East Side makeover clears hurdle

The Grand Central Terminal area will get a modern makeover that will make it easier for New Yorkers to walk around, whether above ground or below in the uncomfortably cramped subway station.

Key City Council members announced Tuesday a deal on rezoning Vanderbilt Avenue corridor near Grand Central Terminal, with the developer of the first new skyscraper planned for the area, the 63-story One Vanderbilt from SL Green.

To build the skyscraper, SL Green agreed to make $220 million in improvements to Grand Central Station, a tight bottleneck for the millions of daily riders dumped on to the platforms from the overtaxed No. 4, 5 and 6 trains.

“We thought that it made most sense to impose a special permit here and to require that there be delivery of infrastructure improvements upfront to the public,” said Councilman Dan Garodnick, an East Sider who helped negotiate the rezoning deal.

The rezoning is smaller than the 73-block plan former Mayor Michael Bloomberg abandoned.

The goal was to bring in new modern skyscrapers to tower over an area with outdated office buildings. Bloomberg dropped the plan in face of opposition from the community and local elected officials. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said Bloomberg’s plan would have “few guarantees of any benefit to the residents and workers of the neighborhood.”

The Vanderbilt corridor from 42nd to 47th streets, the first of two midtown east rezonings, must pass the City Council by June. To get special permits for dense, large office towers, developers like SL Green would have to go through a public review and pay for infrastructure and street improvements, or buy air rights from landmarks.

SL Green, along with adding breathing room for passengers in the Grand Central subway station, will maintain a public plaza next to the terminal and build two stylishly large glass-walled transit halls on 42nd and 43rd streets. SL Green had to give up prime retail space on 42nd Street for one of them.

“For large projects, special locations, commercial projects — this is the blueprint for the future,” said Marc Holliday, CEO of SL Green.

Carl Weisbrod, the mayor’s city planning chief, praised the new model for building in midtown east, with its critical transit links and commercial hubs.

“When you take a dense and probably the most important transit hub in the City of New York, and it’s an appropriate place for increased density, you have to be really careful about what you do,” he said.