The City Council formally accepted Mayor Bloomberg's withdrawal of a rezoning plan that would have reshaped the skyline in a major portion of midtown. It's a major setback for Mayor Bloomberg, who had hoped to have it approved before he leaves office, but it's also emblematic of a new direction expected to be taken at City Hall. Zack Fink filed the following report.
After the Bloomberg Administration withdrew plans to rezone the eastern part of Midtown Manhattan near Grand Central Terminal, the City Council’s Land Use Committee voted on Wednesday to accept that withdrawal, effectively killing the project.
At least for now.
The project has been in the works for two years. Office buildings near Grand Central Terminal would have been able to renovate and expand, updating the aging stock.
"If we want to remain competitive, we need to make sure that especially in areas around significant transit infrastructure that we have the kind of office space that modern companies are looking for,” said former president of the New York Economic Development Corporation Seth Pinsky.
On Tuesday night, the Bloomberg Administration withdrew plans to rezone the 70-block area after learning there was not enough support in the City Council. The Council’s Land Use committee accepted that withdrawal Wednesday. That means the project has been killed until the next administration takes office.
"We have been encouraged by the fact that Mayor-elect De Blasio has said that he is going to put a plan together next year. We will work with him actively to make sure there is engagement in the community,” said Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick.
People familiar with city government see a change in how things are going to proceed from now on. With a strong mandate for Democrat Bill de Blasio, and an ascendant progressive caucus in the city council, some believe many initiatives will be revisited.
"The work we do to create new neighborhoods and strengthen the ones that we have include people who have often not been included in the plans that we have seen in the last four years,” said Councilman Brad Lander.
The Midtown East project drew some red flags when people involved in the process felt the city was selling the air rights for too low a price. Labor unions expressed concerns about no special hotel permit agreements, which are often negotiated to make new hotels union friendly.
"It's an important initiative, but one with too many outstanding issues,” Garodnick said.
In a statement, Mayor Bloomberg said, "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."
Even opponents of the rezoning plan said they would like to see it revisited and passed in some form. The last time this area of Midtown was rezoned was 1982, and the zoning laws are likely in need of an upgrade.