REBNY, Municipal Art Society Hail Midtown East Steering Group


Grand Central Station
Grand Central Terminal.

A day after Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Dan Garodnick announced they’ll lead a new Midtown East steering committee to make recommendations to the city on the area’s stalled rezoning, two of the committees’ most influential stakeholders expressed their support for the mishmash group’s ability to figure out the thorny issues surrounding the neighborhood.

After an intense debate over topics like building heights, air rights, transportation infrastructure and landmark preservation doomed last year’s proposal for 73 blocks around Grand Central Terminal, officials at planning and preservation advocacy group the Municipal Art Society and the Real Estate Board of New York pledged to work together on the committee in advance of a new push to rezone the area.

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“The Midtown East rezoning steering committee’s top priority is to conduct a thorough analysis that addresses the issues that have been identified and ensures Midtown East continues to play a critical role in making New York City a global center of commerce,” said REBNY President Steven Spinola in a prepared statement. “Thanks to the impressive and smart leadership of City Planning Commission Chair [Carl] Weisbrod, Borough President Brewer, and Council Member Garodnick, we’re confident the committee will accomplish this important task.”

But last year’s contentious Land Use Review Procedure sessions revealed fault lines among the city’s power players over the funding of new transit infrastructure, the viability of protecting new landmarks, the density of new structures and the price of development rights. Despite marathon negotiation sessions at every step, the measure failed last winter.

Leaders at the society joined those of REBNY in calling for a modernized office district, but the two organizations diverged as the rezoning died in the City Council. The steering committee might lead to a different result this time around, said Margaret Newman, MAS’s executive director.

“By identifying the area’s needs and offering recommendations to the city, the working group will ensure that the planning process is inclusive, transparent, and includes the right mix of solutions to improve the community,” said Ms. Newman in a prepared statement.