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Preservation Groups Concerned With Plan To Rezone Part Of Midtown

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A plan to rezone part of Midtown Manhattan has some preservation groups concerned about the changes to neighborhood's character. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

Last summer, NY1 told viewers about a Department of City Planning proposal to rezone parts of Midtown East. The plan is designed to redevelop certain sites with older buildings. While many agree the area needs some modernization, the plan has many preservationist groups concerned that the neighborhoods architectural history will be lost.

"There needs to be new construction in Midtown. There is no question that that is important," says Ronda Wist of the Municipal Arts Society. "But equally important, and at the same time, there needs to be recognition that historic buildings are important and must be preserved."

Groups like the Municipal Arts Society and the Historic Districts Council have identified dozens of buildings they would like the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect if the zoning moves forward.

"What’s so terrific about Midtown now is that there are new buildings and old buildings," Wist says. "There are large glass and steel buildings, smaller masonry buildings, lots of different office types, lots of different hotels, and we’d like to see that vibrant mix preserved."

But other groups, like the Real Estate Board of New York, disagree, saying most of the buildings on the list are not deserving of landmark status. They say that granting them this distinction only devalues what it means to be a landmark.

"Many of them are copies of more elegant buildings. Many of them really don’t rise to the level of buildings that have been designated," said Michael Slattery, senior vice president of the Real Estate Board of New York. "And we are really preserving what is not the best of the city's architectural history."

Slattery says that preserving those buildings on key sites will negate the purpose of the zoning and thwart much-needed development.

The Landmarks Preservation works independently from the Department of City Planning, but many hope they’ll work together to plan for the future while preserving the past.

Some other issues being raised with the rezoning plan include altering boundaries and offering more flexible rules when it comes to air rights transfers.

The Department of City Planning is expected to certify the zoning proposal by March. At that point, it will be clear if any changes were made. It will also officially kick off the public review process, which means New Yorkers will have their chance to weigh in.

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