Midtown East rezoning put on hold by Council

Plans to rezone East Midtown have been put on hold.
Plans to rezone East Midtown have been put on hold. Photo Credit: Handout Handout/ Joaquin Simo

Plans to rezone East Midtown have been put on hold after negotiations to bring the project, which the mayor has been passionate about, to a vote failed Tuesday.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced that the council needed more time to look into the details of the proposal that would have given landlords who own properties in 73-block area surrounding Grand Central Terminal the right to raise their building heights and purchase air rights from the city.

Several residents and elected officials, including Councilman Councilman Daniel Gardonick, who represents the neighborhood, expressed concern that the rezoning would hurt smaller building owners and the city’s asking price for air space was too small.

"We want to see development in the area that is both responsible and encourages growth that keeps us competitive with other cities. But, with so many outstanding issues, there is no good reason to rush the proposal through," Quinn and Gardonick said in a joint statement.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who actively has been pushing for the rezoning, said he was disappointed with the Council’s last minute change of heart and warned of the long term problems it will cause.

The money collected for the airspace would have been used for pedestrian and transit access near Grand Central.

"This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue – as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created," he said in a statement.

Bloomberg added that the City Planning Commission, which approved the rezoning in September, spent years discussing the plan with residents and property owners and worked out the necessary details for a mutual agreement. The process will now have to start from the beginning in 2014 if it becomes a reality.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio said he was glad that the Council would vote no on the plan.

"We need to address the many unanswered questions about this plan, including how to build the infrastructure needed to accommodate the additional density created by the rezoning, and how to ensure that new development rights are appropriately priced to create the best possible value for the city," he said in a statement.