The 2017 rezoning of East Midtown in Manhattan has drawn the ire and enthusiasm of many and the impact of that overhaul is now coming to fruition in the form of completed and planned supertall commercial towers. Project Commodore is perhaps the most ambitious to date: the 83-story tower passed the gauntlet of Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval in February, and, after leveling the existing Hyatt Hotel on the site, could loom over Grand Central Terminal’s eastern boundary. However, a lawsuit has now been filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court that seeks to halt its construction on the grounds that the passage of the project through the LPC was incongruent with the New York City Landmarks Law.
Project Commodore is being developed by RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone, and the SOM-led design incorporates a weaving exoskeleton that is intended to evoke art deco flourishes of nearby landmarks, such as the Chrysler Building. Beyer Blinder Belle is acting as an architectural and historical consultant and James Corner Field Operations is serving as the landscape architect. Current plans for the site include millions of square feet of Class A office space, a nearly 500,000-square-foot hotel, and around 10,000-square-feet of retail space. Notably, the project also promises hundreds of millions of dollars in subgrade improvements, namely an entirely new transit hall, skylights above the existing Lexington Passage corridor, and passageways to the Metro-North concourses and the soon-to-be-completed East Side Access LIRR station.
As first reported by The New York Post, Society for the Architecture of the City secretary Christabel Gough is leading the charge against the supertall tower. In the lawsuit, Gough argues that the essential character of Grand Central Terminal will face an existential threat from the sheer scale of development—Project Commodore is 13 times taller than the landmark—a similar complaint that was lodged against the recently opened One Vanderbilt. However, of greater consequence than the potential loss of aesthetic values, is Gough’s contention that the LPC failed to follow the rigorous standards of the New York City Landmarks Law as the project is slated to alter aspects of Grand Central Terminal’s interior. The ultimate goal of the lawsuit is to vacate the LPC’s February approval of the project and to begin a new review of the appropriateness.
Neither the MTA nor the LPC has provided further comment as to the lawsuit, though, as noted by the Post, the developers have brushed off concerns that this will hamper their plans.