How About Another Empire State Building or Two? City Outlines Mega Midtown East Rezoning
An illustrative illustration created by the city of a new tower near the terminal.
July 12, 2012
By Matt Chaban
It is big. No, really big. Bigger than almost anything the city has ever seen. Empire State Building big. While that will not be the case for every tower that is eventually built through the program, it could be for at least a few.
The parameters, unveiled at Community Board 5 last night, are close to what had been previously hinted at, an area stretching from 39th Street up to 57th Street, emanating out from Grand Central. Fifth Avenue has been eliminated from the original study area, as has the northern reaches of Third and Lexington avenues, which were considered too residential. Still, the plan affects all or part of 74 blocks in the heart of the city. Far fewer of them will be developed because a provision in the plan limits development sites to only those that stretch the length of an entire avenue blockfront, and they must sit on a site that covers at least 25,000 square feet, or a little more than half an acre.
Surrounding avenues will see their density bumped up slightly, from a floor area ratio of 15 to 18 (excuse the technical numbers for a moment). Park Avenue and the Grand Central subdistrict, which will expand one block north to 49th Street and two blocks south to 39th Street, between Madison and Lexington Avenues, will have an FAR of 21.6. A new Grand Central core district will be created for the blocks immediately around Grand Central with an FAR of 24.
All these big new buildings can be built as of right, meaning no cumbersome public reviews. But should a developer wish to aim high, really high, they can go for an additional FAR bonus, a jump to 24 along Park and around Grand Central, while the Grand Central core subdistrict, the eleven small blocks around the train station, jumps up to a whopping 30 FAR, on par with the skyline defining Empire State Building (FAR of 33, the only thing in town that comes close). As if to drive this point home, City Planning’s presentation showed a spindly tower, which looked not unlike the MoMA tower it once rejected, piercing the skyline above Grand Central.
One of the biggest issues was the decision to allow bigger buildings if their designs were deemed to be of sufficient quality. There was widespread concern about who would determine that—the City Planning Commission and the City Council—and why every building in the district should not be held to the same standard if Midtown was so important to begin with, as the city officials kept insisting. “Thirty FAR scares the hell out of me,” board member Miele Rockefeller said. Member Matthew Scheid countered that “I’m fine with 30 FAR, but I don’t understand why it’s not 40 FAR or 25 FAR. You haven’t explained the rationale for the numbers.” There were also widespread concerns about whether the sale of development rights would be sufficient to cover the costs of the needed improvements. “The city paid for the improvements to Times Square,” land-use vice-chair Giuseppe Scalia pointed out. “Why are developers being given millions of square feet to do it here?”
Looks an awful lot like the MoMA Tower, which the Department of City Planning famously reduced in size.
All of this new development would go to funding public space improvements, like better subway stations and the rather controversial pedestrianization of Vanderbilt Avenue, pictured here.
New York City May Allow Taller Towers Near Grand Central
By David M. Levitt
Jul 12, 2012
Development of skyscrapers taller than the Chrysler Building may be allowed near Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal under preliminary zoning plans presented by New York’s Department of City Planning.
A tower that high -- possibly as tall as 1,200 feet (366 meters) -- would have to go through a city review to assure that it’s a worthy addition to the New York skyline, said Frank Ruchala, the planning department’s east Midtown project manager. The Chrysler Building is 1,046 feet tall. Ruchala spoke last night at a meeting of Community Board 5, which represents midtown Manhattan residents.
SL Green in November paid about $80 million for a building on East 42nd Street, just west of Grand Central, giving it ownership of the entire block bounded by Madison, 42nd and 43rd streets and Vanderbilt Avenue. It’s “the single best potential development site in the city, if not the world,” Isaac Zion, the company’s co-chief investment officer, said at an investor meeting in December. The company has no comment on the rezoning initiative, Rick Matthews, a spokesman for SL Green, said today.
NEW YORK. World's capital.
“Office buildings are our factories – whether for tech, creative or traditional industries we must continue to grow our modern factories to create new jobs,” said United States Senator Chuck Schumer.