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City Council Unanimously Approves East Midtown Rezoning

The East Midtown rezoning plan could foster 6.5 million square feet of new commercial development. The East Midtown rezoning plan could foster 6.5 million square feet of new commercial development.

NEW YORK CITY—The New York City Council approved the East Midtown rezoning plan by a 42-0 margin at its session on Wednesday.

The plan will rezone approximately 78 blocks in and around Grand Central Terminal and is geared to fostering redevelopment of the aging building stock in the area. The full council vote followed the July 27th unanimous vote by the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises to approve the plan that is years in the making.

The East Midtown rezoning plan does have some detractors in the business community that say it does not go far enough to provide incentives for redevelopment in the area except for a few buildings in the short term. The plan has the potential to spark 6.5 million square feet of new development in the next 20 years.

New York City Councilman Dan Garodnick, a major supporter of the rezoning whose District 4 encompasses a major part of the area to be rezoned, said, “With this vote, we are breathing new life into New York’s most important business district. Not only will we see sensible growth, but the public will benefit from extraordinary new investments in above-ground public spaces and in below-ground subway infrastructure. Better transit, new jobs, top-of-the-line office space: East Midtown is back, full of optimism, and open for business.”

The East Midtown zoning changes will allow developers and property owners to build taller new buildings in Midtown East near and around Grand Central Terminal in exchange for public improvements, including funding for infrastructure. New as-of-right densities for the newly created East Midtown sub-district that encompasses Grand Central call for higher permitted FARs (floor area ratios) near the terminal and for other transit nodes in the area. The rezoning looks to help make East Midtown be competitive with other areas of the city since many of the buildings in the area are 75-years-of-age or older and do not provide the modern amenities commercial tenants now demand.

Proponents of the rezoning plan say when implemented the East Midtown area will benefit from hundreds of millions of dollars for public improvements as buildings come online, including a $50-million upfront investment from the city.

“East Midtown’s growth is now directly linked to real-time improvements in its public transit and public realm,” says New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “In the years ahead, this neighborhood will see major upgrades to subway stations, more expansive space for pedestrians, investments in its iconic landmarks, and a new generation of office buildings that will spur good jobs for New Yorkers. I thank the City Council, and congratulate City Planning Chair Lago, Council Member Garodnick and Borough President Brewer on this achievement.”

A number of business organizations came out in favor of the proposal, including the New York Building Congress. Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress said after the recent City Council subcommittee vote that the agreement “will pave the way for a new generation of signature office towers while also attracting substantial private sector investment in the area’s transportation network and public spaces.”

Real Estate Board of New York president John Banks released a statement that was somewhat critical of the rezoning after the Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises vote in late July, calling the proposal “a missed opportunity to ensure more, rather than less, commercial development. As a result, it is less likely that the public improvements that are needed in Greater East Midtown will be achieved.”

However, after the full City Council approved the measure, Banks released a more supportive statement, “The City Council’s approval of the Greater East Midtown rezoning is an important milestone in an on-going effort to ensure the area remains one of the world’s leading office districts. We want to thank Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, City Planning Chair Marisa Lago, all the Community Board members and the many other stakeholders who worked tirelessly and understood that encouraging development in East Midtown generates the tax revenue that pays for vital city services that benefit all New Yorkers.”

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