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East Midtown Rezoning Plan Approved by City Planning Commission

By Shaye Weaver | June 9, 2017 4:27pm | Updated on June 12, 2017 8:49am
 The proposed rezoning is meant to spur the redevelopment of Midtown East, much of which was built more than 50 years ago.
The proposed rezoning is meant to spur the redevelopment of Midtown East, much of which was built more than 50 years ago.
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Wikimedia Commons/Dmitry B.

MIDTOWN — City Planning officials approved a plan to rezone a slice of Midtown East to allow for taller buildings.

The City Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the Midtown East Rezoning Plan, which will permit developers to build higher as long as they make required contributions to the public — like money for transit improvements, buying development rights from adjacent landmarks and creating public plazas on their properties.

The rezoning will affect 78 blocks: from 57th Street to the north, 39th Street to the south, Third Avenue to the east, and Madison Avenue to the west, the plans show.

Some of the projects benefiting the public have already been approved by the Department of City Planning and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including a new entrance at the Lexington Ave.-59th Street subway station and improved disability access at the 42nd Street Bryant Park station, according to a document outlining the plan. Credit: NYC Planning

On Wednesday, the current plan, which has been in the works for roughly three years, was given the green light by the commission's leaders, including chairwoman Marisa Lago, who is also the director of the Department of City Planning. 

“This is a momentous occasion,” she said during the commission's meeting on Wednesday. "The proposal is remarkably similar to the steering committee’s recommendations. I think that is a testament to the power of inclusive planning.”

Lago explained that over the years, the proposal was strengthened to include improvements to pedestrian areas and an increase in public involvement.

"The steering committee didn't just identify planning priorities, but it also forged consensus-driven and solution-oriented vision for the future of East Midtown," she added. "I'm so pleased to be able to vote 'yes.'"

► READ: East Midtown Rezoning Plan: What You Need to Know

 READ: East Midtown Rezoning Enters Public Review, New Details of Plan Emerge

Now the plan will go to the City Council for a vote.

The rezoning process has been long sought after by property owners and elected officials to make it easier for developers to build more modern offices in the area of Midtown surrounding Grand Central Terminal, where zoning regulations and existing density restrictions make it difficult to build new towers.

On Tuesday, Councilman Dan Garodnick introduced new legislation to go along with the rezoning proposal that would require the Department of Finance to audit Real Property Transfer Tax returns filed for transfers of development rights within the new East Midtown Subdistrict. 

In April, Garodnick testified in front of the Planning Commission in support of the rezoning.

"This proposal presents a strong, effective plan to revitalize East Midtown as a premiere business district and an economic engine for our city," he said. "It represents a significant improvement over previous proposals, and it can transform the district. I am proud of the East Midtown community for creating the template for this proposal, pleased that city agencies engaged with the community’s plan and turned it into action, and excited that this long journey is nearing its end."