MIDTOWN — To the delight of developers and disappointment of local leaders, not to mention a majority of Manhattan's community boards, Borough President Scott Stringer issued "conditional approval" Thursday for the city's plan to rezone East Midtown to allow broader and taller skyscrapers.
Stringer's thumbs-up, made public 10 hours after a midnight deadline, offers a significant boost to the rezoning plan, which has been fast-tracked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and vocally supported by real estate tycoons and builders.
Stringer said his decision stemmed from a late but substantial concession by the mayor, who said in a Wednesday op-ed in the Daily News that the city would pledge funds upfront to upgrade East Side transit, rather than rely on money later from private developers, as previously called for in the rezoning plan.
"Greater density in East Midtown should follow significant investments in its infrastructure," Stringer, who is neck-and-neck with Eliot Spitzer in a race for the city comptroller's seat, said in a statement.
"The ramifications of adding density to the already-overloaded capacity of the local transit infrastructure raises serious questions about a development-first approach."
Stringer's recommendation, which was non-binding, was the second step in the city's months-long Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.
The rezoning application, first introduced by the Department of City Planning this spring and subsequently rejected by Community Boards 5 and 6, now heads to the City Planning Commission, and then the City Council.
A Multi-Board Task Force comprised of Community Boards 1, 4, 5 and 6 said it was "profoundly disappointed" with the decision, arguing that the rezoning plan still lacked any firm commitment from the mayor or crucial details regarding when and how transit and infrastructure would be upgraded.
"The administration is making vague promises with no substantive commitments," it said in a statement. "This rezoning ultimately is being driven by a few special interests and fails to consider the needs of average New Yorkers. It's now time for the City Council to dramatically rethink this project or to turn it down."
Community Boards 5 and 6 did not immediately comment Thursday, but they have vocally opposed the East Midtown rezoning proposal since it was first discussed earlier this year.
Boards 4, 7, 8 and 12 have also issued resolutions or letters against the plan.
In granting his approval, Stringer shored up support from some current or potential allies in his bid for comptroller, experts say, a campaign that transformed into hotly contested race after Spitzer announced his 11th-hour bid.
The Hotel Trades Council issued a statement Thursday, supporting Stringer's recommendation for improving infrastructure ahead of new development.
“While the proposed rezoning targets development, any additional density onto a system that is over capacity will inevitably lead to potentially dangerous conditions,” Stringer stated. “It is therefore critical that the City mitigate the existing overcrowding conditions and create a real plan for investment in the East Side’s transportation infrastructure."