New York Times Editorial: Revitalizing Manhattan’s Midtown East
February 10th, 2013, 2:29 pm
This thoughtful response to the City’s plans raises many of the issues we have voiced here at MAS. As a member of the MAS Community, you already know that we are working hard on a report to the City about their proposal for rezoning Midtown. Take a moment today to make sure your friends and colleagues are on our mailing list and signing up for our event on Tuesday, February 26 at 4 pm where we will be unveiling our full report. NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: Revitalizing Manhattan’s Midtown East Published: February 10, 2013 Thirty years have passed since New York City planners established the zoning rules for the glamorous swath of Manhattan known as East Midtown, an area that is home to Madison Avenue, Park Avenue, the Waldorf-Astoria and Grand Central Terminal. Much of the office space is aging and, in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s view, cannot compete for global business with the West Side of Manhattan, let alone major cities in other countries. Mr. Bloomberg is now quietly pushing for a new development plan for this area that he wants to have approved by the end of his term in December. Nearly everyone agrees that the area is due for rezoning, but it cannot be driven by an end-of-term deadline. The plan, when it emerges, requires a thorough public vetting since it will almost certainly determine the development in this important part of town over the next 30 years. Last July, the Department of City Planning produced only the barest outline of a proposal, but it was enough to raise questions. In broad terms, the plan would allow developers to build a new crop of office towers in the area around Grand Central. In the city’s latest map, the area stretches from midway between Madison and Fifth Avenues to sections of Third and Second Avenues, and north from 39th Street to a stretch of 57th Street. The official rezoning process will begin in mid-March when the administration releases a detailed proposal and environmental impact study. We have every hope that the plan will sensibly balance the area’s competing needs, including provisions for the increased pedestrian and commuter traffic new buildings are likely to bring and for the architectural variety that any good neighborhood needs. But the window between the plan’s release and the mayor’s departure is small, leaving too little time for the public to study the plan and propose changes. There are important concerns. Some officials think the plan should include residential dwellings, to keep the neighborhood alive at night. Others want to make sure that the new buildings are architecturally compelling. Still others note that the subway platforms below ground are as congested as the streets and sidewalks above. The Municipal Art Society, among others, worries that the plan could lead to the demolition of valued older buildings — like the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue, the Graybar Building on Lexington and the Yale Club on Vanderbilt — they believe are important to the historical fabric of the area. They have asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider landmarking these and a number of other buildings, but the commission, which answers to the mayor, has been moving too slowly. We share these many concerns. Mr. Bloomberg and his planners have made a start on a worthy, complicated project. But the city must take the time to get it right. ### A version of this editorial appeared in print on February 11, 2013, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: Revitalizing Manhattan’s Midtown East.