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With Apple, Shake Shack in Grand Central, worries over brutal lines

Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during the

Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush hour Credit: Commuters pass through Grand Central Terminal during the evening rush hour. /Getty Images

Come this fall, swarms of holiday shoppers will undoubtedly line up to get their hands on iPhone 5 at the new Apple Store at Grand Central Terminal, while others queue up downstairs to grab a burger at Shake Shack.

And that won’t even count the 700,000 commuters who normally jam into the transit hub everyday.

The news that the MTA’s finance committee approved deals Monday to rent space in the landmark terminal to such as highly visible retail powerhouse and a destination eatery surprised some New Yorkers, who think the building is pretty packed as is.

And it certainly put preservationists on watch, who want to ensure the retail and advertising excesses that cluttered the terminal before its well-received renovation in the 1990s aren’t repeated.

"Given everybody's devotion to Grand Central — everybody loves Grand Central — I think there's going to be great public interest in this," said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. "I think this is one building that no one is gonna want to mess around with."

For programmer Jon Banafato, 23, of East Harlem, the idea of a Shake Shack with interminable lines was a little hard to stomach. “I probably wouldn’t go to the one here because it would be ridiculously packed,” he said.

The deal, which will be finalized tomorrow, is an unmistakable boon for the cash-strapped agency. Apple will pay $1.1 million in the first year and Shake Shack’s rent is $435,000 plus a share of its profits. The cost of both 10-year leases increases each year.

“I can’t imagine why any kid in Westchester would want to do anything other than go to Grand Central and shop at Apple and eat at Shake Shack,” said Jeff Rosen, the MTA’s real estate director. “We really do think we’re sort of turbo-charging it for the next generation.”

Still, a Metro-North official said the agency is taking precautions not to repeat past mistakes.

"The part we don't want to replicate is the crass, willy-nilly proliferation of advertising and visually overwhelming uses," said railroad spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. "We don't want to go back to those dark days."

For one, Apple’s logo will be smaller than those of the restaurant, Metrazur, which currently occupies the space, the MTA said. And efforts are being made to tuck away the massive lines of expected to show up at the terminal.

“People in the main concourse wouldn’t even know there was a line,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said, adding that the stores’ crowds wouldn’t compete for space with one another either.

Neither store would comment on specifics of their plans.

For Jeremiah Moss of the blog Vanishing New York, the lucrative deals are yet another sign of the city becoming “monotone.”

“It's as if there's some unwritten regulation that every corner of the city, from Times Square to Coney Island, must have an Apple store and a Shake Shack. And people seem to want this sameness everywhere," he said. "We've become a city of people afraid of originality and the unknown, like tourists who go to Paris and eat at Burger King. 

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