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Proposal Would Aid Sale of Midtown Landmarks' Air Rights

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A new proposal may allow Midtown East landmarks like St. Patrick's Cathedral and Grand Central Terminal to sell their valuable air rights. The proposal is one faction of the long-debated Midtown East rezoning, whose most recent iteration would allow developers to build larger if, according to a June report from the Journal, "developers pay for and make transit improvements, letting landmark-building owners sell their unused air rights within the area, and preserving historically significant sites." The new proposal, reported by the Wall Street Journal, echoes those same sentiments; it would allow landmarks to sell their air rights without a special city permit and across a swath of Midtown, rather than merely to properties on or across the street as is the case now. The catch? The city would keep 20- to 40-percent of the air rights sale proceeds to fund public improvements.

The proposal was submitted to the City Planning Commission on Tuesday by a steering committee appointed by Mayor de Blasio last year and lead by Midtown East City Council representative Daniel Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. Garodnick endorses the new proposal because it "corrects" a former proposal the councilman blocked that "had a lot of certainty for developers but much less certainty for the public." If adopted, the proposal will affect the area from about East 39th Street to East 57th Street between Fifth and Third avenues.

Unsurprisingly, major landmarks in the area aren't thrilled about the proposal that would eat-up a hefty chunk of their profits. In a statement from St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Bartholomew's Church and Central Synagogue cited by the Journal, the institutions bemoan the "high assessment on transfers" saying that they would "greatly diminishes the rezoning's twin objectives of promoting development and historic preservation."
· Proposal Gives Midtown Landmarks Air-Rights Flexibility [WSJ]
· Landmarked buildings in midtown could soon sell valuable air rights [Crain's]
· Religious Landmarks See Wider Reach to Sell Their Air Rights [Curbed]
· Midtown East's New Rezoning Plan Finally Makes Progress [Curbed]
· All Midtown East Rezoning coverage [Curbed]