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Coalition of Pols, Community Leaders Call East Midtown Rezoning a 'Failure'

By Alan Neuhauser | October 2, 2013 4:10pm
 The Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission reviewed plans to upgrade subways as part of an application to rezone a 73-block area of East Midtown.
East Midtown Rezoning and Grand Central Terminal
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MIDTOWN — Manhattan political and community leaders, unions and advocacy groups have stepped up their opposition to a Bloomberg Administration plan that would rezone a 73-block swath of East Midtown to make way for newer, larger skyscrapers.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, state senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, and seven of Manhattan's 12 community boards — joined by labor unions and led by a Multi-Board Task Force headed by Community Board 5 member Lola Finkelstein — issued a list of 10 flaws with the rezoning proposal, from transit issues to air rights.

“If the goal is to generate funding for transportation improvements, which anyone who rides the 4-5-6 [trains] knows is desperately needed, then this proposal will surely be a failure," Hoylman said in a statement. "We’re not opposed to new or larger buildings, but we are opposed to a fire-sale on air rights when there is so much to be done in the neighborhood.”

Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Gale Brewer, incoming Councilman Corey Johnson, and representatives of the Hotel Trades Council, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, Municipal Arts Society and City Club also joined in the chorus of those raising concerns about the rezoning.

The proposal, fast-tracked by the mayor, was approved by the City Planning Commission on Monday. Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden hailed it as an "essential step to ensure that this iconic area remains a world class, highly competitive business district for decades to come." She pointed out that the plan had been modified to address locals' concerns, mainly by seeking more funding up front for transit upgrades and greater improvements to the above-ground streetscape.

It now awaits a vote by the City Council by the end of November.

A group of politicians, union reprsentatives, advocates and community board members gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday to argue that the rezoning offered little more than aesthetic changes, offered few guarantees, and excluded crucial details for how infrastructure in the 0.5-mile area would be expanded to handle thousands more commuters.

The plan also fails to provide adequate environmental protections or mechanisms for sufficient public review, the group said, pointing to the opposition of a majority of Manhattan's community boards.

“What New York needs is not a rushed attempt at a legacy project, but a thoughtful, comprehensive plan that will truly prepare us for 21st century competition," Finkelstein said in a statement. "This plan falls short of that goal and is therefore unworthy of our consideration. As it currently stands, this proposal is not only inadequate, it has the ability to do irreparable harm to one of New York’s most vital districts.”

For DNAinfo.com New York's continuing coverage of the proposed East Midtown overhaul, click here.