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City Planning Approves East Midtown Rezoning

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A rezoning plan that would dramatically transform East Midtown Manhattan took another big step forward Monday even though significant opposition to the plan still persists. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

The plan would create millions of square feet of new office space in selected sites within a 73 square block section of Midtown East: Roughly from 39th to 57th streets and Fifth to Third avenues. On Monday, the City Planning Commission gave its overwhelming approval.

"If we are to continue to have a world class district with top tier, state-of-the-art office space we need to change the zoning, but carefully," said New York City Department of Planning Director Amanda Burden.

A number of Manhattan Community Boards and elected officials still worry the plan for bigger office towers around Grand Central Terminal will bring an influx of people that will overwhelm the area. Many think the Bloomberg administration is moving too fast and that Monday's 11-0 vote was a mistake.

"Two of the commissioners in their statements recognized the inadequacy of the plan as it is today, and yet one abstained and one voted yes," said Multi Board Task Force Chair Lola Finkelstein.

Burden says they've listened to the community's concerns and changed their plan accordingly, with the mayor's office guaranteeing money upfront for infrastructure improvements and adding a provision regulating the start of construction among other things.

"The new development will be coupled with subway improvements and improvements to sidewalks and open space," Burden said.

But opponents say the plan shortchanges those improvements by valuing air rights that would help fund them for hundreds of millions of dollars less than they're worth. The City Council now has 50 days to approve, deny or modify the plan.

"We still don't know the precise way that infrastructure investments will be funded up front, we have questions about the level of density, the way that the pricing of the air rights is set up," said City Councilman Daniel Garodnick.

According to the councilman, a vote on the plan is expected sometime in November.

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