The Real Deal New York

Land Use OKs Midtown East rezoning

Vote now heads to the full council
By Kathryn Brenzel | July 27, 2017 03:40PM

Midtown East (Credit: Getty Images)

The City Council’s Land Use committee on Thursday unanimously approved the revised proposal to rezone Midtown East, complete with changes to air rights pricing and requirements for new public spaces.

The vote brings the rezoning proposal inches from the finish line after several months of crawling through the land use review process. The full council — which typically abides by the subcommittee’s vote — is expected to vote Aug. 9.

Changes to the proposal — which were approved by the subcommittee on zoning and franchises earlier in the day — include decreasing the public’s cut of air rights sales. For development rights transferred from landmarked buildings in the district, $61.49 per square foot or 20 percent of the sale — whichever is greater — must be set aside for the public realm improvement fund. That puts the price of these deals at roughly a minimum of $307.45 per square foot, down from the initially proposed $393 per square foot.

Council member Dan Garodnick said the higher floor price threatened to “chill transactions,” but that setting a minimum was an “appropriate back stop” to ensure the public gets a set amount per transaction.

The Real Estate Board of New York and the Archdiocese of New York — a large landowner in the district — were unhappy with the change, saying that the cut didn’t go deep enough. REBNY had previously pushed for a floor price of $179 per square foot.

“This is what we call a fair compromise,” Council member David Greenfield said Thursday afternoon. “When everyone around the table is not happy, it means we probably got it right.”

Other changes to the original proposal included excluding five blocks along Third Avenue — 46th through 51st streets — from the rezoning. Residents of Turtle Bay had pushed for the east side of the avenue to be excluded from the rezoning since much of the area is residential. While they can’t build larger than what exists on their sites, owners of buildings along this stretch of This Avenue can rebuild their properties to their existing size.

The rezoning is expected to create 6.5 million square feet of new office space in the district over the next two decades. Developers can take advantage of the rezoning — which ups the allowed floor area ratio (FAR) in the district — by either buying from a pool of 3.6 million square feet of landmarked air rights or making specific transit infrastructure improvements.

The Bloomberg administration shot down an earlier attempt to rezone Midtown East in November 2013 after it became clear that the administration didn’t have the support of the City Council. At the time, Garodnick had a major hand in stopping the proposal dead in its tracks.

“It delivered a lot of certainty to the real estate community, but not a lot of certainty to the public,” Garodnick said.

The current proposal, he said, corrects a major flaw of its predecessor by ensuring that specific infrastructure projects are completed in exchange for perks delivered to developers.