The main focus of the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City speech today may have been on taking another crack at fixing the city’s schools and streamlining its government, but this is still Mike Bloomberg, remaker of skylines and rebuilder of waterfronts, so there was bound to be a lot of development goodies studding the speech.
Aside from the Kingsbridge Armory announcement, which was previewed yesterday, the proposal that most jumped out was one for the heart of Midtown. “In the area around Grand Central, we’ll work with the City Council on a package of regulatory changes and incentives that will attract new investment, new companies and new jobs,” the mayor said.
That was all he said about the proposal, in fact. The Observer reached out to City Hall and the Department of City Planning a few hours ago, but so far we have not heard back on what this plan could be. A rezoning? Rent breaks? Tax breaks? Hard to say exactly, this being a highly developed area commanding the highest commercial rents in the entire country.
Still, with the World Trade Center and the Far West Side developing at a nice clip, some in the real estate industry have complained that the still grand but not quite central midcentury towers of Park and Lex may become ugly step children in the brave new New York. With East Side Access in the works, providing an easier commute to the station, it would make sense to find new ways to continue growing the heart of the city’s central business district.
Among the other marquee projects outlined were new fine arts and film incubators, new incentives to keep the Hunts Point produce market from crossing the Hudson into Jersey, and, of course, ongoing support at the World Trade Center to see that project through. (Even if the mayor is butting heads with the governor over the opening date of the 9/11 museum.)
There is a new mega-mall coming to Parkchester in the Bronx and a new mega-development in Astoria—that appears to be the long-delayed Hallets Point project, which began making news again at the end of last year. And there will be rezonings and relocations.
“We’ll begin rezoning East Fordham Road to allow for more private sector investment and explore economic development possibilities on Webster Avenue. To do that, we’re working with a group of neighbors we call the Bronx Quad: the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx Zoo, Montefiore Medical Center and of course, the emerging basketball powerhouse, Fordham University.”
“In Queens, Jet Blue will open its new headquarters in Long Island City and an expansion of the Queens Museum of Art will double its size. On Staten Island, we’ll create a new blue-collar-friendly industrial business zone, we’ll redesign the zoo’s aquarium, and we’ll help break ground on a major apartment and retail development at the Homeport, creating more than 1,100 construction jobs.
“In Brooklyn, more good blue-collar jobs will come to the waterfront both in Sunset Park and at the Navy Yard.”
There will also be even more tourists, the mayor hopes.
The most far-reaching proposal may come from the streamlining section of the speech, where the mayor introduced the Partnership to Build NYC, an expansion of the current Department of Buildings programs to speed up building approvals. “Our goal is ten days or less–and we’re not talking about cutting corners, we’re talking about cutting red tape,” the mayor said.
He also said he wants “streamlining City Planning’s review of land use applications.” Could this mean the overhaul of ULURP everyone from community advocates to Big Real Estate have been clamoring for?
And not to ignore the streets, there will be more slow zones and more bike lanes—just in time for bike share—so the bikelash may indeed continue into 2012.