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Majority of E. Midtown Residents, Businesses Oppose Rezoning, Poll Says

By Alan Neuhauser | October 17, 2013 1:23pm
 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 — An informal online poll sent to East Midtown residents and businesses this summer revealed that a majority of respondents opposed the Bloomberg Administration's plan to rezone 73 blocks around Grand Central Terminal.

The poll showed that of the 108 residents and businesses who responded, 63 percent said they opposed the proposal, with just 28 percent supporting it.

The poll, conducted in August by the East Midtown Partnership, asked, "What do you think of the city's proposal to 'upzone' a large section of East Midtown (including parts of this district), allowing for some more modern, larger commercial buildings but also adding more people to the area and potentially straining mass transit and public spaces?"

Of those in favor of the rezoning plan, only 7.4 percent said they strongly supported it.

"Clearly, the survey shows a level of discontent or, if nothing else, skepticism," East Midtown Partnership president Rob Byrnes said. "The city needs to take it seriously."

He emphasized that the East Midtown Partnership has not taken a position on the rezoning plan, and that the partnership's poll, distributed via the organization's website and newsletter, "was not scientific."

Nevertheless, groups that have opposed the plan — arguing that it's been rushed and lacks crucial details, such as when and how transit and infrastructure would be upgraded to handle an influx of commuters — said the results represent broader opposition to the proposal.

"We are not surprised than an incomplete and unworthy plan should be rejected by those who would be most affected by it," said Lola Finkelstein, chairwoman of a Multi-Board Task Force comprised for community boards 1, 4, 5 and 6, in a statement.

Eight of Manhattan's 12 community boards have said they opposed the rezoning measure.

Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents much of Manhattan's East Side, has avoided taking a position on the rezoning application, but he has voiced concern that the application was submitted long before important questions were answered. The rezoning, approved by both the borough president and City Planning Commission as part of a months-long vetting process, must now be voted on by the City Council by the end of November.

"The Council is open to working out a responsible rezoning plan for East Midtown, but if we feel we can't do it within the land use clock, we will have no hesitation taking this up with the next administration," Garodnick said in a statement.  "There continue to be many open questions, including the pricing of air rights, the plan for infrastructure and public realm improvements."

The Council is expected to take up the measure Tuesday.