City unveils details of Midtown East rezoning

Air rights will sell for $250/SF; 32 buildings identified as potential landmarks
March 01, 2013 08:30AM

The city is moving forward with its proposal to rezone Midtown East, and will kickstart the official six-month public review process in early April, Crain’s reported. At a presentation Thursday to a community board task force examining the rezoning proposal, the Department of City Planning revealed that the city would sell air rights for $250 per square foot within the rezoned area, and identified 32 buildings — including the Yale Club, the Roosevelt Hotel and the MetLife tower — as “potential” landmarks that would be protected from the upzoning.

“In terms of timing, it’s important we get this going this year so we can get this development going this decade,” Edith Hsu-Chen, director of the planning department’s Manhattan office, said after the presentation. “This is the window for this plan to work.”

The proceeds from the air rights would go into a public works-funding mechanism known as the District Improvement Bonus, or DIB. Any project that paid into the DIB, the city stressed, could only contain commercial development, since the goal of the rezoning is to revitalize the business district.

But there are concerns that the rate the city has set on air rights would leave property owners looking to sell their air rights high and dry.

“I want certainty we get the best value for the money and I’m not convinced we get that here,” Raju Mann, the transportation chair of Community Board 5 and a former city planner, told Crain’s.

The city will hold another presentation to clarify details of the rezoning plan in March. But for the most part, the rezoning structure is in place, Frank Ruchala, the city planner overseeing the Midtown East rezoning, told Crain’s. “In large part, what we’ve shown is where we think we’ll be going with this,” Ruchala said. [Crain’s]  —Hiten Samtani