50th Street Facility
Several years after the completion of its Final Environmental Impact Statement for East Side Access, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) decided to amend its original proposal which would have spread certain ventilation systems and mechanical facilities across several locations and instead decided to consolidate them into a 16 story facility on 49-50th streets between Park and Madison Avenues (the “Facility”). This caused the business community, local residents and landmark preservation experts to express serious concerns about the plan. They reached out to Congresswoman Maloney for assistance and she joined in leading a vigorous campaign. As a result, the MTA completely revised its proposal in a way that satisfied the community's concerns.
In February 2004, the MTA stunned local businesses and residents by proposing to consolidate ancillary activities that would have been spread throughout Manhattan and place them in a 16-story facility on 50th street. The building would have sandwiched three cooling towers between two taller buildings, would have exhausted air from the tunnels into the air intake vents of a neighboring building, would have placed three loading docks on a crowded side street forcing trucks to back out into traffic and would have placed a highly combustible fuel tank under the facility. Unable to persuade the MTA to take their concerns seriously, local business owners reached out to Congresswoman Maloney. Maloney helped organize a group of local business owners, residents, preservationists and local elected officials who formed a coalition known as the Citizens For a Safe East Fiftieth Street to oppose the Facility.
Local businesses objected to loading docks that would require trucks to back out into midtown traffic, to the idea that the facility's exhaust vents faced a neighboring office tower's air intake vents and to the underground fuel tanks, which they viewed as a security risk. Preservationists expressed concern that the cooling towers would add to the moisture in the air, creating problems for local landmarks like St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Local residents and elected officials joined the coalition to express similar concerns. Ordinarily, a major facility like this could not be built without a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The MTA suggested their changes were minor and could be covered in a short technical memorandum. Deeply concerned about the impact this Facility would have on the health and quality of life of people who work or live in the neighborhood, Maloney met with the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Jenna Dorn, to discuss the need for a more comprehensive environmental review. On November 8, 2004, the FTA advised Maloney that the MTA would be required to prepare a full-blown Environmental Assessment (EA) of the project. An initial EA was prepared in January 2005.
In that EA, the MTA proposed acquiring a building on 49th street to eliminate the need to have trucks backing out into traffick on 50th street. During a public comment period in February 2005, Maloney joined the public in expressing concerns about the height, the cooling towers, fuel tanks and the exhaust.Bowing to pressure from Maloney and the community, the MTA did more than simply produce a more comprehensive environmental review.
In April 2006, they revealed that they had gone back to the drawing board and had come up with a new plan. This plan reduced the height of the building to 62 feet, placed the cooling towers on top of one of the neighboring buildings, moved the exhaust system so that it no longer faced its neighbor's air intake vents, moved the fuel tanks out of the building entirely, and created public open space in front of the building on 50th street. By pushing the MTA to listen to the community, Congresswoman Maloney succeeded in persuading the MTA to develop a new design that made a controversial project acceptable.
07/27/2006 - FTA Finding of No Significant Impact
04/26/2006 - EA for the 50th Street Facility