Basically everybody but the Bloomberg administration and select landlords in the area wants to see the Midtown East Rezoning delayed. While there is a general consensus that creating room for bigger, more modern office buildings in the heart of the city’s central business district makes sense, many planners and community groups fear the administration is rushing the plan to get it done on the mayor’s watch, rather than taking the necessary time to figure out exactly what to build.
Now, the three community boards directly effected by the rezoning are calling on Governor Cuomo to intervene, and their rationale is an interesting, if desperate, one.
The Tri-Board Task Force on East Midtown, which is comprised of members of community boards 5, 6 and 8, is arguing that Hurricane Sandy has introduced great uncertainty into the city’s future, particularly as far as infrastructure is concerned, and so the rezoning ought to be put off until the city figures out how to bolster itself against future disasters.
“The tragic events of the past few weeks have brought to light our city’s unique vulnerabilities in a world of climate change,” states a letter the task force sent to Governor Cuomo (you can read the full text below). “Throughout the city, waterfront and low-lying areas, including Lower Manhattan and the far East and West sides of our borough, were devastated by storm surges while our transportation network ground to a halt as subway lines and tunnels were flooded. Incredibly, parts of North America’s largest central business district lost power for an extended period of time.”
The irony here, of course, is that the sector of the city set to be rezoned was one of the refuges not impacted by the storm, beyond impacts to the subways and other ancillary problems caused to low-lying areas. It makes sense that planning resources might be put to better use working on emergency preparedness issues, rather than rezonings, but it also seems disingenuous to suggest that Midtown is somehow vulnerable to the next superstorm.
Then again, look at happened with the One57 crane. And who knows which ConEd plant might blow next time, leaving uptown or Midtown, rather than downtown, without power.
“We hope that in light of recent events, both the city and state will take a long, responsible, and critical look at how this East Midtown proposal, and other similar development proposals, can reflect altered circumstances, ensuring we build smarter,” the letter concludes. “The current timetable does not allow for that.”
Appealing to Governor Cuomo, who has taken a keen interest in how the city and state rebuilds after Sandy, is not a bad idea. But governors in general, and this one in particular, have a habit of deferring on local issues like this to the local authorities, in this case City Planning and City Hall. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and these are crazy times we’re living in, what with Category 1 storms and 30 FAR towers buffeting the city. Anything could happen.