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Manhattan BP shoots down smaller public space at Chase’s new Midtown HQ

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Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has weighed in

Max Touhey

JP Morgan Chase has suffered another setback—albeit a minor one—as it moves forward with its plans to demolish and replace 270 Park Avenue (aka the Union Carbide Building) and replace it with a Foster + Partners-designed skyscraper.

The firm recently filed a zoning text amendment seeking to change the size of a POPS that will be at the base of the building from 10,000 square feet—a requirement under the East Midtown rezoning plan that was adopted in 2017—to 7,000 square feet. Yesterday, Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer announced that she would not support the change without modifications to Chase’s new plans—namely, maintaining the mandated 10,000-square-foot size of the public space, along with the addition of public bathrooms and transit improvements.

Brewer’s recommendation is advisory in nature, but echoes concerns brought up by Community Board 5’s land use committee at a meeting last month: Chase, and the consultants it’s brought on to design the POPS (including Vishaan Chakrabarti), have not done enough to comply with the Midtown East public space requirement, and the public benefit being offered is not great enough to offset such a reduction in open space.

Brewer, calling the application “inadequate,” said that while she understands Chase’s concerns—the site sits atop a train shed, and there are space constraints with its foundation—she has “full confidence” that they can work around those and accommodate the full 10,000 square feet.

“While I understand the significant constraints of the site, the Applicant has nonetheless shown a failure to contemplate other options, such as the ones noted in the Community Board 5 resolution,” Brewer wrote in her recommendation. “Such options would not have precluded a publicly accessible space that met, at a minimum, the size requirement.”

While both CB5 and Brewer’s recommendations are advisory, they could influence how the City Planning Commission and City Council—which approve zoning text amendments—ultimately decide to move forward. Chase hopes to begin construction on the new building sometime this year, so expect a decision to be rendered in the not-too-distant future.