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Midtown East's New Rezoning Plan Finally Makes Progress

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In November 2013, a proposal to rezone Midtown East—which among other things, would permit taller buildings and greater density as well as allow landmarks to sell their air rights to raise funds—hadn't garnered enough support from the City Council to win approval, so the Bloomberg administration withdrew it. The plan had already attracted tons of debate, but many were shocked that Bloomberg hadn't managed to strong-arm it through the city's approval process before he left office at the end of 2013. Under Mayor Bill de Blasio, a highly honed and specific proposal to rezone five blocks just west of Grand Central got the green light in May. That means One Vanderbilt, a 1,501-foot-tall office tower slated for the block between Vanderbilt and Madison avenues and 41st and 42nd streets is officially clear to rise. Its approval hinged largely on the $220 million worth of transit improvements developer SL Green is contributing to the area in exchange for permission to build higher.

It's a similar concessions-based model that City Council member Dan Garodnick and a team of community stakeholders have crafted for a revamped rezoning proposal for the entire neighborhood, which spans from about 39th to 57th streets between Third and Madison. After about nine months in the works, that plan is set to be finalized by the end of June, when it will then advance to the Department of City Planning for formal documentation before it winds its way through the approval process in One Vanderbilt's wake.

According to the Journal, which has a full status update on the rezoning proposal, the new plan (created with more public input than the last go-around) includes stipulations permitting buildings to be larger if "developers pay for and make transit improvements, letting landmark-building owners sell their unused air rights within the area, and preserving historically significant sites."

If this rezoning proposal is approved, that means future large buildings in the area could win approval without a special OK from the City Council:

The transit-enhancements recommendation would let developers of bigger projects close to public transportation proceed without City Council approval. Then, they could secure more development rights through bonuses for public plazas or air-rights transfers from designated landmark buildings. The plan may also ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hear and decide on any pending applications for landmarks in the area before the rezoning goes through. As for the air rights sales, Garodnick said that there would be a minimum price per square foot—no church will get stiffed here!—but that some of that payment would "go into an area-wide public-improvements fund."

The Midtown East rezoning zeitgest certainly seems more receptive this time around, but will that remain true as the plan advances through various city agencies and faces the scrutiny of preservationists?
· Rezoning of Midtown East Advances [WSJ]
· City Reacts to Midtown East Rezoning's Sudden Death [Curbed]
· All One Vanderbilt coverage [Curbed]
· Midtown East Rezoning archive [Curbed]

One Vanderbilt

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