Midtown East and Manhattan West: Bloomberg, Zucotti Defend Rezoning at Megaproject Groundbreaking

If you build it, they will come. Promise. (Edward Reed/Flickr)

If you build it, they will come. Promise. (Edward Reed/Flickr)

One of the big debates that has been raging around the rezoning of Midtown East is how it might impact development already underway around the city, much of it funded in part by the public sector, and thus taxpayers. Should these projects fail, Joe Public could lose out on his investment.

The World Trade Center and Hudson Yards have been two focal points, but Manhattan West, which broke ground yesterday, ought to be considered, too. While the project’s backers bragged at the groundbreaking about building without public subsidy, they are still competing for the same anchor tenants as their rivals further east. Furthermore, the $2 billion the city contributed to the construction of the 7 train nearby is to be paid back through property taxes on the new projects. No new development, no bond proceeds, big trouble for the city.

Still, Mayor Bloomberg is standing by the decision to fast-track the Midtown rezoning and ensure it gets completed this year.

“There’s lots of development going on all over the city, not only on the West Side but downtown, at the World Trade Center, in Brooklyn and Long Island City,” the mayor said. “People are surprised by how much interest there is.”

Still, the mayor thinks there are provisions being taken to protect these projects. “That’s why we set the five year sunrise,” the mayor said, referring to the delay in the rezoning taking effect until 2017. Some landlords have complained about the delay, as has Post columnist Steve Cuozzo.

“We think that’s a decision to give people plenty of breathing room to get their projects off the ground,” the mayor said of the sunrise provision.

John Zuccotti, the former Brookfield chairman who was on hand for the groundbreaking yesterday was unconcerned about the Midtown East rezoning, as well. “I think the rezoning will come in its time, but it won’t be as tranformative as this because they’re building where there are already office building,” Mr. Zuccotti said. “Here there was nothing, and it’s all gonna change.” It is this total transformation, this neighborhood from nothing, its brand-new glowing greatness, that will make the project so appealing (and cheaper) to companies and residents.

Not that the transformation comes as a surprise to Mr. Zuccotti.

“It all started with Battery Park City,” he said, where Brookfield (then Olympia and York, still led by Mr. Zuccotti) was one of the first builders, creating the World Financial Center. “I was there when the ships left, and it was clear we had to find a whole new use for the West Side. My father took me to the Normandie when it was on fire, so I remember the old West Side, and it’s not that anymore, hasn’t been for a long time.”

“From Nelson Rockefeller to Michael Bloomberg, that’s been the transformation, and here we are.”