm

I wonder what kind of deal was struck to get Neiman Marcus to sign up at Hudson Yards if the development by Related & Oxford is so bad?

AG September 9, 2014 - 5:34 pm

I know you are being sarcastic – but yeah it would seem strange that famously reluctant to expand – Neiman Marcus – with only 40 odd stores would choose to anchor a development for which there is no demand. Especially considering the NYC area will have 6 of their 43 stores once it (and the one they are currenlty building in Garden City, Long Island) opens. That wouldn’t make sense.

SEAN September 9, 2014 - 7:33 pm

If my last comment came off as sarcastic – then I’m sorry, it wasn’t intended.

To me it just didn’t make sense to put a department store there especially Neiman’s. As you said there’s one opening in Garden City plus there are existing locations in White Plains, Paramus & Short Hills. Now if this store went into the Time Warner Center, I’ wouldn’t have any issues.

AG September 9, 2014 - 10:59 pm

Well it makes sense to them – and will be the biggest store of all of them. They are writing the checks – so…
They don’t expand often – so it says something.

AG September 9, 2014 - 5:25 pm

Not really comparable.

The area around Grand Central is a decades long established business district. Hudson Yards is currently a train yard and former warehouse/industrial area. That said quite a number of top shelf companies are moving their headquarters there. Neiman Marcus just signed on to open one of their largest stores in the country – and first in NYC (if you don’t count that they own Bergdorf Goodman) as the anchor tenant in the middle of the complex? None of those companies are getting incentives. the city is offering incentives to build there because it would be too expensive/risky to build where nothing exists over a rail yard. Individual companies are not getting incentives to move there.

In any event – 41st and 10th is currently a residential area that has been developing. It’s not an “office district” like what will be further o the south. Again – not really comparable.

If developers like Silverstein who are most definitely willing to spend billions to develop there – asking them to pitch for that subway station shouldn’t be much of a stretch.



JMB September 9, 2014 - 9:13 am

Is that DeNiro in the 3rd image?

John-2 September 9, 2014 - 9:55 am

Are they actually getting SL Green to fund the modifications in and around the 4/5/6 platforms, including the column narrowing? That could be a quid pro quo for getting the land and zoning changes for 1 Vanderbilt, but much of that work will be on the opposite side of Grand Central from where the building will be located, and will be more of a benefit for passengers entering the system from Lexington Avenue.

Elvis Delgado September 9, 2014 - 1:46 pm

While it’s probably a good thing to do, this whole idea of “column narrowing” hardly seems like a groundbreaking innovation. It looks like they’re just knocking away the finished masonry work that was applied in more recent years and returning to the painted steel look of the early 20th century.

Everything old eventually becomes new again, I guess.

John-2 September 9, 2014 - 7:50 pm

Are the allowed to remove the masonry exteriors of the columns? My understanding was if a station is located beneath a building, as opposed to being under a street, the columns below the building itself had to be reinforced with concrete, and GC on the 4/5/6 is beneath the Grand Hyatt (100-year-old laws are made to be changed/broken, so I’m sure they just leave steel columns if they like. I just think the original law at the moment remains in place).

SEAN September 9, 2014 - 10:08 am

This is quite interesting. meanwhile the MTA is in process to renovate a portion of GCT that has been closed to the public for several decades. If I recall correctly, the space is slated for a restaurant adjacent to the main waiting room.

Peter September 9, 2014 - 12:02 pm

I’m disappointing there are no plans to fix the boarding area for the shuttle, which is a total mess. Removing columns and closing up the platform gap would be welcome improvements.

Matthias September 9, 2014 - 12:43 pm

The transit improvements are great, but that site is occupied by some fairly attractive buildings. Why can’t they demolish some crap to the north or west instead?

BruceNY September 9, 2014 - 1:48 pm

β€œThe public access points, escalators, and waiting area will be a tremendous improvement . . . ”
Escalators: please tell me that these won’t be out-of-system escalators like in Zeckendorf Towers (14th St) and 3rd Ave./53rd which the developer pays to build in order to get credit for providing a public amenity but takes no responsibility for maintenance and & repair (and the MTA won’t either because it’s out-of-system) and therefore will eventually break down…forever.

lop September 9, 2014 - 7:46 pm


The MTA inspector general put out a report about that a few years ago.


Did anything come of it?

Peter L September 10, 2014 - 9:44 am

I’m old enough now that when I see “completed by 2020” my first thought devolves like this: “Holy crap! It won’t be finished for another … um … almost 6 years … never mind.”

Sucks getting old.

I have to say that this seems like an awful lot of what appear to be general improvements in flow (on the non-train side) for *less* than a billion dollars. Was not aware that was possible in NYC …

LLQBTT September 10, 2014 - 11:47 am

They need to re-envision the fare control area at south/main entrance/exit to/from GCT/Lex. It’s confusing and overcrowded a good part of the time. It needs to be expanded and passenger flow better managed.

Nathanael September 10, 2014 - 11:19 pm

I will be sad to see the nice old building on the east side of Vanderbilt-42nd-43rd block go. It’s a pretty building up above. It does have absolutely HORRIBLE street-level presence, though (blank walls!), so this will probably be an improvement.

Thomas Graves September 11, 2014 - 1:59 pm

You can say that again. Apart from the ground-floor ugliness, it is a spectacular building from NY’s greatest period of pre-war office buildings, with beautiful masonry ornamentation. But greedy Gotham developers hate that. Can’t allow it. Got to replace it with cheaply-built, massive glass and steel boxes that look like Dubai. Ugliness rules!

Frank B September 11, 2014 - 10:00 pm

I wholeheartedly agree.

Thomas Graves September 11, 2014 - 1:56 pm

Boy, people are really naiive if they think this trivial project will make much of a difference in the filthy, crowded hole that is the Grand Central IRT concourse. The new glass boxes to be built will deliver thousands more commuters to an already over-capacity station and subway line. The developers are throwing a few crumbs to the proletarian scum in the form of thinner columns and a couple more staircases ($200M doesn’t buy much in bid-rigged union NY). What should happen to alleviate greater Grand Central area density is construction of Phase III of the Second Avenue Subway. But I digress…

marv September 16, 2014 - 10:49 pm

a side platform needs to be built on the #7 – this would then enable the #7 to be extended to NJ without creating dangerous conditions on the one center platform and create real east side access.

agreed – a second avenue line to downtown would do wonders as well.


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