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Moving Forward on East Midtown
August 23, 2017
Now that the City Council has made its long anticipated decision on the Greater East Midtown rezoning plan, where do we go from here?
First of all, as one of the world’s leading office districts, East Midtown is a vibrant and essential part of New York City. It is the city’s largest commercial district, providing roughly a quarter of a million jobs and generating around 10 percent of the city’s property tax revenue. The City Council’s approval marks an important and necessary milestone that will ensure the area remains productive and competitive for generations to come. This news is good for all New Yorkers.
This rezoning was necessary in light of the current condition of East Midtown. Buildings in the area are currently an average of 75 years old, and there has not been a revision to the district’s zoning laws since the 1980s.
A result of that prior inaction was that East Midtown was becoming unable to meet the needs of modern companies in a competitive global market. Thanks to the City Council’s approval, East Midtown should expect 6.5 million square feet of new office space over the next two decades – offices that will be cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, and competitive. In addition to new developments, existing offices will be upgraded into Class A space. All told, the rezoning should create 28,000 permanent jobs as well as providing 23,000 construction jobs.
New York City is in a better position today than it was before the City Council agreed to rezone East Midtown. In addition to revitalizing the district’s commercial space, the proposal will benefit commuters and residents of the area.
Various subway lines that service the area will undergo critical improvements for transit riders. Historic landmarks in the area will gain new flexibility to raise funds by selling unused development rights – allowing for continued maintenance. Public space will be improved and expanded as a result of the plan.
However, the task at hand is formidable. Creating twenty-first century office space and undertaking needed transit and public improvements in an area like East Midtown will be difficult and complex. As a mature market area with virtually no vacant sites, new development opportunities will occur slowly over time, and only when the leasing circumstances in individual buildings and market conditions in the area combine to make new development economically feasible. The process of emptying buildings of existing tenants, demolishing and rebuilding next to existing businesses, will be time consuming and expensive. Not unlike the efforts to reshape and rebuild both Lower Manhattan, the Far West Side as well as commercial centers like Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City, government will need to continue to seek appropriate ways to encourage and incentivize new development.
The rezoning plan will enhance New York City’s ability to recruit international talent and maintain our competitive advantage. The City Council’s approval is the culmination of years of hard work by many committed groups and individuals, including many REBNY members. We would especially like to thank Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Dan Garodnick, City Planning Chair Marisa Lago, local community board members and various other stakeholders involved.
As a result of these efforts, now the hard work begins to deliver a fully-revitalized and competitive East Midtown in the coming decades, ensuring for all New Yorkers, that this area remains one of the world’s preeminent business districts.