On May 13th, New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, City Planning (DCP) Commissioner Amanda Burden and Council Member Daniel Garodnick announced a community planning process for East Midtown streetscape improvements. View the press release.
On April 22nd, the Department officially certified the Uniform Land Use Review (ULURP) application (C 130248 ZMM and referred the related non-ULURP text amendment (N 130247 ZRM) to begin the formal public review process.
View the presentation and the proposed text amendment.
Skyline of East Midtown
The Department of City Planning is proposing a rezoning of East Midtown, a 73-block area surrounding Grand Central Terminal. The purpose of the rezoning is to ensure the area’s future as a world-class business district and major job generator for New York City. The plan provides zoning incentives to promote the development of a handful of new, state-of-the-art commercial buildings over coming decades so that East Midtown’s office stock remains attractive to a broad range of businesses, including major corporate tenants. Development under the rezoning is expected to expand the City’s tax base, add thousands of permanent jobs in East Midtown and fund improvements to the subway and pedestrian network in the area. The East Midtown plan is also the first initiative to require a higher standard for energy efficiency, ensuring that new office towers in East Midtown utilizing the zoning incentives will be at the leading edge of energy efficiency.
There has been little Class A office stock constructed in the past two decades in East Midtown, threatening the district’s long-term preeminence. The East Midtown plan encourages development of a select number of new commercial buildings to ensure that the area continues to serve a diverse range of businesses. In recognition that the future of Midtown also depends on the quality of its public realm, the rezoning will require that in exchange for additional density, developers contribute to a District Improvement Fund that will fund significant improvements to the area’s transit and pedestrian network. These public realm improvements will make East Midtown greener, enhance the pedestrian experience and improve the subway transportation network in and around Grand Central Terminal. Over time, based on projected development, this dedicated fund would provide more than a half billion dollars for improvements and amenities.
The rezoning covers the area generally bounded by East 39th Street to the south, East 57th Street to the north, Second and Third Avenues to the east and a line 150 feet east of Fifth Avenue to the west. The area includes Grand Central Terminal at its core with Park Avenue as its central spine, and is served by the Lexington Avenue subway and cross-town subway lines on 42nd and 53rd Streets.
Although East Midtown historically has been one of the most sought after office markets in the New York region, the average age of its office buildings is more than 70 years old. Much of East Midtown’s office building stock has low floor-to-ceiling heights and numerous interior columns that fail to meet the needs of corporate tenants. Without new office buildings that meet modern standards, the area’s competitiveness as a premier business district will be compromised.
Current zoning has proven to be an impediment to reinvestment in East Midtown. In the past decade, only two office buildings, both of which are mid-sized, have been developed under existing zoning. In addition, many buildings that predate the existing zoning are built with more floor area than currently allowed, creating a deterrent for redevelopment of these older office buildings. As these older buildings become less desirable for office tenants, they become more economically attractive for conversion from office to residential or hotel use, which erodes the commercial core.
In addition, there are a series of pedestrian network challenges in the area, including narrow sidewalks and a lack of open space. Absent intervention, East Midtown would become less desirable as a business district, and the huge public investment in its transit and regional transportation infrastructure, including East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway, would fail to realize its full potential to generate jobs and tax revenues for the City.
The plan establishes a new East Midtown Subdistrict as part of the Midtown Special District and replaces special permit requirements with an “earned as-of-right” zoning framework that provides both for a more efficient and predictable process for commercial development as well as an incentive for public realm improvements.
This proposal is a targeted plan. Development at increased FARs would only be permitted on “Qualifying Sites” of a minimum size. Within the Subdistrict, these Qualifying Sites are defined as sites with the full frontage along most avenue blockfronts or 200 feet of frontage along 42nd Street, as well as a minimum site size of 25,000 square feet. New commercial buildings on Qualifying Sites could exceed the base 15 FAR in exchange for contributions of $250 per square foot to a proposed District Improvement Fund.
The fund would be dedicated to critical transit and pedestrian improvements throughout the area such as additional, relocated or reconstructed stair, ramp and escalator connections within the Grand Central subway station as well as a full range of at-grade public realm improvements which would be prioritized with input from area stakeholders.
The proposed rezoning would also streamline the process for landmark transfers in the area surrounding Grand Central Terminal, known as the Grand Central Subarea. In this area, only after contributing into the District Improvement Fund for 3 FAR, developers of Qualifying Sites could purchase additional floor area from Grand Central subarea landmark buildings through an expedited process without special permit review.
The proposed East Midtown rezoning is expected to spur new development that would replace approximately 10 million square feet of aging commercial space, and add approximately 4.5 million square feet of commercial space. This new modern office space will ensure the area’s continuing role as a premier business district and economic engine. Given that the plan will primarily replace outdated buildings, the City estimates the area’s overall building stock of nearly 90 million square feet would only increase by approximately five percent over the next 20 years.
The rezoning initiative is the result of two years of detailed analysis by City Planning, as well as extensive and active consultation with stakeholders. Manhattan Community Boards 5 and 6 now have 60 days to review the proposal, after which it will go to the Borough President and Borough Board, the City Planning Commission and the City Council as part of the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
Overview | Background & Existing Conditions | Proposal | EIS | Public Review