On April 26, 2017, John West delivered testimony to the City Planning Commission on behalf of the City Club regarding East Midtown Rezoning. John’s main themes were that the proposed amendments to the Zoning Resolution do not fully reflect the comprehensive recommendations of the Steering Committee; that the Planning Department has taken on a conflict of interest in simultaneously seeking to develop an extensive zoning revision, involving doubling available bulk throughout much of the East Midtown area, while, at the same time, using its zoning authority to raise funding for various transit improvements in the area; and that the fund-raising effort would illegally sell zoning rights. Michael Gruen also spoke for the Club. He elaborated on the legal theme of John’s message, explaining that the demand inherent in the rezoning, that, in order to take advantage of increased floor area to be allowed, owners would be compelled to buy the zoning rights. He explained the constitutional provisions under which such exaction is illegal. Both texts are linked. They are fuller than the oral testimony.
- In 2012 the Bloomberg administration proposed an area wide rezoning in which the major innovation was a District Improvement Bonus. A development could purchase additional zoning floor area to increase the size of a building and the money would be deposited in a District Improvement Fund to be spent on improvements to the public realm, including improvements to subway stations. The proposal was withdrawn in late 2013 before being voted on at the City Council.
- The de Blasio administration has renewed the initiative in two parts. The first part is a proposal to rezone a five block corridor along Vanderbilt Avenue. In this instance the major initiative is a Public Realm Improvement bonus by which a development may increase its zoning floor area from a base of 15.0 FAR, or a current maximum of 21.6 FAR, to a maximum of 30.0 FAR by building improvements to the public realm, including improvements to subway stations. The proposal, plus applications for special permits for One Vanderbilt under the proposed zoning, is currently in ULURP and expected to come to a vote at the City Council in April.
- The second part of the de Blasio administration’s initiative is an examination of the future of all of East Midtown. This is currently being studied by a steering committee co-chaired by Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick. It hopes to publish recommendations in late spring.
The City Club is concerned that these initiatives have less to do with the wise regulation of land use in East Midtown, which is the purpose of zoning, than with raising money to help the MTA improve its facilities, which, though necessary, is not the purpose of zoning.
Currently the City Club is drafting a statement, A Better Path for East Midtown, discussing how the future of East Midtown might more effectively and safely be promoted.
DRAFT of A Better Path for East Midtown
In February of 2014 several members of the City Club testified at a hearing of the City Planning Commission on the proposed Vanderbilt Corridor Rezoning and the application of One Vanderbilt for special permits under that rezoning.
Testimony and letter concerning legal issues
Testimony concerning daylighting
Testimony concerning bonuses for previously committed mitigation
Testimony concerning public realm improvements
In August of 2013 the City Club testified at a hearing of the City Planning Commission on the initial rezoning proposal and then submitted a statement detailing the legal flaws in what might be characterized as zoning-for-dollars.
Testimony at CPC 7 August 2013
Position Statement on the East Midtown Rezoning