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Is Midtown Too Small? City Planning Outlines Ideas for Adding (Much) Taller Towers


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Is Midtown Too Small? City Planning Outlines Ideas for Adding (Much) Taller Towers

How many New Yorkers, after a long day of work, are headed home, a little beaten down, look up and think to themselves, “You know what Midtown needs? Bigger buildings.”

Probably not very many. But this is a question the Department of City Planning and the Bloomberg administration are very seriously considering as they work on rezoning a huge swath of Midtown East, the vaguest details of which were revealed to the land use committees of Community Boards 5 and 6 last night.

The goals of the plan, first revealed, also vaguely, in the mayor's State of the City address, are quite reasonable. Like it has with so much of the city, from the Far West Side to the Brooklyn waterfront to downtown Jamaica, Queens, the administration wants to revise a set of zoning principals first laid out in 1961, and changed little since.

Meanwhile the world has, as has the city, and in order to stay competitive with places like London, Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, Midtown, where 80 percent of buildings are 50 years old or older, must modernize. “We need to think of the global context,” said Edith Hsu-Chen, director of the department’s Manhattan office.

This idea gave a number of community board members pause, though. While there was modest concern that Midtown is indeed dense enough as it is, many agreed that improvements could also be made. The big question was whether giving developers a huge development bonus, as appears to be the main thrust of the rezoning, would achieve the goals the city hopes to achieve.

Details were scant, but the area the department is looking at was outlined, an 85-block swath running from 40th Street to 57th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Third Avenue, except for a section of Second Avenue in the East 40s. This brackets a section of the neighborhood the department is especially interested in, roughly 20 blocks surrounding Grand Central Terminal. The one other detail to emerge was an interest in improving Park Avenue, ensuring its place as the city’s premier business address.

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