Rising in the East


New York City has long been the economic and cultural capital of the United States. Over the years, we’ve been home to a staggering diversity of businesses and industries—from meatpacking to fashion and from entertainment to financial services. This is a result of our commitment to staying on the cutting edge, creating the infrastructure for economic development and success. We’ve built dizzying skyscrapers and developed one of the world’s busiest subway systems.

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And nothing represents that unique mix—a world-class business environment with tremendous connectivity to mass transit—better than Grand Central Terminal and the neighborhood around it. East Midtown has been central to New York City’s commercial success for most of the last century. Yet, today, this district is at risk of losing its shine. Office stock has not been upgraded in decades, the transit infrastructure in the area is outdated and overburdened, and many businesses have shifted elsewhere in search of newer real estate.

Put simply, East Midtown is in need of an upgrade, and we are working hard to deliver it.

In May 2015, the City Council passed a rezoning proposal for the Vanderbilt Corridor, from East 42nd to East 47th Streets. Its first project, One Vanderbilt, is already underway.

For the right to build bigger on this site, developer SL Green Realty Corp. committed to a menu of projects to improve our transit system, estimated to cost $220 million. These projects include unprecedented steps to address subway overcrowding by reconfiguring platforms, adding entrances, connecting with the future East Side Access and bringing valuable public space to Vanderbilt Avenue.

In addition to the transit upgrades, the new building will bring the city other considerable benefits: 1.6 million square feet in brand new, class A commercial office space; 190 permanent union jobs; countless other private sector jobs; and nearly six times the tax revenue of the current building, estimated at $50 million a year.

Of course, we’re not stopping there. In October 2015, the East Midtown Steering Committee, which I had the privilege of co-chairing with Borough President Gale Brewer, released a plan to rezone the rest of East Midtown, from East 39th to East 57th Streets. Our proposal builds on the success of Vanderbilt Avenue, calling for bigger development near transit and allowing developers to earn additional density by improving infrastructure above and below ground.

We also propose a framework that will help preserve the historically important landmarks in East Midtown. Under this plan, developers can buy the air rights from landmarks in East Midtown to build bigger in a way they couldn’t before. Landmarks get a new market to which they can sell excess development rights, while supporting their own renovation projects in the process. A percentage of each sale will go into a publicly controlled improvement fund, which the city will use to finance public improvements throughout East Midtown.

Our proposal will help revitalize East Midtown by unlocking development potential and improving the area’s public spaces. Both are critical to keeping New York competitive in the global economy.

The Department of City Planning now is considering our proposal, and the Administration has signaled agreement with most of its component parts. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has also committed to formally advancing a rezoning plan by the end of this calendar year. As a result, we are now on the cusp of delivering not only class A office space but also a class A office district in East Midtown. 

Dan Garodnick has sat on the City Council since 2006 representing the Upper East Side, Central Park South, Tudor City, Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village, Carnegie Hill and Turtle Bay.