MTA Seeks Proposals to Transform Rail Yards
Vision for Hudson Yards Laid out in RFP Guidelines; Successful Proposals Anticipated to Provide Vital Revenue for MTA Capital Plan
Governor Eliot Spitzer, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander today announced two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for development of the air space over the two development sites that comprise the MTA's John D. Caemmerer Rail Yard, the Western Rail Yard (WRY) and the Eastern Rail Yard (ERY). The RFPs released today call for developers to submit proposals for the creation of thriving commercial and residential districts over this active Long Island Rail Road storage and maintenance facility. Developers may make proposals to buy or lease the air rights over one or both sites.
The RFPs are the result of a collaborative process by the State, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the City of New York and the Hudson Yards Development Corporation (HYDC), working closely with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the district.
While the ERY was re-zoned as part of the Hudson Yards Special District in 2005, re-zoning of the WRY must be approved through the City's ULURP review process. The RFP includes design guidelines for the WRY prepared by the MTA, City and HYDC, and supported by the Speaker, which represent a consensus that should help developers make proposals likely to gain approval.
The MTA-owned Caemmerer Yard stores LIRR commuter trains in close proximity to Penn Station, allowing the LIRR to move more than 235,000 commuters through the station each day. The developers of the ERY and WRY must protect ongoing rail operations during and after construction.
"After years of dialogue, today's announcement is a tremendous step towards making the Far West Side the next frontier in the city's development," said Governor Spitzer. "The Far West Side will be part of a vibrant commercial, residential and cultural district that will integrate a new transit hub at Moynihan Station, an expanded Javits Convention Center, and an extended No. 7 Subway line that will help sustain New York for generations to come."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "The Hudson Yards area offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform a vast underutilized site into a vibrant community with new office space, housing, cultural space and parks, and today's announcement marks a key milestone in finally fulfilling the area's potential. The development of the Far West Side will help us achieve our long-term goal of creating capacity for jobs and affordable housing in all five boroughs."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said: "The Eastern and Western Rail Yards are the last major undeveloped publicly owned parcels in Manhattan, and it is critically important to develop these sites. Together the City, State and MTA have developed design guidelines for the Western Rail Yard to create a mixed-use commercial and residential district, while also creating new employment opportunities, affordable housing, and open space. As this project moves forward, we will see a new, world-class urban environment come to life one that will be a vibrant mix of uses and has design controls to fully integrate it with the surrounding area."
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said: "For far too long this strip of Manhattan's west side has sat desolate and underutilized. Today is a monumental and exciting occasion as we take the first official step towards developing this land. I look forward to the important work yet ahead where, through the City's land use review process, we will work to seek and incorporate public input to make sure the development plans meet community goals such as creating new permanently affordable housing, successful open space and critical public infrastructure."
Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said: "Just as the City once built over the old New York Central Railroad tracks forming a grand boulevard called Park Avenue, we will build over these tracks and create a thriving, mixed-use district where New Yorkers will live and work for generations to come. These RFPs probably represent the biggest such request of the development community in the City's history, and certainly one of the most important. With their issuance today, we are one major step closer to realizing a grand vision for Manhattan's Far West Side."
Metropolitan Transportation Authority Executive Director and CEO Elliot G. Sander said: "This is a unique opportunity to utilize a critical piece of MTA infrastructure to transform an entire district of the city. We expect to receive a number of proposals that would recognize the full value of these extraordinary development sites and provide vital funding for our capital needs and enormous benefit for the Far West Side."
The Western Rail Yard (WRY)
Located at the heart of the Far West Side, the 13-acre WRY is bordered by West 30th and 33rd streets, between 11th and 12th avenues. The design guidelines for the WRY provide an overall framework for creating a cohesive development and permit approximately 5.7 million square feet (10 FAR) of residential and commercial development, requiring at least 20 percent of each. At least 20 percent of all rental units must be affordable, and the RFP includes a zoning bonus for the inclusion of permanent affordable housing. The developer of the WRY will be required to reserve space for a public school. A commitment to provide low-cost administrative space for community and cultural organizations is required. The guidelines also include requirements for open space, building height and form, and sustainability. The overall goal of the guidelines is to establish a world class urban environment with a vibrant mix of uses that is fully integrated with the surrounding Hudson Yards district. A key aspect of the guidelines is the provision of approximately five acres of public open space on the WSY site, including a large central open space stretching between 11th and 12th avenues leading to the Hudson River.
In addition to the affordability requirement for rental units developed at
the WRY, the City will make $40 million available for the development of
new affordable housing units off-site. The following locations are being
considered for these off-site units:
- A site now occupied by an MTA parking lot on West 54th Street and 9th Avenue.
- A site over the Amtrak Empire line rail-cut near West 48th Street and 10th Avenue.
The Eastern Rail Yard (ERY)
The 13-acre Eastern Rail Yard (ERY) sits between 10th and 11th avenues from West 30th to 33rd streets. The ERY was re-zoned in January 2005 as part of the City?s Hudson Yards re-zoning, and allows for approximately 6.3 million square feet of mixed-use development (11 FAR), including office, residential, hotel, retail, cultural and parking facilities, and public open space. The zoning controls for the site require approximately seven acres of public open space, including a significant public plaza. The RFP also requires that 200,000 of the 6.3 MSF space be set aside by the developer for a major new cultural facility, to be selected by the ERY developer and the City.
The High Line borders the Caemmerer Yard on the south and west, and will factor into the development proposals for both the WRY and the ERY. In the RFP, the MTA expresses the goal of retaining the High Line if possible, and respondents are required to include alternative treatments of the High Line in their proposals to allow the MTA to assess the costs and land value effects associated with retention or removal.
The RFPs are available on the MTA's website at www.mta.info for public information and developer response. Respondents have 90 days to submit proposals, which will be evaluated by MTA staff and then reviewed by a selection committee appointed by MTA with HYDC representation as well. The recommended proposal(s) will then go to the MTA Board for consideration likely in February or March 2008.
Construction may begin on the ERY after MTA Board approval, since that yard was re-zoned in January 2005. After a proposal for the WRY receives conditional MTA Board approval, an environmental and public review process must be undertaken, which consists of preparation of an environmental impact statement followed by the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a six-month series of reviews by the community board, Borough President, City Planning Commission and City Council.