The Real Deal New York

Manhattan Borough Board approves Midtown East rezoning

Community boards still concerned about public spaces
By Kathryn Brenzel | March 16, 2017 12:00PM

Gail Brewer and Midtown East

The Manhattan Borough Board on Thursday unanimously approved plans to rezone Midtown East, ushering the proposal forward even as community members voice concern over lack of pubic space and the district’s boundaries.

The vote is one stop on the winding road that is Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). The next stops are the City Planning Commission and then the City Council. Community boards 5 and 6 recently voted against the proposal, which seeks to rezone 78 blocks in Midtown East to make way for 6.5 million square feet of new office space. The boards voiced concern over the lack of public space in the plan, and urged the district’s Third Avenue boundary to be moved further from residential sections of the neighborhood.

Two board members — representatives for community boards 5 and 6 — abstained from Thursday’s vote, citing their boards’ disapproval.

“It may look like we are softening our position. We are not,” said Richard Eggers, chair of Community Board 6. “We’ve made significant progress today, but as of today, I’m conflicted.”

Vikki Barbero, chair of Community Board 5, said she was “hell bent” on voting no, but decided to abstain in order to recognize the work of her board colleagues to address some of the board members’ concerns. Council member Dan Garodnick noted that ULURP is still ongoing, and that voting yes wasn’t a “blessing of all elements of the rezoning plan.”

The borough board held a hearing on the proposal on March 2. At the time, the Real Estate Board of New York, which largely supports the rezoning proposal, argued that construction costs in the district total a staggering $2,340 per square foot. These costs could be offset, according to REBNY, by permitting larger as-of-right development on mid-block Sites And Along Third Avenue and nixing the floor price on air rights sales in the district.