Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Garodnick Announce Adoption of Greater East Midtown Rezoning

August 9, 2017

NEW YORK—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 But its office buildings average 75 years-old and have become increasingly out-of-date and inefficient for today’s companies.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.

Improved Subways

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,” said DOT 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.

“Providing accessibility to these subway stations will allow people with disabilities access to new job opportunities creating a more inclusive and accessible city,” said Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Commissioner Victor Calise.

"This rezoning ensures that East Midtown, with its legendary buildings and firms, will remain the place where the world comes together to do business for generations to come. The vision and leadership of Council Member Dan Garodnick and Borough President Gale Brewer drove a nuanced, participatory planning process with few parallels in our city's history. I thank and congratulate them both deeply as well as my colleagues and friends in the Council and the de Blasio administration for such a praiseworthy outcome,” said Council Member David Greenfield, chair of the Land Use Committee.

"This rezoning will finally tap into the true potential of East Midtown and deliver transit improvements, office space, open space and preserve historic landmarks," said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises. "This has been a long time coming, but residents and business owners will feel the benefits of this plan for decades to come. I'd like to congratulate Council Member Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for showing true leadership in negotiating a big victory for their residents and business owners."

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said, “The rezoning approved by the New York City Council will transform east midtown, easing the way for state-of-the-art buildings in the city’s central business district, while generating funds for critical amenities. The end result will be a vibrant business district with buildings designed for the 21st Century, new jobs, investments in transportation and much-needed parks and open space.”

State Senator Liz Krueger said, "I am very pleased that a deal has been reached to move forward on the East Midtown rezoning after a long, comprehensive, and inclusive process. I applaud Mayor de Blasio for working diligently with Borough President Brewer, Council Member Garodnick, and an array of stakeholders to ensure that this extremely complex rezoning balances the needs of those who already live and work in East Midtown, vital infrastructure and open space improvements, and our historic structures, while encouraging the planned development of 21st Century commercial buildings."

State Senator Brad Hoylman said, "I’m grateful to the Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick and the City Administration for their efforts on the East Midtown Rezoning. Through years of work and community engagement, they’ve ensured that the rezoning of East Midtown not only updates the building stock in one of the world’s most important business districts, but also contributes to improvements that will benefit the public for years to come, including open space, pedestrian walkways, improved subway stations and historic preservation."

"These rezoning changes are pivotal to the future success of East Midtown," said Assemblymember Dan Quart. "This plan is a culmination of years of community input, inclusive planning, and careful consideration of diverse suggestions. I look forward to the coming transformation that will encourage economic development and spur public infrastructure projects. This is a major victory for our city and I applaud Council Member Garodnick for his leadership."

“The rezoning of Greater East Midtown provides the blueprint to transform and modernize commercial office space and spur new development in New York City’s premiere business district. It also creates the mechanism for much needed improvements to the unmatched mass transit system serving our area while also giving us the opportunity to work on enhancing the public realm with the involvement of our stakeholders, which is critical for success,” said Alfred C. Cerullo, III, President and CEO of the Grand Central Partnership.

“This rezoning initiative ensures that East Midtown will remain a competitive and viable center of international business activity. We thank Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Glen, Borough President Brewer, Council Member Garodnick, and all those who spearheaded this effort and worked to keep most of the vital Third Avenue corridor in the new subdistrict, while making certain that new development will bring with it new public space, which is sorely needed in this community,” said Rob Byrnes, President of the East Midtown Partnership.

“The City Council’s approval of the Greater East Midtown rezoning is an important milestone in an on-going effort to ensure the area remains one of the world’s leading office districts. We want to thank Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, City Planning Chair Marisa Lago, all the Community Board Members and the many other stakeholders who worked tirelessly and understood that encouraging development in East Midtown generates the tax revenue that pays for vital city services that benefit all New Yorkers,” said John Banks, President of the Real Estate Board of New York.

“The Greater East Midtown Rezoning will help to revitalize one of New York City’s most important neighborhoods, create new jobs for the community, and assist landmarked houses of worship to generate funds through the sale of air rights to maintain and preserve sacred structures, such as Central Synagogue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, both of whom supported this rezoning, for generations to come,” said Reverend Monsignor Robert T. Ritchie, Rector, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

"Today's passage of the East Midtown rezoning is the next critical step to ensure that New York City remains competitive in the global marketplace," said Bill Rudin, Chairman of the Association for a Better New York. "We applaud Mayor de Blasio and his administration, the City Council led by Speaker Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Garodnick and as well as Borough President Brewer and all the stakeholders.  Their vision and perseverance led to the passage of a rezoning plan that will help further the revitalization and modernization of East Midtown, improve and expand our infrastructure and open space, and protect the landmarks that have made this area great."

“Making East Midtown's subway stations more accessible with escalators and elevators and ensuring adequate pedestrian and park space in this busy area are positive steps toward creating a livable New York City for people of all ages. AARP commends Council Member Garodnick, Borough President Brewer and Mayor de Blasio for pushing real, every-day improvements in East Midtown – which could serve as a model for making the entire city more age-friendly,” said Chris Widelo, Associate State Director for AARP.

Fred Kent, President of Project for Public Spaces said, "Quality of Place is a key factor in where businesses locate. Adding density can help do that. This zoning opens the door, but it requires a sustained commitment from both the public and private sectors. Our global work on Placemaking and Innovation could be a foundation for that to happen, and we look forward to following and participating in the work of the East Midtown governing group."

“We’re encouraged by the City’s well-measured response to East Midtown’s dire need for upgrading obsolete office buildings, and protecting landmarks. The Design Trust for Public Space looks forward to the upcoming concept plan from the Public Realm Governing Group.  A well-functioning commercial district in a vibrant world capital requires a quality open space network. The Plan must include a comprehensive streetscape and open space strategy that provides new plazas and POPs, and ensures adequate sunlight on existing public spaces.  It also must include substantially expanding our pedestrian and subway capacity for these new workers and visitors which is key to long term success of this district,” said Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space.

"We applaud the approval of this rezoning for East Midtown, which has long been an important economic driver for New York City," said Hector Figueroa, president of SEIU 32BJ, which represents over 800 commercial cleaners and security officers in the area included in the rezoning plan. “This plan will help ensure that East Midtown remains an influential economic center with good, family sustaining building service jobs for generations to come.”

"The members of the New York Hotel Trades Council would like to thank Mayor de Blasio, Speaker Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Garodnick, and Borough President Brewer for listening to our input throughout this critical rezoning process.  Revitalizing Midtown East will allow our city to maintain its status as the world leader in providing the premium office space and public transit options that attract and retain the modern workforce.  And this plan will ensure that new development in the district will be thoughtful and responsible," said Peter Ward, President of the New York Hotel Trades Council.

“The Greater East Midtown rezoning will not only help the city’s largest business district maintain its supremacy as a global leader in commerce, but it will also create thousands of good paying jobs in construction and other related industries,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the 100,000 member Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “I want to thank the Mayor and City Council for working together on behalf of all New Yorkers to pass the rezoning and ultimately make these critical investments in our city's infrastructure. “

“The final approval for the Greater East Midtown rezoning is a major victory for one of the world’s most quintessential business districts, and the city as a whole.  Thanks to the dedicated efforts and the collaborative spirit exhibited throughout the process by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the City Council, led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, the path has been cleared for the construction and renovation of a new generation of iconic office towers, which will ensure the long-term viability of the neighborhood and create thousands of jobs in the process," said Carlo Scissura, President & CEO, New York Building Congress.

‎"This rezoning paves the way for the next generation of redevelopment and modernization of an aging portion of the city's central business district. It will bring jobs and enhance values that will benefit all New Yorkers‎," said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

“This reinforces New York’s draw as a headquarters location for companies generating good-paying jobs for our residents,” said Jessica Walker, president and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you to all of the stakeholders who worked tirelessly over many years to make this happen for our city.”

"Among the biggest winners from the East Midtown rezoning are the hundreds of thousands of riders who regularly use one of the big six subway stations that serve the area," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. "All of these crowded and hard-to-navigate stations - from Grand Central/42nd Street to Rockefeller Center - will receive major rehabilitation from developer funds.”

John Raskin, Executive Director of the Riders Alliance, said, "This rezoning will not only reshape East Midtown; it will also lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed investment for public transit infrastructure. The transit system has suffered from decades of underfunding and neglect, resulting in today's dire situation of regular breakdowns, delays and unreliable service. We should look to creative tools to find the billions of dollars we will need to modernize our subways and buses, and the East Midtown rezoning is a step in the right direction."

“This is rezoning done right because it manages density with key improvements to improve transit and the public realm. We applaud Mayor de Blasio and Councilmember Garodnick for leading this landmark context-sensitive change to the fabric of our growing city,” said Paul White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

“The Greater East Midtown rezoning will enable much needed commercial development capacity while preserving area landmarks, improving the pedestrian experience, and bringing desperately needed improvements to surrounding MTA stations. It’s an excellent example of how to do planning the right way, bringing a diversity of stakeholders with very different interests to the table early in the process, and encouraging genuine dialogue -- a step in the direction of the proposals that will be made in RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan this fall,” said Pierina Ana Sanchez, New York Director of Regional Plan Association.

"With the passage of Midtown East Rezoning, a critically-important area of our city will become re-vitalized as a 21st-century global business district. This transformative vision promotes investment in public spaces, transit-oriented development, and hyper-efficient sustainable buildings. These changes consider meaningful improvements in accessibility, workplace productivity for companies and commuters, and an enhanced quality of life for New York’s citizens,” David Piscuskas, FAIA, President, American Institute of Architects New York Chapter.

“As a disabled New Yorker, I strongly support the East Midtown Plan as part of which 6 inacessible subway stations being totally rehabilitated to be fully accessible. In addition, the plan includes upgrading sidewalks, pedestrian ramps and public plazas,” said Edith M Prentiss, Vice President Legislative Affairs for Disabled in Action.

“Under the leadership of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Daniel Garodnick, the East Midtown Steering Committee process created a model of stakeholder engagement worth replicating. Particularly with respect to open space and historic preservation, this plan is a meaningful improvement on the 2013 proposal,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of The Municipal Art Society of New York. “However, the work is not yet done. This rezoning will undoubtedly bring great change to the neighborhood, and we must continue to find balance between private development and the public realm. Together, we can make East Midtown not just an appealing place to build, but an appealing place to live, work, and visit.”

"While we weren’t always in agreement with the City's priorities for the rezoning of East Midtown, we applaud and deeply appreciate the efforts of our Council Member, Dan Garodnick, and Borough President Gale Brewer, who worked with Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration to make it a better plan. We succeeded in creating more public space and a more attractive and pedestrian-friendly environment for the tens of thousands of workers who will spend their days around and within these new towers," said Vikki Barbero, Chair of Community Board Five.

"I applaud Councilman Dan Garodnick and Borough President Gale Brewer for the Greater East Midtown Rezoning. The City of New York, its residents, businesses and tourists will reap the benefits for years to come. The rezoning will now enable East Midtown to compete with other big cities in the United States and throughout the world," said James G. Clynes, Chairman of Manhattan Community Board 8.

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