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Stop Midtown East ‘upzoning’ scandal

Midtown East upzoning plan would ruin the neighborhood


On July 18, Crain’s New York Business posted an excellent op-ed, Zoning for sale, about the ill-conceived Midtown East upzoning plan.

(Photo above: A little Park Avenue gridlock.)

Some background:  In a few weeks, the City Council will vote on a rezoning of a 78-block area covering the business district north of 39th Street and east of Fifth Avenue. As Michael Gruen and Alexander Garvin, critics of the plan, argue,

Among other things, it would overbuild the area, canyonizing streets and sidewalks by reducing building setbacks, put development pressure on the Turtle Bay residential area by upzoning adjacent Third Avenue, and threaten the existing pattern of small-scale retailing.”

Furthermore, Midtown East has outstanding architecture that would be demolished or shadowed by the new monster buildings.

(Gruen is president of the City Club of New York and a lawyer.  Garvin is a professor of urban planning at Yale University.)

Midtown East is already too congested

The area around Grand Central Terminal is already so congested at times that people get pushed onto the streets for lack of sidewalk space.  The overcrowded subways are a torment, and for much of the day, buses and cabs can barely move.


Midtown East is too congested

Grand Central Terminal


City Planning estimates that the plan could result in an 83 percent(!) increase in the existing square footage.  And that could bring 28,000 more workers to the area.

Improved subway stations may not even be in the area

The city may require developers to pay for subway improvement, but get this: They could do the improvements in stations a mile or more from the building sites.  As a result, the benefits may not even accrue to the area.

In 2013, the architect Robert A.M. Stern wrote the following in The Times about upzoning plans for Midtown East:

“I’m nearly always an advocate of density: it’s socially beneficial and environmentally responsible. And I like tall buildings as much as the next architect, especially if I’m asked to design them.  But the advantages of density can go only so far without the infrastructure to support it.”

De Blasio trades Manhattan quality of life to real estate interests

In March, Community Boards 5 and 6 both voted against the Greater Midtown East Zoning proposal.  The Manhattan Borough Board led by Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer voted for it.  It sometimes seems like Brewer talks a bigger game of protecting Manhattan neighborhoods than she plays.

The de Blasio administration has long treated Manhattan neighborhood’s fragile quality-of-life as a bauble to be traded to developers.  His passion for selling zoning rights should scandalize the entire city.  We’ll have more on that subject in the coming days.

Hot off the presses: Read this great opinion piece, De Blasio’s huge Midtown giveaway, in today’s Daily News:

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