Government briefs

Snapshots of government-related real estate news

Jun.June 01, 2015 07:00 AM

Gov-briefsTimes Square billboards appear safe

Reports of the demise of Times Square’s iconic billboards are greatly exaggerated. Capital New York raised the issue, citing a provision of the MAP-21 transportation spending law, passed in 2012, which added New York City thoroughfares like Broadway and Seventh Avenue to the National Highway System. That made New York eligible for more federal funding, but also brought those arteries under the purview of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which limits the size of adjacent billboards to 1,200 square feet, far smaller than many of those in Times Square. The Atlantic’s Citylab website, however, quashed those fears, with the news site reporting that federal and city officials called the provision an oversight, and said they’re working on a fix that will leave the billboards intact without requiring the city to pay a fine.

Grand Central area rezoning deal reached

The mayor and City Council reached a deal to rezone the “Vanderbilt corridor,” a five-block stretch of east Midtown around Grand Central Station, clearing the way for SL Green’s One Vanderbilt office tower. The agreement allows for much taller buildings in the area, in exchange for developer contributions to public improvement projects nearby, Crain’s reported. All building projects will still require special permits and be subject to full public review. SL Green Realty Corp. will be able to proceed with its 1,501-foot-tall tower, after agreeing to pay $220 million for improvements to the Grand Central Terminal subway stop including a three-story transit hall at the base of One Vanderbilt, better access to the 43rd Street transit hall and better connections to the Long Island Railroad and the Lexington Avenue subway lines. The deal represents a victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to rezone much of east Midtown.

City ups MTA contribution, MTA wants more

The city plans to increase funding for the MTA, but agency officials want even more than expected. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed 2016 budget includes raising the city’s contribution to the MTA budget, to $125 million per year from $100 million. The agency, which also receives federal and state money, requested that amount to help close a $14 billion hole in its budget. But, according to the New York Times, three days before the budget proposal was released, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast wrote the city a letter increasing the request to $300 million per year. The MTA is in the midst of a five-year, $32 billion system modernization project and received a smaller-than-hoped-for increase in state budget funding. The city budget must be passed in time for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

Waterfront Commission preserved

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have abolished the Waterfront Commission of New York, an interstate agency created by the U.S. Congress in 1953 to fight corruption at the port. The bill, backed by the International Longshoremen’s Association, unanimously passed both houses of the New Jersey Legislature. Supporters argued the agency overreached its authority by involving itself deeply in the shipping industry beyond the immediate area of the port, Capital New York reported. Christie, in a statement, expressed support for modernizing the commission, but said it wasn’t appropriate for one state to unilaterally close the Congressionally-mandated bi-state agency. Agency opponents said they’d continue their fight at the national level.  Compiled by Ariel Stulberg


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