Recent Posts
Connect with:
Saturday / November 17.
HomeBuildingsTalk Back to Midtown East demolition squad

Talk Back to Midtown East demolition squad

Midtown East upzoning could make midtown miserable

Real-estate interests and their allies are out in force hyping their dream of turning Midtown East into a jungle of new towers.

We offered background on what’s wrong with their proposal several days ago.  We also urge all to read an excellent op-ed in Crain’s New York Business, Zoning for Sale.

The day after, Crain’s posted a snarky rebuttal by Greg David.

As a learning aid, we will list some of he sloppy arguments contained therein — and dismantle them.  Feel free to use our material.

Among the inanities:

David: “Office buildings in Midtown East average 75 years of age and are rapidly becoming obsolete for the kind of prestigious finance companies and law firms that previously were willing to pay high rents in exchange for being in the heart of Midtown.”

Yes, there are 75-year-old, even older, buildings in Midtown East. It happens that they include some of New York’s most historically significant architecture.  (The Chrysler Building is almost 90 years old.) Happily, some recently obtained landmark status.  But the new supertalls will tower over them, the Chrysler building included. They will cast shadows on the streets.

Midtown East Threatened by Singapore-style sterility

And we wonder how attractive Midtown East would be were its glorious 20th century streetscape replaced by Singapore-style sterility.

Furthermore, congestion at times already freezes Midtown East in gridlock.  The subways are overburdened.  City planning estimates that the new rezoning would result in an 83 percent increase in the existing square footage,  It would  bring 28,000 more workers into the area.  As it is, there’s barely room on the sidewalks to fit in the rush-hour commuters.

Besides, companies wanting tower accommodations can move to Hudson Yards.  Speaking of which. . .

David: “Nothing underscores the problem more clearly than the decision by BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager, to quit the area in favor of Hudson Yards.”

Where’s the problem?  BlackRock wanted a Hudson Yards type of building. It moved to Hudson Yards.

The city recently went to the trouble of extending the 7 subway line to Hudson Yards. The very purpose was to encourage office development in a formerly low-density part of town.

Where is the ‘accelerating decline’?

David: “Current zoning makes profitable development impossible, so the district is headed into an accelerating decline unless something is done to change the equation.”

Kindly show us where the decline is.  There may be some empty storefronts, but that’s a retailing problem seen all over town.

Prices soften at times for some of the glorious old Park Avenue co-ops.  No one calls the Red Cross.

Less “prestigious” businesses do backflips on finding an affordable perch in Midtown East.  Besides, the area’s prestige comes not from bland megatowers but its proximity to Grand Central Terminal, Fifth Avenue and the lovely residential areas to the east (Turtle Bay, Sutton Place).

A softening of some rents in Midtown East hardly spells “accelerating decline.” Prices soften at times for the gorgeous old Park Avenue co-ops.  No one calls the Red Cross.

Other office districts can provide more tax revenues

David: Midtown East. . . accounts for 10 percent of the city’s property-tax base.  Both Hudson Yard and the World Trade Center contribute a fraction of the taxes that Midtown does.”

So what.  As their “prestigious” square footage expands, Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center will provide a bigger share of property-tax revenue.

It’s not like office space built in Hudson Yards is going to be taxed by Kansas City.

This is the most ridiculous argument yet.  It’s not like office space built at Hudson Yards is going to be taxed by Kansas City. Whether the buildings are in Midtown East,  Hudson Yards or Staten Island, property taxes end up in the same New York City till.

David closes with a crashing non-sequitur.  It also happens to be inaccurate.

David: “By the way, building still will be so difficult that only a handful of new towers will be built.”

On the contrary, according to Curbed New York.  The city hopes that the rezoning will spur the creation of at least 16 new office buildings.

Time is short.  If you prefer our arguments, let the city know.

 

FOLLOW US: @ThisEastSide

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop is a syndicated columnist, contributor to CNN Opinion and editor of This East Side.
Froma Harrop