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At long last, Midtown East rezoning proposal moves forward

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The proposal faces new scrutiny under the city’s land-use review procedure

The long-in-the-works plan to rezone Midtown East will push forward this week, as the proposal enters the city’s uniform land-use review procedure. The proposed rezoning’s aim is to keep the dense and largely office-oriented stretch of Manhattan competitive as a business hub as large, media-forward companies flock to neighborhoods like Hudson Yards and the Financial District where a new and updated stock of office buildings abound.

“It’s critical for East Midtown’s viability,” Jonathan Mechanic, real estate chairman of law firm Frank, Fried told the Post. “It will no longer deteriorate, but will again become the central business district that New York City needs.” Maybe that’s overstating things, but a rezoning would certainly help to keep the area in play.

As it stands now, the 78-block area targeted by the proposed rezoning is governed by 1961 zoning rules that place overly stringent codes on the area prohibiting the transfer of landmarks air rights to buildings other than those directly adjacent to them, among other provisions.

A draft environmental impact statement that appeared online earlier this week clarified a few of the rezoning’s key tenets. The area’s floor-to-area ratio (FAR) will be increased from about 12 to 15, to up to 18. Developers close to public transit, where the rezoning will seek to concentrate density, will be able to pay for additional FAR if they agree to pay for and construct new upgrades to transit that will be specified by the MTA.

In exchange for landmarks like Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral being able to sell their air rights under the new zoning proposal, the sellers must commit 20 percent of the sale price to a fund that will go towards sidewalk-level improvements and be run by appointees of the mayor.

The seven-month uniform land-use review procedure (ULURP) process will include an environmental impact survey, as well as the eventual votes of the City Council and Mayor de Blasio. An earlier Bloomberg-era plan to rezone Midtown East collapsed, and was later revived and reshaped into the current proposal with the help of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council member Dan Garodnick.