Decision to strengthen NYC’s largest business district with more modern office buildings, 28,000 new jobs, protected landmarks, subway upgrades and more pedestrian space
Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Daniel Garodnick today marked the City Council’s unanimous approval of the Greater East Midtown rezoning. Years in the making, the plan will foster the new, modern office buildings needed to spur jobs and keep New York a global capital of commerce. The plan ties that growth directly to improvements in the district’s public transit and public space, so as new buildings rise, New Yorkers will see major investments in subway stations, less congested sidewalks and expansive plazas for office workers and visitors.
East Midtown is the city’s largest business district, generating 250,000 jobs and 10 percent of the city’s property tax revenue. But its office buildings average 75 years-old and have become increasingly out-of-date and inefficient for today’s companies. The district’s historic growth was driven by access to public transit, but today its subways and streets are at capacity.
To overcome these challenges and revitalize the district, Councilmember Dan Garodnick and Borough President Gale Brewer led a host of community stakeholders in an extensive planning process that was advanced by the de Blasio administration and then the City Council. The approved rezoning covers 78 blocks between the east side of Third Avenue and the west side of Madison Avenue, from East 39th Street to East 57th Street.
“East Midtown’s growth is now directly linked to real-time improvements in its public transit and public realm. In the years ahead, this neighborhood will see major upgrades to subway stations, more expansive space for pedestrians, investments in its iconic landmarks, and a new generation of office buildings that will spur good jobs for New Yorkers. I thank the City Council, and congratulate City Planning Chair Lago, Council Member Garodnick and Borough President Brewer on this achievement," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"With this vote, we are breathing new life into New York's most important business district," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "Not only will we see sensible growth, but the public will benefit from extraordinary new investments in above-ground public spaces and in below-ground subway infrastructure. Better transit, new jobs, top-of-the-line office space: East Midtown is back, full of optimism, and open for business."
“The Greater East Midtown rezoning plan is a victory for everyone who lives, works, walks, or rides a subway through the East Side, and it also proves that stakeholder-driven planning works,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “Putting all the stakeholders around a table before the plan was certified meant we could forge consensus on a sound blueprint for East Midtown’s future. This plan, based on that blueprint, will spur new, state-of-the-art office construction, attract jobs, and deliver major investments in transit and street-level infrastructure, open space, and local landmarks.”
“It doesn’t get any bigger than East Midtown. This is where New York City competes for a huge number of jobs and an enormous slice of our tax base. We made this a priority from Day One, and today’s vote is a signal that New York City is serious about investing in its economic future,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen.
"The adoption today of this plan marks a significant achievement in our quest to assure that Greater East Midtown remains the globe's premier business district - one that works for the employees, residents and tourists who fill its streets every day. Incentivizing as-of-right redevelopment of aging buildings, facilitating the upkeep of beloved landmarks, and providing a private-sector funding stream for transit and streetscape improvements - that's a winning combination. Today's success has its roots in the excellent work of the many individuals who participated in a steering committee led by Borough President Brewer and Council Member Garodnick," said City Planning Commission Chair Marisa Lago.
“This vote represents a turning point in future of East Midtown and will produce new state of the art office buildings, improved transit connectivity, additional resources for some of New York's most treasured landmarks, and significant new public space,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I congratulate Council Member Garodnick on his years of hard work to build consensus within the community and for his work with the administration to craft a zoning proposal and negotiate modifications that secure capital funding to kick-start public space improvements”
New and Upgraded Office Buildings
The zoning changes will enable the development of new Class-A commercial buildings, cementing East Midtown’s position as a world class business district that offers modern amenities and a range of office types. Buildings would be able to achieve higher density provided the developments support enhancements to the area’s public realm by providing transit improvements and/or purchasing unused floor area from the district’s landmarks.
The zoning framework will generate 6.8 million square feet in new commercial office space over the next 20 years, along with an additional 6.6 million square feet of older office space that will be upgraded into Class A office space. The resulting development is expected to create up to 28,000 new, permanent jobs and 23,000 construction jobs in the next two decades.
In “Transit Improvement Zones” near transit hubs, new buildings are allowed to exceed current Floor Area Ratio (FAR) provided they undertake important improvements to subway stations like new and expanded entrances, escalators, elevators and stairwells, as well as full station rehabilitations. New buildings cannot be granted certificates of occupancy for their increased space until those improvements are completed.
The specific stations and improvements were selected in close consultation with the MTA and encompass:
· Lexington Avenue / 53rd – 51st Street (E,M,6)
· Lexington Avenue - 59th Street (N,Q,R,4,5,6)
· Fifth Avenue / 53rd Street (E,M)
· 47th / 50th Streets – Rockefeller Ctr (B,D,F,M)
· 42 St - Bryant Park / 5th Avenue (B,D,F,M,7)
· Grand Central / 42nd Street (4,5,6,7,S)
Strengthening Historic Landmarks
The plan permits property owners to purchase unused development rights from landmarks throughout the district on an as-of-right basis, a departure from current regulations. Those landmarks include a dozen buildings designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year in advance of the rezoning which include some of the most historic and beloved icons in Midtown. This greater flexibility would increase the market for area landmarked buildings to sell their unused development rights, and thereby raise funds for their continued maintenance.
Improving and Expanding Public Space
New public realm projects across East Midtown will be funded by a minimum contribution of $61.49 per square foot or 20 percent of air rights’ sale price, ensuring that as development rights are sold to spur new development, the public reaps a steady funding stream to make commensurate improvements including shared streets, pedestrian plazas, thoroughfare uprgrades.
The City will commit $38 million in capital funds for eligible public realm projects selected by the East Midtown Governing Group. Up to 12 million additional dollars will be committed to public benefits that include:
· Shared Street on 43rd Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue
· Pershing East Plaza
· 53rd Street Thoroughfare Improvements
· Park Avenue Turn Lane Improvements
· Lexington Avenue Improvements
“In a City growing with historic levels of population, jobs and tourism, the rezoning of East Midtown offers a welcome antidote in the most crowded of Manhattan neighborhoods,” saidDOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “For transportation, the rezoning intelligently prioritizes the most efficient uses – by building much-needed new subway entrances and improvements, while further expanding pedestrian plazas and shared streets. With the detailed plan passed by the Council today, congratulations are in order to Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Garodnick and the entire Council for their productive partnership in getting it done.”
“NYC Parks is greatly supportive of this plan, which involved extensive community engagement and will ensure East Midtown remains a competitive business district while improving the neighborhood at large. Tying public realm improvements to development ensures that all New Yorkers will benefit from this plan,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.
“Today’s Council approval is a successful conclusion to a robust process that integrated planning and landmark preservation to ensure that Greater East Midtown remains at the forefront of the global economy. The City’s comprehensive approach resulted in the designation of 12 outstanding historic buildings — bringing the number of protected individual landmarks in East Midtown to 50. Many thanks to the Greater East Midtown Steering Committee, led by Borough President Brewer and Council Member Garodnick, for their support of the Commission’s work in this neighborhood. The approval of this plan, along with the Commission’s landmark designations, fosters East Midtown’s growth and protects and preserves the heart of a district exemplified by its proud historic buildings,” said Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan.