Community Boards Reject Midtown East Rezoning

June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013

NEW YORK—In an unprecedented resolution, four community boards rejected the city’s proposal to rezone East Midtown and allow for the construction of taller, more efficient buildings, in the area.

Since the proposed rezoning affects several neighborhoods, a task force was formed to address the proposal, including representatives from community boards 1, 4, 5, and 6. The task force issued an 88-page response on June 11 rejecting the city’s proposal.

Community boards 5 and 6 have already rejected the proposal in a formal vote. All four of the community boards are expected to deliver their formal rejection letters to the city planning department by July 1.

The task force resolution called the city’s proposed zoning amendments an “incomplete and unworthy proposal ill-suited to meet their most basic goal.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg administration’s plan to rezone East midtown included a proposal to sell air rights to developers. The proceeds from the sales would then go into a District Improvement Fund (DIF), which would in turn be used to fund much needed infrastructure and transit upgrades in the area.

The resolution from the task force stated that the plan relies heavily on the speculative nature of the DIF, and that infrastructure and transit upgrades should precede development. The community boards go on to say that the city may be short-changing itself by selling future air rights at current prices.

The resolution also points out that the new development in East Midtown would put the developments at Hudson Yards and Lower Manhattan at risk. Among other reasons for the rejection is the proposal’s disregard for landmark buildings.

“When the city planning commission released a map showing likely development sites they picked all the great old masonry buildings surrounding Grand Central. These were done by the best architects of their day,” said Peg Breen, president of New York Landmarks Commission, a private non-profit.

“We don’t believe that you take down the best of your existing architecture for new architecture when there’s plenty of room elsewhere in the proposed up-zoning area.”

As part of the city’s formal public review process the zoning proposal will next go to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer for a 30-day review. Stringer has already called for the Department of City Planning to balance the needs of the community with a need for a strong East Midtown in a 2012 letter.

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