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Critic Says Midtown East Rezoning Has 'Puny Civic Aspirations'

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The proposed Midtown East Rezoning has been criticized for excluding religious institutions, endangering historic buildings, ignoring the concerns of a post-storm city, and now, New York Magazine archicritic Justin Davidson says the plan has very little public benefit. To him, the proposal "combines swollen ambitions for the skyline with puny civic aspirations," and it's "a lopsided scheme that grants developers specific enticements and waves away everyone else with the promise of a well-run slush fund." The plan includes a "public improvement fund" where developers would pay to improve transportation and public space, but Davidson thinks any of the ideas floated (like turning Vanderbilt Avenue into a pedestrian mall) are lame attempts that pale in comparison to what Grand Central offers.

Davidson praises the design of the terminal, noting that to create it, "private and public interests interlocked, with each sector leveraging the other and multiplying the advantages to both," which he says needs to happen for any future development plans to be successful. He thinks the proposals put forth by designers for the Municipal Art Society, even SOM's floating pedestrian halo, are good alternatives to filling the area with giant skyscrapers. "The surest way to demote [Grand Central] to an elegant relic is to encircle it with towers and forget about the space in between."
· Davidson: The Subtle Greatness of Grand Central May Get Trampled by Midtown Rezoning [NYM]
· Midtown East rezoning coverage [Curbed]
· A Pedestrian Halo for the Future of Grand Central [Curbed]