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Plan to Add Skyscrapers in East Midtown Gets Demolished

By Alan Neuhauser | November 12, 2013 6:56pm
 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 — The Bloomberg Administration's plan to add skyscrapers to East Midtown crumbled Tuesday when the City Council rejected it.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents much of Midtown Manhattan's East Side and is seen as a frontrunner for the Speaker's seat next year, said in a statement that they believed the neighborhood needed rezoning, but not the way currently proposed.

"A good idea alone is not enough to justify action today," Garodnick and Quinn said in the statement. "We should rezone East Midtown, but only when we can do so properly."

Shortly after Quinn and Garodnick's statement, the mayor's office pulled the proposal. 

“Due to a lack of City Council support, we are withdrawing the application for the rezoning of East Midtown," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. "This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue – as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created."

The proposal calls for rezoning 73 blocks of East Midtown around Grand Central Terminal to allow for newer and larger buildings.

While there is wide agreement that East Midtown, where the average office building is more than 70 years old, is in need of major, large-scale upgrades, local leaders and community groups, led by a Multi Board Task Force composed of Manhattan community boards 1, 4, 5, and 6, have expressed strong reservations about the approach proposed by the City Planning Commission.

The plan, which was fast-tracked by Bloomberg, lacks critical details for when and how subways, sidewalks, roads and other infrastructure would be upgraded to handle the influx of commuters, the groups have argued. They have also raised questions about the pricing of air-rights, landmark status for certain buildings, and other matters.

“Among other issues, we remain concerned with the price, methodology and timing of the air rights to be sold by the City for the District Improvement Bonus," the statement continued. "We are also concerned with the certainty and funding level of the needed infrastructure improvements, which includes both above and below grade needs."

Quinn and Garodnick's move was praised by local leaders.

“This is how the public process is designed to work," said Lola Finkelstein, chair of the Multi Board Task Force. "The Council recognized what New Yorkers across the city felt: this proposal simply wasn’t good enough."