In a stunning move, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pulled the plug on his crucial rezoning plan for east midtown, a 73-block area around Grand Central Terminal. The blueprint was expected to result in about 12 new skyscrapers -- some of them replacing older buildings -- and to boost the area's workforce by 7 percent.
Unfortunately, the mayor was forced to punt by a City Council that seems remarkably eager to bid him farewell.
So what happens next?
Predictions fall into two mutually exclusive categories:
Scenario No. 1: With the election of Bill de Blasio -- whose base is more progressive than business-oriented -- the city has missed out on a timely chance to compete with the likes of London and Tokyo in the commercial real estate market. The average age of office buildings in east midtown is 70, and big multinational players want modern space with state-of-the-art wiring and open floor plans. In a city where major construction can take eons to plan and complete, east midtown is now destined for a long twilight slide into grungy blocks of back offices.
Scenario No. 2: Who says de Blasio won't act in the city's best overall interests? Who says the new council will be clueless? There's still enough time to overhaul the Bloomberg proposal and create a plan that increases office density in east midtown and keeps the area competitive while generating enough public money to pay for major transit upgrades and the creation of more open space.
We'll go with the second scenario.
All the city needs to make it happen is a wily deal that satisfies all players -- from real estate developers, to union leaders, to transit planners, to local politicians, to a motley crowd of neighborhood activists and preservationists.
Impossible? Well, six months ago, who thought de Blasio would be our next mayor? With equal measures of luck and ability, anything can happen. Meanwhile, a deal that keeps east midtown competitive is imperative. Growth is never tidy in a city like New York. The pieces never come together seamlessly. But come Jan. 1, it will fall to Mayor de Blasio to make that scenario happen as best he can.