Majority of Manhattan Community Boards Oppose East Midtown Rezoning

By Alan Neuhauser on July 2, 2013 10:51am 

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 The Department of City Planning has proposed rezoning 73 blocks around Grand Central Terminal in East Midtown to allow newer and larger skyscrapers.
City Seeking to Rezone 73-Block Section of East Midtown
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MIDTOWN — Eight of Manhattan's 12 community boards have come out in opposition to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to overhaul a 73-block area of East Midtown to allow for newer and larger skyscrapers.

Community boards 5 and 6, which formally rejected the rezoning plan Friday, were supported by boards 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8 in the form of draft letters or resolutions. Board 10, in an email to DNAinfo New York, said it, too, ""supports the opposition of rezoning."

Bloomberg has been pushing to fast-track the plan, first introduced in April, to win approval before he leaves office in December.

"This is something almost unheard-of. I don't think I've ever seen that," Community Board 5 chairwoman Vikki Barbero said of the boards' shared opposition to the rezoning plan. "I've been on the board 20 years and I can't think of another issue that's had such an impact on so many New Yorkers."

Boards 5 and 6, which cover central and eastern Manhattan, submitted their resolutions on East Midtown as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULURP, for the city's rezoning proposal. The plan now heads to the Manhattan Borough President's Office, which has until July 31 to issue its recommendation.

The measure then goes before the City Planning Commission and later to the City Council.

The proposal calls for rezoning a 0.5-square-mile swath around Grand Central Terminal to allow developers to build far taller and broader skyscrapers. It would also overhaul of city streetscapes and establish a District Improvement Fund, paid for by developers, for improving area subways, buses and traffic.

Under the plan, more than 10 million square feet of commercial space would be replaced, and another 4.5 million square feet would be added to the area.

With the average building being 70 years old, boards 5 and 6, in addition to a Multi-Board Task Force comprised of Boards 1, 4, 5 and 6, have acknowledged that the area is in need of overhaul but has disagreed with the city's rollout of the plan.

"We are not against the idea, the premise," Barbero said. "We are against the way it has been handled in terms of the vetting all the information that's needed."

In particular, the boards have argued that City Planning's formal proposal wrongly calls for buildings to be developed before transit upgrades are made, lacks critical details regarding the District Improvement Fund and adheres to outdated environmental guidelines.

The majority of the boards added that the timeline for East Midtown development could also undercut ongoing and upcoming construction projects in the Financial District and at Hudson Yards.

"It's like ripples moving outward in a lake," Board 7 Chairman Mark Diller said. "There a number of aspects for the proposal for boards 5 and 6 that affect boards across the city."

A Department of City Planning spokesman said the agency welcomed the boards' input.

"We look forward to studying their recommendations," he said in a statement. "City Planning takes the community and stakeholder views seriously, and their recommendations, along with those of the borough president, will be carefully considered as the proposal advances through the official land use process to the City Planning Commission.”

The four community boards that have not taken a public stance on the rezoning proposal either declined comment or did not return calls or emails.

The Mayor's Office also did not respond to requests for comment.

The Borough President's Office said its recommendation on the rezoning proposal will be released near the end of the month.

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