Schumer backs Midtown East proposal, suggests tweaks to landmarks provisions

May 07, 2013 03:30PM

Senator Charles Schumer today expressed overall support for the city’s Midtown East rezoning proposal, but called on City Hall to issue bonds to pay for transit and infrastructure improvements and urged the city to give landmark institutions in the district more flexibility to sell their air rights.

The New York Democrat, in a letter to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel, acknowledged the obsolescence of Midtown office stock.

“Our office buildings are our factories, our economic engines, and they need to be state of the art,” he wrote in the letter, obtained by The Real Deal and first reported by the New York Post.

Schumer also asked the city to “reexamine” the plan for landmarked properties in the district, lending support to Midtown East religious institutions fighting to sell their air rights.

Schumer suggested that landmarked institutions be allowed to sell their air rights across a larger geographic area, akin to what was done in the Grand Central subdistrict. He singled out the example of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is surrounded by other landmarks or by buildings that have no need for additional air rights, as The Real Deal reported.

Schumer also wrote that developers should be able to use air rights purchased from landmarks in the district in the same manner that they would rights purchased from the city, with a special permit required only when building rise above current maximum limits.

These changes, he wrote, “would adequately support existing landmarks in the district, which, in turn, is a substantial public benefit.”

He praised the city’s move of tapping into the private sector for infrastructure improvements, but said that the current proposal of a District Improvement Fund would hamper timely growth. The city plans to sell air rights to developers who wish to build towers taller than currently permitted, and these developers would pay into the DIF, a city-administered fund for transit and infrastructure upgrades. Schumer suggested that issuing bonds against the fund would allow for immediate investment. [NYP]Hiten Samtani