The East Midtown Steering Committee supports invigorating the East Midtown office district by encouraging as-of-right higher density and modernized office development in appropriate locations if accompanied by both:
- significant, timely and assured upgrades to transportation networks and public open spaces (the “public realm”) in accordance with an adopted concept plan and an ongoing, consultative implementation process; and
- preservation of important local historic resources. The Steering Committee believes that any rezoning should provide more certainty as to both the development permitted as-of-right and the public realm improvements that would accompany any increase in density.
LAND USE AND DENSITY
Sites in East Midtown should be entitled to achieve increasingly higher maximum Floor Area Ratios (FARs) depending on the number of site-specific criteria that are present. The criteria fall into two categories: (1) connectivity or immediate proximity to transit; and (2) extra air and light as a result of a variety of factors such as frontage on wide streets and avenues.
Additional FAR should be earned — first by making specified transit improvements (especially to the extent that they are set forth in the Zoning Resolution pursuant to an area-wide plan), and then either through plaza bonuses and/or through air rights transfers from designated Landmarks in East Midtown (“Landmark TDR”).
Designated Landmarks in the area should be permitted to transfer their existing unused air rights throughout the entire district. Landmark TDR should be permitted as-of-right under the Zoning Resolution, and a significant percentage of the sale of each transfer would be made as a contribution into an “Improvement Fund” for area-wide public realm improvements, with a per square foot minimum contribution.
Overbuilt sites (where FAR exceeds that now allowed by zoning) should have the ability to build back to their existing FAR as-of-right without transfers or bonuses, if they contribute into the Improvement Fund at a prescribed rate.
All the above should be as-of-right if done in accordance with prior plans approved under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) addressing both transit and the public realm.
Current regulations should remain in place to preserve light and air; these should be studied by the New York City (NYC) Department of City Planning (DCP) in cooperation with the stakeholders on the Steering Committee, to determine whether any modifications are appropriate for higher density office development on small lots. If the project cannot be completed within height and setback and related regulations, a Special Permit would be required.
To encourage predominantly office buildings through these new mechanisms, sites should be subject to a hotel Special Permit, and a maximum amount of permitted residential floor area in connection with both new development and reuse of older office buildings.
New development taking advantage of the added FAR should also be required to meet a higher environmental standard.
IMPROVEMENT FUND AND PLACEMAKING
Revenue secured through Landmark TDR should be held in the Improvement Fund.
A “Governing Group” with appointees of the Mayor, local elected officials, and representation by Community Boards and other stakeholders should set planning and project management priorities, as well as the use of funding for specific projects once available.
Parameters should be employed to ensure funding for both above- and below-grade improvements over time. One priority is to amplify and celebrate Grand Central Terminal as the centerpiece for East Midtown. Key corridors should receive special attention for placemaking and pedestrian improvements.
The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) should calendar and designate as Landmarks as many historic resources as it deems appropriate and do so no later than the certification date of the rezoning of Greater East Midtown.