Mayor Bloomberg’s push to transform the area around Grand Central Terminal may or may not be the sort of legacy project that chief executives embrace on their way out the door.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what the mayor’s motivations are. What matters is that it’s a visionary proposal to bring the eastern portion of Midtown into the 21st century.
If the City Council approves the mayor’s rezoning plan, an area bounded by 39th Street and 57th Street east of Fifth Avenue will be transformed over the coming years. The neighborhood’s aging buildings will be replaced by towers that will soar higher than some of the East Side’s iconic landmarks, including, perhaps, the Chrysler Building. The rezoning plan would rewrite current rules that have limited the height of buildings in the areas.
Potential construction projects could add enough office space to house 16,000 additional workers and would bring a 21st century look and feel to a district that threatens to become tired and outdated in the coming decades. The mayor would like to have the plan in place by the time he leaves office at the end of next year, but that would require City Council approval by next October.
There’s no guarantee that Mr. Bloomberg will get his way on this, but the council’s rejection of the plan would be unfortunate.
Best Laid Plans
We’re kind of embarrassed to admit that this never occurred to us until just now, reading The Times‘ recap of the Midtown East debate. Sure, all the familiar arguments on both sides are there—the city is moving too fast, the city is not moving fast enough, the buildings are too big, they are not big enough, we must compete, we must consider the consequence—but there is also are new argument that should have been obvious from the start, though no one has brought it up, at least not publicly, until Charles Bagli spelled it right out.
So we are obsessed with the changing skyline along 57th Street, so we are always excited and intrigued by new renderings that pop up for it. The latest may also be the greatest, and while 432 Park Avenue is nothing new, the pic that ran in The Times today gives the clearest indication yet of just how big this spindly behemoth will be. At 1,397 feet, the ritzy condo building surpasses 1 World Trade Center, less its spire, by 29 feet, boasting by some measures the biggest building in New York status.
Everyone has been praying for the inclusion of churches and synagogues in the Midtown East rezoning, but no one has checked in on the situation of hotels yet.
The religious institutions fear they will not be able to profit from the rezoning the same way their private neighbors will. Now, the hotel union and its political backers are worrying that hoteliers might be in the opposite position, of profiting too much from the rezoning. They are requesting that the Department of City Planning require special permits for new hotel development within the rezoning area. So far, the Department of City Planning has reservations about the proposal.
Forget Park Avenue, forget Central Park West, forget Bond Street. Pretty soon, 57th Street is going to be the place to live in New York.
Already we have the uber-hyped One57, where billionaires buy condos pushing $100 million. The taller-than-1WTC 432 Park is just beginning to rise a few blocks away, with the recent revelations its penthouse will be asking $85 million. And at some point in time, Gary Barnett, the man responsible for One57, will begin work on another luxury tower on the corner of Broadway and 57th Street.
As if that were not enough, here comes a 51-story bolt of luxury to the heart of Manhattan.
That’s the conclusion the Post came to this morning, backed by anecdotal evidence from drivers.
Street Fighters Too
Janette Sadik-Khan, the sui generis city transportation commissioner, was standing on 51st Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues as rush hour was just starting last week. Rather, she was standing at the intersection with 6½th Avenue, her latest asphalt confection. The pedestrian passageway was designated and demarcated about two months ago, connecting up a series of plazas running from here to 57th Street. Ms. Sadik-Khan was out for her first official stroll.
“It’s kind of a secret garden, one of the new secret spaces we’ve helped create; we’ve got 500 of them in the city and we’re trying to connect people better to their surroundings, make the city that much nicer,” Ms. Sadik-Khan said.
She gazed up at the cute little green street sign one of her construction crews had installed. “6½th Avenue” it read, like a sign on any other corner, though it, along with five others along the seven-block passageway, are the only ones in the city bearing fractions. The commissioner looked down and smiled. “It’s like Harry Potter,” she said. “The 9¾ platform. Or Being John Malkovich, with the 7½ floor.”
“I love it.”
Empire State Building
Tony Malkin, whose family controls the Empire State Building, just released the following statement regarding this morning’s shootings outside his landmark office tower. He notes that there was no violence inside and he remains open for business.
The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute is making a mass migration uptown, taking its art and its artifacts and its programming from the small brownstone at 408 West 58th Street that has housed the museum for decades to a temporary place on Park Avenue and 125th Street.
The transitional space at 1825 Park Avenue will put the institute much closer to its final destination—a 8,500-square-foot firehouse on 125th Street between Lenox and Seventh Avenues. Apparently the museum was just really, really eager to get out of Midtown, even if its new home wasn’t quite ready yet.
Best Laid Plans
Easy does it. That is the message from Councilman Dan Garodnick, echoing concerns of two Midtown community boards, that the Bloomberg administration is moving too fast in its plans to rezone Midtown East to allow for taller skyscrapers.
The Councilman, who represents the eastern flank of Manhattan, applauded the plan in a letter [PDF] to Planning Commish Amanda Burden last week shared with The Observer, but he worries to plan is so complex, it needs more time to be considered. The Department of City Planning argues there is enough time to get the job done before the Bloomberg administration is out in a year and a half.