First Steps for a New East Midtown Underway

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
October 20, 2014 Updated: October 20, 2014

A Bloomberg-era plan to rezone a large portion of East Midtown was pulled in the last days of the mayor’s last term. There had been a wide consensus on the need to upgrade the old and outdated office buildings in East Midtown, but twice as much controversy over how much to value the new buildable area created. 

After Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, a promise was quickly made to revisit the rezoning. A task force of various interest groups was created to study the 73-block area. 

Meanwhile, a five-block area east of Grand Central Terminal was fast-tracked as a separate plan for rezoning, dubbed the Vanderbilt Corridor.

Now the public review process for the five-block zoning has officially begun, according to the Department of City Planning (DCP).

Vanderbilt Corridor

Vanderbilt Corridor is Phase 1 of the East Midtown rezoning. 

Developer SL Green had been planning for an office tower next to Grand Central since the Bloomberg administration. The 67-story building, 1 Vanderbilt, would require a larger square-foot limit than what the site currently allows for.

The Vanderbilt Corridor rezoning would let property owners along the five-block corridor buy more floor area from landmarks, or make transit and public realm improvements, or both. 

In exchange for the 1.3 million square foot office and retail tower, SL Green is proposing several transit and street improvements.

The developer would make a 12,000 square-foot public space along Vanderbilt Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets, and an indoor transit hall that would become the central access point for East Side Access. 

East Side Access is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) project to bring Long Island Railroad trains to Grand Central.

The improvements also include other things in and around Grand Central like new subway station stairs and passageways, and Lexington Line upgrades. 

According to DCP Future transit improvements could be made to other MTA sites as well.

This rezoning is now undergoing the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Community boards 5 and 6 will make recommendations on the project, as will Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Then the rezoning needs to pass through the City Planning Commission, and be approved or rejected by the City Council. 

Phase 2

The de Blasio administration is adding a steering committee to make recommendations on the project. Council member Daniel Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer are co-chairing the East Midtown Steering Committee. 

This new approach is a “ground-up planning strategy” the de Blasio administration is adopting to look at the greater 73-block-wide rezoning.

The rezoning was originally proposed in an attempt to keep the Central Business District in Midtown Manhattan competitive. Over the last year, several large companies based in Midtown have taken up leases downtown or on the West side.

Critics of Bloomberg’s plan said the city would be creating a lot of value for developers without benefiting from allowing those zoning changes. The current mayor said the rezoning had been rushed. 

The steering committee looking at the area-wide rezoning will present recommendations to DCP next spring. 

History of Transit Bonuses