Plan to Rezone Midtown Manhattan is Approved by City Council
On Wednesday, August 9, a rezoning plan was unanimously approved by the City Council for a section of Midtown Manhattan. The new zoning rules will improve public spaces and subway stations while permitting the neighborhood to fill with densely packed high-rise office buildings.
The New York Times reports, “The change will also allow several buildings with landmark status, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to transfer their unused development rights to building sites anywhere in the affected 78-block area. The rezoned blocks, known as East Midtown, run from East 39th Street to East 57th Street, from Third to Madison Avenues. The rezoning, which has been in the works for five years, is intended to revitalize what was once the core of corporate activity in New York City. The area is home to more than 250,000 jobs and generates about 10 percent of the city’s property tax revenue. But the buildings are relics of the ‘Mad Men’ era, with an average age of 75 years, according to city officials.”
New state-of-the-art buildings located on the Far West Side in the Hudson Yards project and in Lower Manhattan at the new World Trade Center complex have been the choice locations for big employers to move their companies to, abandoning their prior Midtown homes. Since the Mayor Bloomberg era, city officials have been searching for ways to make Midtown East more appealing.
The rezoning proposal presented by Bloomberg was stopped by Council members and community leaders who opposed the plan, saying it gave too much leeway to developers without enough guaranteed public benefits. The recent revised plan is supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said it links the construction of big buildings in the area to “real-time improvements in its public transit and public realm.”
The main sponsor of the bill that passed Wednesday was Democrat Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, who represents the East Midtown area. He said that more development will be permitted by subway stations, which he described as “certainly the right place to put lots of new density.”
“The goal is to improve East Midtown not to simply keep it as it is.”
According to the NYT, “The change could result in more ultra-tall towers like One Vanderbilt, which is going up near Grand Central Terminal and will be nearly as tall as the Empire State Building. When all of the additional development rights have been used in a decade or two, the Chrysler Building could cease to stand out on the Midtown skyline. Before all of the new towers can sprout, developers must strike deals with the owners of landmark buildings like St. Patrick’s. The cathedral has not made full use of development rights for the block it occupies on Fifth Avenue opposite Rockefeller Center, and can now sell the rest, totaling about 1.1 million square feet.”
The market will determine the price of the air rights, but the plan calls for a minimum city tax of $61.49 per square foot on any sale of such air rights.
The funds brought in by this tax, officials said, will go towards the $50 million that the city promised to spend on improving the streets and public plazas in East Midtown.
Garodnick said, “The goal is to improve East Midtown not to simply keep it as it is.”
Democrat Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, who represents the East Midtown area, was the main sponsor of the rezoning bill that was approved last Wednesday.