Midtown rezoning plan gets thumbs up

Steven Spinola
President, Real Estate Board of New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to rezone the East Midtown section of Manhattan took a significant step forward last week.  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who has played a critical role in several land use initiatives during his tenure, announced his support of the rezoning. 

The Borough President’s support was conditional on several issues.  Most importantly, as a result of his advocacy, and that of City Councilmember Daniel Garodnick and others, Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that his administration would advance funding for some of the mass transit and open space improvements in East Midtown immediately upon passage of the rezoning.  The Mayor’s announcement was a sign of this administration’s determination to ensure the rezoning’s success.

All of this momentum behind the rezoning came despite the urging of The New York Times in a July 30 editorial that the rezoning be voted down.

I wanted to share with you the letter to the editor I sent in response to The Times editorial which was critical of the plan.

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The July 30 New York Times editorial “Mr. Stringer’s Choice” demonstrates a total lack of understanding by The Times of the current East Midtown commercial market conditions, the existing office buildings in this district, and the expectations and demands of the tenants that provide the jobs and tax revenue that pay for the essential services provided by our City. 

If The Times is right that there is no need to “encourage developers to redo” the area, then why did The Times move from its older headquarters into a new modern, energy efficient office tower a few years back?  I suggest you tour any of the older existing office buildings, average age now 73 years old, and compare it with your current modern space. 

If The New York Times wants one of the most efficient office spaces available, why does it believe Fortune 500 companies and other critical New York City firms would settle for anything less? 

The Times fails to recognize that this creative and well-crafted re-zoning generates significant revenue from the sale of air-rights and real estate taxes. The rezoning will create thousands of construction and permanent jobs for our residents and will replace existing office buildings which no longer meet the criteria that top-tier tenants, like The Times, demand. 

The Department of City Planning projects 15 million square feet of new modern buildings will be created over the next few decades, with less than a third of that actually increasing the amount of space in the area. 

The opening of East Side Access, long before a single new building is completed, will allow East Midtown to handle any increase in workers to the area.  Many of these riders will be able to walk to their office from Grand Central Terminal and alleviate the burden of the overcrowded subways.

This rezoning will create towers better than in London, probably not as tall as Shanghai, and create and hold on to thousands of jobs and the tax dollars they generate.  The rezoning proposal will begin the process for identifying and investing in mass transit improvements and guarantee the continued prominence of East Midtown as one of the most important business addresses in the world. 

In other REBNY News:

Whistles and battery or crank operated radios are needed for NYC Seniors. REBNY’s Residential Brokerage Division partnered with the NYC Department for the Aging for REBNY’s Annual Summer Donation Drive 2013. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and with the summer heat, the needed crank or battery-operated radios will help keep seniors informed in the event of brownouts and whistles will allow for notification of emergency officials and neighbors during an emergency. Each summer thousands of elderly New Yorkers die in heat waves across the city. Donations will benefit New Dorp Beach Senior Center Friendship Club on Staten Island. Items can be dropped off at the reception area of REBNY, 570 Lexington Avenue, from 11 am to 4 pm Monday to Thursday and from 11 am to 2 pm on Fridays. Please include batteries with the radios. For more information, contact Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at jtaylor@rebny.com.

REBNY is asking members to log into the Members Only section on www.REBNY.com and view their profile to make sure information is accurate so it may appear correctly in the 2014 REBNY Diary and Manual. Deadline to make changes is Monday, Aug. 12. For more information, contact Marta Posner at mposner@rebny.com.

The industry’s best residential deals are wanted for REBNY’s 25th Anniversary Residential Deal of the Year and Charity Gala. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 12, 2013. Your re-sales, new development sales and rental transactions that have closed or will close between Sept. 14, 2012 and Sept. 12, 2013 are eligible. The prestigious Henry Forster Award and Most Promising Residential Rookie Salesperson of the Year Award will also be announced during the celebration on Oct. 24, 2013 in the Grand Ballroom at The Pierre Hotel, 2 East 61st St. Tickets are $525 per person or $5,000 per table. Corporate sponsorships are still available. For more information, go to www.rebny.com or email Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at jtaylor@rebny.com.