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Meeting Minutes Aug 21, 2008

The following members were in attendance:

James F. Blair
Francis T. Corcoran
David Buchwald
Gerard Kopera
Norman Werner
The following members were absent:

Richard Cataggio
Thomas M. Jennings
Rhonda Herman
Gerard Kopera
In addition, the following persons were present:

William A. Henderson – PCAC Executive Director
Jan Wells – PCAC Associate Director
Ellyn Shannon – PCAC Transportation Planner
Nancy Marshal – GCT Development
Karen Weber – Jones Lang LaSalle
Scott Crosby – Concerned citizen
Dan Biederman – Concerned citizen
Barry Adler – Concerned citizen
Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The Agenda for the August 21, 2008 meeting and the minutes of the July 17, 2008 meeting were approved as amended by a correction requested by Council member David Buchwald pertaining to his biographical information.

Chair’s Report
The Chair’s Report is attached to these minutes.

Norman Werner noted that suggestions related to the correct name of Westchester Medical Center that he made have been incorporated into MTA’s commuter rail and subway map, The Map.

Introduction of Nancy J. Marshall, MTA Real Estate Director, Retail Leasing and Management-Grand Central Terminal
A copy of Ms. Marshall’s presentation is on file in the PCAC office.

Nancy Marshall, MTA Director of Retail Leasing, and Karen Weber, Director of Marketing from Jones, Lang, LaSalle, visited the Council with a presentation on Grand Central Terminal’s retail operations. Ms. Marshall has been working on Grand Central Terminal since 1993, before the restoration. Ms. Weber‘s firm is contracted by the MTA to handle financial management, housekeeping, marketing and event planning for the Terminal. A second firm, Williams, Jackson, Ewing, handles leasing for the Terminal.

GCT contains 134,000 square feet of retail space, with almost 100 tenants. Transportation is viewed as the anchor that drives the $161M in retail sales, and brings in the 700,000 daily visitors and the 21.6 million tourists that visit the station. Also, approximately 386,000 people work within a 2-block radius of the building.

In 2007, average sales per square foot were $1,320. In 2006, this figure was $1,250. These numbers “far exceed” the retail performance of many other areas in the country.

Vanderbilt Hall events brought in $2.7 million in 2007, up 8% over the previous year. It is scheduled to reopen in September 2008. The North Balcony is also now being rented out as event space.

Text messages and emails are utilized to market GCT’s retail offerings. Special offers are communicated to people while they are in the building via Bluetooth.

The Terminal is promoted in a variety of ways. Seat drops, which include the proprietary “Connections” retail book, are carried out twice a year (80,000 pieces each time). There is also the “I Love NY” window in the central lobby (run by the Grand Central Partnership) and a promotional insert in the Time Out magazine.

The kiosks in the Graybar Passage are used as retail incubators. Most proprietors sign 2 to 3 month leases. Short-term leases are also employed in order to keep the retail environment from stagnating. However, Rosetta Stone is an example of a lessee that has experienced a level of success warranting a full year lease.

The annual Gift Fair, which starts this year on November 15, receives almost 250 applications for 76 spots. A new design for Gift Fair booths may be in place for the Gift Fair in 2009.

The tenants pay into a marketing fund; this money is matched by the landlord. Revenues from leasing, etc. are received by MNR. After expenses are subtracted, the net is retained by MNR.

A total of 43% of the current leases are set to expire over the next four years. In accordance with the Public Authorities Law, these spaces must be put up for public bid. There is concern that this could impact the retail environment as it currently exists (i.e. non-chain).

The question was asked if there are any other factors considered in the RFP allowable by the Public Authorities Law. Ms. Marshall replied that money is the primary consideration in the bids received.

Council member Francis Corcoran stated that the Council should compose and issue a letter supporting the Grand Central Partnership and the Partnership’s desire to retain Grand Central Terminal’s retail character via the RFP process. There was also a question about more retail for the North End passage however the Council was informed that there is no space for additional retail.

Council member Jim Blair noted the aesthetic enhancement of the end of the train shed of tracks 28-30. Ms. Marshall noted that Randy Fleischer is overseeing that project, which will utilize a single advertiser for those enhancements. Mr. Corcoran commented on the ‘shabby’ table outside the Clear ID store. Ms. Marshall replied that those tables, to her consternation, have been set-up by MNR’s IT department to hand out new handhelds to conductors.

Board Report
In July, the MTA board held an important meeting concerning the exposition of budget objectives and the concerns over near-term deficits. The tentative budget calls for an 8% increase in fare and toll yield in July 2009 and 5% in 2011. The
July 2009 increase includes the portion of the previous fare hike negotiated down due to political pressure, combined with an acceleration of the fare increase that was scheduled to take effect in 2010. The Executive Committee is collecting comments from members.

Regarding Metro-North performance and capital projects, construction of the Yankee Stadium stop is on course and ridership continues to increase, up 5% in 2007. The new Ulster Link will provide bus service across the Hudson River to Kingston and New Paltz. This bus service is being subsidized by NYS DOT and will help with the parking situation in Poughkeepsie.

A question was asked whether any fare increases in the next MTA budget would apply to Connecticut Metro-North passengers. Mr. Blair responded that the State of Connecticut sets fares for Connecticut passengers and that the MTA’s action would not change those fares.

An email will be sent to Council members with a link to the preliminary budget details.

New Business
The Council discussed the proposed 2008 goals that had been suggested by members and incorporated into a summary memo that had been distributed to members.

A special September meeting was suggested to discuss 2008 goals. Bill Henderson will be sending out an email to all Council members with the proposed 2008-09 goals along with the proposal to hold a Council meeting in September. It was suggested that a timetable be established for each goal.

Old Business
No old business was discussed.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:20 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel Bianco

Research Assistant

Chair’s Report
In the past month, we learned that Metro-North isn’t immune to the effects of weather. On the 2nd and 15th of this month, Metro-North had significant service disruptions due to severe storms. The Railroad responded with its usual professionalism in keeping customers informed about the situation and restoring service on both days.

On the more positive side, Metro-North has reported that weekly ridership on the Pascack Valley Line has grown 40 percent over the last year. As you know, improvements to the line made it possible for Metro-North to offer additional weekday service and new weekend service on the line. As we’ve seen happen before, the Railroad offered the service, and the customers responded by riding the line in record numbers.

This week the Council had the opportunity to comment on Metro-North’s annual Customer Satisfaction Survey for the East of Hudson lines. The changes to this year’s survey are a good illustration of Metro-North’s practice of looking at fresh issues and markets, as the survey now recognizes the increasing use of bicycles and includes a question to gauge the impact of gasoline prices on ridership. You were sent an email with the draft survey attached, and yesterday afternoon Bill Henderson transmitted the Council’s comments to Metro-North. Thanks to those members who returned comments, particularly with the limited time that Metro-North was able to give us to respond.

Jim Blair, Bill Henderson, and I attended Peter Cannito’s retirement party following last month’s MNRCC meeting. We presented Mr. Cannito with bookends in the shape of railroad car couplers and participated in the tributes to a fine Metro-North President. Fortunately, Metro-North now has an able new President in Howard Permut. We will invite Mr. Permut to be the Council’s guest at one of our meetings this fall.

At last month’s meeting, staff sent an email to the members asking for ideas and suggestions for Council goals, as well as special projects the members might consider pursuing. Thanks to all who responded; you have been sent a copy of responses by email and we have summaries of the responses available today. We will discuss this topic under old business.

Please mark your calendars for the PCAC meeting on September 4. Our guest will be MTA Chief Financial Officer Gary Dellaverson, who will discuss the financial state of the MTA.