City Planning OKs Midtown East rezoning

Proposal now heads to City Council

Marisa Lago and Midtown East (Credit: Getty Images)
Marisa Lago and Midtown East (Credit: Getty Images)

The City Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the rezoning of Midtown East, a proposal that is expected to create 6.5 million square feet of new office space over the next two decades.

The proposal seeks to rezone 78 blocks in the neighborhood in order to modernize the area’s aging building stock. Commission chair Marisa Lago briefly spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, noting that it was a “momentous occasion” that many of the commissioners had awaited longer than she had, since she only joined the agency earlier this year. She called the proposal “consensus-driven and solution driven” and praised former chair Carl Weisbrod,  Council member Dan Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen for their work on the rezoning plan.

All members of the commission voted swiftly in favor of the rezoning, except Commissioner Alfred Cerullo, who was recused.

“I’m just glad you got through this without me,” Cerullo joked before the vote.

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As part of the city’s land-use review process, the City Council will consider the proposal next. Garodnick, whose opposition to the 2013 proposal to rezone the district effectively killed it, has been one of the leading proponents of the revised plans.

Under the rezoning, property owners have a few different options for building out their office spaces, one of which is purchasing from a pool of 3.5 million square feet of landmarked air rights. The Real Estate Board of New York and some public officials have opposed the $393 per-square-foot floor price set for the air rights, arguing that the high cost may discourage some deals from happening. In a statement on Wednesday, the Archdiocese of New York, which owns a significant chunk of the air rights, noted that it will continue to fight to scrap the “artificial floor price.” REBNY President John Banks said that the organization looks forward to working with the City Council to “further improve the rezoning plan.”

Garodnick proposed a bill on Tuesday that would require the city to audit any air rights sale in the district. It’s not yet clear if the measure will pave the way for eliminating the floor price.