MAS Continues to Advocate for Better Midtown
May 15th, 2013, 8:45 am
At the first Multi-Board Community Task Force public hearing held this week for the City’s proposed East Midtown Rezoning, City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden announced that the City will hire consultants Jonathan Rose Company, Gehl Architects and Skanska to create an East Midtown Public Realm Vision Plan, which will include a public visioning process meant to coincide with the City’s rezoning proposal. To address public realm concerns, such as narrow, dark and crowded sidewalks and East Midtown’s lack of public green spaces, the City’s consultants will conduct three public workshops to bring in ideas for streetscape improvements. The workshops will be conducted through the spring and summer with the findings released early this fall. MAS has advocated for public realm improvements first with The Next 100 design challenge, which enlisted three prestigious firms – Foster + Partners, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and WXY—to create a vision for the future East Midtown’s public areas, then by issuing a report—East Midtown: A Bold Vision for the Future—released earlier this year. The report emphasized the importance of improving East Midtown’s entire public realm network, in particular congested sidewalks, rather than relying on the piecemeal improvements that would come online as new buildings are built as the City’s proposal suggests. This is particularly important as the City’s goal is to encourage the development of taller, more modern office buildings, which will bring in more pedestrian traffic, further crowding Midtown streets and subways. We’re appreciative that the City now agrees that this work is essential to creating an improved Midtown but the zoning proposal in its current form still fails to address too many critical issues. MAS testified before the Task Force, acknowledging City Planning for working to address the public realm concerns, and thanking the Community Boards for their important work. MAS along with many others made clear in our testimony that infrastructure investments is needed before ANY new development occurs, a mix of uses is essential to creating a more desirable 24/7 neighborhood and new development must be organized around protecting some of the most iconic buildings anywhere in the world. MAS also urged the City to immediately landmark East Midtown’s significant structures. Political figures such as City Council Members Dan Garodnick, Jessica Lappin, Gale Brewer and State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman in addition to staff from Congresswoman Maloney’s office and Manhattan Borough President candidate Julie Menin were present to voice their concerns. Many suggested that the City slow the process down in order to perform a more rigorous analysis as the rezoning proposal will affect the city for generations. MAS will continue to demand a better Midtown as the City’s rezoning proposal continues through the public review process in order to ensure that the future of Midtown includes improved infrastructure, a reinvigorated public realm, and the protection of critical buildings alongside the highest quality new development. Please continue to check mas.org for future updates.