Midtown East rezoning leaves $363M on the table: transit advocacy groups

Midtown East
Midtown East

New York City plans to charge developers at least $250 per square foot for the right to build extra tall buildings in a rezoned Midtown East. That price for air rights, transit advocates say, is way too low.

“We are concerned that the City is dramatically under pricing the value of the development rights undercutting the City’s stated goal of improving transit and open space in East Midtown,” said a letter that a trio of advocacy groups plan to send to City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.

The signatories were Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool, Taskforce on Midtown East Chair Lola Finkelstein and NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff.

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At issue is the city’s reliance on an appraisal of air rights that dates back more than a decade and holds that all air rights in the 73-block swath should be priced the same. However, they argue, the Grand Central office market should be broker down into several submarkets.

“[T]he City could potentially lose out on $363 million dollars of funding,” the letter said. “To put that in perspective, the pedestrianization of Times Square is expected to cost the City approximately $50 million dollars. The cost difference could be enough to dramatically improve the open spaces, streets, and sidewalks of East Midtown and additionally support the critical transit upgrades we all recognize are desperately needed.”

A Bloomberg administration spokeswoman, however, defended the methodology in a statement: “The appraisal was done by an independent firm with excellent credentials,” she said. “We’re confident in their numbers.” [Capital NY]Julie Strickland