Think Tall

NYC takes first step towards highly anticipated rezoning of Midtown East

City Terrain East News Urbanism
(Justin Brown / Flickr)
(Justin Brown / Flickr)

The Department of City Planning (DCP) published plans to allow taller skyscrapers in Midtown East, the first step in the rezoning process for the Manhattan neighborhood.

The Greater East Midtown Rezoning proposal seeks to raise the density ceiling for new construction by 30 percent for areas around Grand Central Terminal, bolstering the as-of-right density allowance for a 78-block area between 57th and 39th Streets and Madison and Third Avenues. A rezoning of the area was shot down in 2013 over concerns regarding the proposal’s timeline and lack of adequate transportation infrastructure to support an influx of new workers.

Midtown East Rezoning

The black lines indicate the proposed rezoning area, with the exception of the Vanderbilt Corridor, encircled in blue. (Courtesy DCP)

Under the new plan, greater density would be allowed near subway stations in the district’s northern end and along Park Avenue, with smaller density allowances for buildings farther from subways.

Crucially, owners of landmarked buildings would be permitted to sell air rights district-wide, not just to adjacent buildings.

Although Midtown East is still a premier business district, the DCP says one impetus for the rezoning is that older buildings that populate the district may not offer desirable Class A office space in the long-term (300 of the area’s 475 buildings are more than 50 years old). The Second Avenue Subway, which, if it’s ever finished, will run on Midtown’s eastern edge, may fail to deliver its ROI for the area if more density is not added quickly, DCP claims. The city projects that the rezoning could result in the construction of 16 new towers in the coming years, which would add 6.6 million square feet of office space. Right now, the district contains 70 million square feet of office space, Crain’s reports.

A public meeting to review the documents is scheduled for September 22.

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