Midtown Rezoning Bites the Dust
Nicole Anderson reports for The Architect’s Newspaper.
With the support of incoming mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council has squashed the Bloomberg administration’s plan to allow for the development of taller buildings in East Midtown. The decision marks the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year term, leaving behind a legacy that will likely be remembered for reshaping the cityscape with large-scale development.
“We are obviously disappointed in this decision. This plan would have created tens of thousands of good paying jobs for New Yorkers in every borough and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in private sector funding for public infrastructure,” said Steven Spinola, president of The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY).
The proposal, ambitious in both scope and scale, pushed for the rezoning of the 73-block swathe around Grand Central Terminal with the intention of spurring the construction of new office towers that would ultimately replace the existing outdated building stock. This move, Bloomberg argued, would be critical in sustaining and growing the area into a robust business hub and attracting the right corporate tenants to keep this slice of midtown competitive with other global cities. City Council, however, said that the plan didn’t garner enough votes, and would ultimately be shot down by members, prompting Bloomberg to withdraw the application for the proposal.
“We should rezone East Midtown, but only when we can do so properly. After extensive negotiations, we have been unable to reach agreement on a number of issues in the proposed plan,” said speaker Christine Quinn and council member Dan Garodnick in a joint statement.
The duo pinpointed the Council’s specific issues with the plan, including the process, price, and timing of the air rights, the funding required for infrastructure improvements, and the feasibility of the public realm improvements suggested.
In a statement, Bloomberg said that a financing agreement had been reached to allocate $100 million in funding to transit and public realm improvements, but it was contingent upon the development piece of the plan moving forward.
“We are withdrawing the application for the rezoning of East Midtown. This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue—as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created,” said Bloomberg in a statement.
Throughout the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, critics and community members expressed concern that larger development would bring more people to midtown, putting a strain on the area’s infrastructure.
The plan will likely be revisited. Mayor-elect de Blasio has spoken in favor of City Council’s decision, but said that he plans to eventually pursue the rezoning of midtown. “I applaud the City Council for pressing the pause button in order to ensure these concerns are adequately addressed,” he said in a statement. “We must continue this process in earnest upon taking office, and I commit to presenting a revised rezoning plan for the area by the end of 2014.”