East Midtown Hold Up: Maloney, State Pols Ask City Hall to Slow Down Rezoning

Don't block my landmark, bro. (Getty)

Don’t block my landmark, bro. (Getty)

Add a few more names to the growing list of people concerned about the speed with which the city is executing the Midtown East Rezoning—ones that carry some serious political clout. In addition to the community boards, a few civic groups and local Councilman Dan Garodnick (who’s vote will be crucial to get the rezoning through the City Council), four new Midtown reps have just sent a letter to the mayor saying the rezoning needs more time to be perfected.

“Because this rezoning is so important, it is critical that it is done correctly the first time and is responsive to the concerns of the area’s current stakeholders even as it lays the groundwork for the area’s future,” Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, Assemblyman Dan Qart and state senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman write. They ask the Department of City Planning to withdraw the plan currently in the works, which is expected to be certified in the coming weeks, “in order to permit sufficient time for community input.”

The Midtown East Rezoning seeks to give developers incentives to tear down their aging buildings by adding new air rights to certain blocks in Midtown, with an emphasis on Park Avenue and the area around Grand Central. Locals fear that there will not be sufficient public benefit and that the plan is a giveaway to developers. Air rights will have to be purchased from the city, which would fund new open space improvements and mass transit projects, though there is skepticism the project would generate enough funds to create meaningful investments.

A City Planning spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment, but when Mr. Garodnick raised similar objections, she said:

As with all of our projects, we have been carefully analyzing the area and meeting with area stakeholders, including the community boards, to discuss the issues and proposed policy solutions so that an appropriate long‐term zoning framework for East Midtown can be created. There is ample time to complete all the necessary review and analyses for this project, and we are committed to continue working closely with the community and other stakeholders as the process moves forward.

The four politicians lay out a number of specific concerns they have about the plan as it is currently configured, including more information about public realm improvements, a study of adverse impacts, a commitment by developers to build sustainable projects and concern over the fate of numerous landmarks, both officially designated and those not, but otherwise noteworthy.

One request is particularly interesting, and no doubt alarming to the development community, given how open it would be to debate and interpretation: “a special review process for buildings that could disrupt iconic features of New York’s skyline such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.” Talk about encasing the skyline in amber, precisely what this rezoning is meant to undo.

“While we support the concept of encouraging the development of more iconic Class A office buildings in East Midtown,” the four conclude, “we ask that your office and the Department of City Planning heed the community’s request to allow more time for deliberation and consideration of the community’s questions and recommendations to ensure that this plan serves the neighborhood, both current and future.”