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Thread: Midtown / Midtown East Rezoning Plan

  1. #16
    Fearless Photog RoldanTTLB's Avatar
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    Also true. The company I was working for would have moved right to Brooklyn or made us work from home if they couldn't have picked up office space down town. Besides, almost all of the office space on John St has already been converted to residential (as have so many other buildings). Some downtown buildings, especially the "newer" ones like 55 Water are not hospitable to a conversion either, unless the housing crunch gets so bad that interior apartments become a commodity, and I'd really like to think we'd reconsider zoning and the permitting process before then.

  2. #17
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    I think this was in the original thread (Google search of WNY = "no thread specified").


    A Tree-Lined Promenade for the Middle of Park Avenue

    Published: October 19, 2012

    by Jessica Dailey



    If we're going to put more tall towers in Midtown, then we better put more public space, too. Vishaan Chakrabarti, a partner at SHoP Architects and director of Columbia's Center for Urban Real Estate, proposes putting a little more "park" in "Park Avenue" with a wide, tree-lined promenade cutting up the middle of the street. Capital NY reports that Chakrabarti is unveiling his proposal at the Municipal Art Society Summit today. The plan calls for doubling the width of the Park Avenue medians already in place from 46th Street to 57th Street. A 12 to 15-foot wide path in the middle would create a 2.45 acre landscaped green space. To do so, one lane of parking would need to be removed on either side of the median, but traffic flow would be improved by carving out turning lanes near intersections.

    Chakrabarti's plan piggy-backs off of the idea to create more public space around Grand Central, but unlike a floating pedestrian halo, a street-level promenade using structures that already exist could actually become a reality. Capital notes that the city could even pay for the promenade's cost, about $50 million, with the fees it will collect from developers building new towers.

    Proposed: A Promenade Up An Expanded Park Avenue Median [Capital NY]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/1...ark_avenue.php



    More recent:


    Pedestrians at the Gates: Pathway Plan for Park Avenue Could Turn Class Into Mass

    By Matt Chaban

    “Nobody on Park Avenue walks,” Michael Shvo said last month, standing near the back of the Drill Hall inside the Park Avenue Armory.

    The Fund for Park Avenue was hosting a private cocktail reception to honor donors to its annual holiday tree-lighting drive, a signature project that dates back to 1949.

    Mr. Shvo, the 40-year-old retired real estate glitz guru, was among the few dozen guests at the reception. Wearing a white dress shirt with black top-stitching unbuttoned past his clavicle, he was talking about a recent art transaction with a fellow developer when The Observer interrupted them to ask about the future of Park Avenue. Maybe there was room on it for a pedestrian pathway down the middle, so we could all enjoy the malls?

    “I stopped walking a decade ago,” said Mr. Shvo nonchalantly, a statement of success rather than disability.

    Nearby was Irwin Cohen, the man who turned the old Nabisco factory into the Chelsea Market. With the High Line nearby, he had seen the transformative power of an impressive infrastructure project firsthand—so how might he feel about reclaiming the Park Avenue median as an actual park?

    “That’s ludicrous,” his wife Jill Cohen said. “What if you’re coming here? Where would your driver stand the car?”

    “I don’t know that Park Avenue needs it,” a friend piped up. “The sidewalks are plenty wide already.”

    “As long as they don’t make it bike lanes,” Mr. Cohen said.

    Concerns over parking spaces and bikes aside, a clever group of planners and activists would like to transform the street into a world-class gathering place rather than a mere thoroughfare. In the middle of October, barely a week before the city was swept away by Sandy, two different designers on two different panels at the Municipal Art Society’s third annual MAS Summit hit upon the same radical idea: to build a pedestrian promenade down the middle of Park Avenue.

    In various ways, the architects proposed to widen the lush mall running along the middle of the road, allowing for a path that could be home to benches, sculptures, even—gasp—food stands. It would be New York’s newest public space, and not one without precedent; the Bloomberg administration has reclaimed the streetscape to create plaza, piazzas and pocket parks everywhere from Times Square to Jackson Heights.

    Just imagine … It could be the Upper East Side’s very own High Line, a recreational and cultural destination to rival any in the city or the world, a place to relax, stroll, maybe buy a coffee or a Shake Shack burger from a kiosk. It could be the capstone of Mayor Bloomberg’s unorthodox reappropriation of the city’s streets, one that would take place right in the mayor’s backyard—a fact that, ironically may be the very reason this daring idea may ultimately die without ever being realized.

    Both proposals, it turns out, started with the same inspiration: a somewhat well-known (at least within wonky planning circles) black-and-white photograph of gentlemen and ladies in repose in the very middle of the Park Avenue Mall. The photo was taken in the 1920s, a decade into Park Avenue’s life.

    Park Avenue may seem like the last redoubt of grand old New York, but the street is younger than most. Built a century ago as a deck over the New York Central rail yards that once ran through Manhattan’s heart, Park Avenue, for a brief time, was an idyllic spot. A park ran down the middle, dotted with benches, trees and a pathway for the common man to enjoy.

    So it would remain until the end of the decade, when cars began to dominate the city’s streets. Park Avenue was widened from two lanes to three, and what was left was a glorified, and at times grotty, median. “When we took over, it was basically a dog run,” said Ronald Spencer, an attorney and chair of the Fund for Park Avenue, which has been maintaining the strip since the 1970s. “People would take dogs there to do their business. It was just filthy with trash and debris, the grass run down to dirt.”

    The fact that people used the median at all underscores a natural tendency to gravitate there, possibly because the green-space-starved Upper East Side consistently ranks near the bottom of the city’s precincts in park acreage per capita. Even with Central Park nearby.

    Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate and a principal at SHoP architects, believes a pathway could actually solve another of Park Avenue’s problems: traffic.

    Currently, one of the biggest bottlenecks on Park Avenue comes from drivers making left-hand turns, according to Mr. Chakrabarti. He would engineer a smoother flow of traffic, carving at a left-hand turning bay by extending the medians to take up half, but not all of the middle traffic lane. He would then take this extra space, push the vegetation to the sides, and run pathways and mini plazas down the middle. “I think you could have a really great public space, and you could also improve traffic flow,” Mr. Chakrabarti said.

    The trees and tulips so tenderly cared for by Mr. Spencer and his fellow funders would remain intact, and now people would be able to enjoy them up close, while the foliage would provide a subtle barrier from the cars whizzing by.

    And the same would go for the sculpture, the Fund for Park Avenue’s other big project. Not only would there be more room for art, but people could actually interact with it. It could even be argued that this is an act of historic preservation, of returning Park Avenue to its original state. And everybody knows how much uptown loves historic preservation.

    Currently, Mr. Chakrabarti’s proposal only calls for building the project from 46th Street to 59th Street, as a component of the city’s proposed Midtown East rezoning.

    “I think people will fall in love with it and there will be a good chance it will get extended further north, but you have to take it slowly,” Mr. Chakrabarti said. “You know, the High Line was built in phases, and this isn’t dissimilar to the High Line. There will be people who say it could be a great new experience for New York. I think it could be sensational for public art, for tulips and all the other things that Park Avenue is known for.”

    Mr. Chakrabarti believes the plan, or something like it, is an imperative for Midtown and the Upper East Side to remain attractive. He points to Google’s then-surprising decision to buy 111 Eighth Avenue two years ago for $1.8 billion in Chelsea, of all places. Looking at the attractive amenities, like the High Line, it starts to make sense. But a Park Avenue promenade wouldn’t need to be High Line fancy, he said, pointing to Columbus Circle as a modest yet inviting space.

    Even more ambitious was the proposal for Park Avenue from SOM (though it gained far less attention than the other suggestion made by the firm at the MAS Summit—for a floating disc of a public plaza hovering over Grand Central Terminal). Created by SOM principal Roger Duffy, the firm’s plan would pedestrianize the entire length of Park Avenue, running from Union Square all the way to 125th Street.
    Like Mr. Chakrabarti, Mr. Duffy sees this as a public priority. “When’s the last time we made a great civic gesture in northern Manhattan?” Mr. Duffy said, giving Ground Zero and the High Line their due. “The real issue here is the priority of money. The same money exists, there’s just less desire to use it for these things. It’s somehow a question of social priorities.”

    Local Councilman Dan Garodnick believes that a revamped Park Avenue mall bears a look, albeit a cautious one. “It’s a novel idea, especially given how starved we are for open public space in the area, but it would need considerable study—particularly on traffic impacts—before it could be seriously evaluated,” he wrote in a brief email.

    And perhaps the Bloomberg administration could be persuaded. “It’s consistent with what they’ve done in the past,” said Mr. Duffy, “but it also is perhaps better because it’s a feature that could be restored.” Play it as historic preservation, and the old dogs of the Upper East Side might just be won over.

    It appears other city officials could be as well. At a transit conference last month, The Observer asked firebrand Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan if she might support the plan. “It’s certainly an interesting idea,” she said. “We’d have to study it, of course, and consult with the community, but it is intriguing.”

    The community, the very one the promenade ostensibly benefits, may well be the biggest challenge to its survival. Mayor Michael Bloomberg may call the Upper East Side home, but in the 11 years he has been in office, remaking whole swathes of the city, few places have changed less. Sure, everything costs more, but the Greek diners, the galleries, the socialites are pretty much the same. There are few stunning new condo towers, cultural institutions or pocket parks that have been created on the mayor’s watch. There are no bike lanes. Every corner of the city has been reshaped, from Chelsea and the Village to Williamsburg and the Rockaways, Flushing and the South Bronx. Just not the mayor’s backyard.

    The administration has been good enough to give the pathway over to bikers and walkers three times a year, for the summer streets program that shuts down Lafayette Street and Park Avenue from the Brooklyn Bridge to 72nd Street, so it can be done. But then again, who on Park Avenue is home on a Saturday in August anyway?

    The rest of the year seems doubtful.

    Of all the people The Observer spoke with at the fund’s cocktail hour, only Jean Shafiroff, one of the queens of the social circuit, thought plans for a pedestrianized Park Avenue were a good idea. “The city changes, and that is for the best,” she remarked. “There must be something for everyone.”

    But for all the clinging to Gilded Age grandeur that goes on on the Upper East Side, all the Sturm und Drang about historic preservation, few want anything to do with restoring Park Avenue to its former pedestrian glory. As one woman, wearing a large pearl brooch and standing just behind Ms. Shafiroff, declared when she overheard the plans, “It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.

    Soon they’ll be camping out,” she said, “like at Zucotti Park.”

    http://observer.com/2012/11/a-high-l...mass/?show=all

  3. #18

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    Proponents want a park on Park Avenue. Opponents want to continue to park on Park Avenue. Hmm.

  4. #19

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    When I came into the city as a kid with my parents, I use to see all these signs saying "Park". I was always wondering where the park was. They didn't say parking.

  5. #20
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    With Sandy as an Excuse, Community Boards Beg Governor Cuomo to Stop Midtown East Rezoning

    By Matt Chaban

    A Cuomo conundrum? (DCP)

    Basically everybody but the Bloomberg administration and select landlords in the area wants to see the Midtown East Rezoning delayed. While there is a general consensus that creating room for bigger, more modern office buildings in the heart of the city’s central business district makes sense, many planners and community groups fear the administration is rushing the plan to get it done on the mayor’s watch, rather than taking the necessary time to figure out exactly what to build.

    Now, the three community boards directly effected by the rezoning are calling on Governor Cuomo to intervene, and their rationale is an interesting, if desperate, one.

    The Tri-Board Task Force on East Midtown, which is comprised of members of community boards 5, 6 and 8, is arguing that Hurricane Sandy has introduced great uncertainty into the city’s future, particularly as far as infrastructure is concerned, and so the rezoning ought to be put off until the city figures out how to bolster itself against future disasters.

    “The tragic events of the past few weeks have brought to light our city’s unique vulnerabilities in a world of climate change,” states a letter the task force sent to Governor Cuomo (you can read the full text below). “Throughout the city, waterfront and low-lying areas, including Lower Manhattan and the far East and West sides of our borough, were devastated by storm surges while our transportation network ground to a halt as subway lines and tunnels were flooded. Incredibly, parts of North America’s largest central business district lost power for an extended period of time.”

    The irony here, of course, is that the sector of the city set to be rezoned was one of the refuges not impacted by the storm, beyond impacts to the subways and other ancillary problems caused to low-lying areas. It makes sense that planning resources might be put to better use working on emergency preparedness issues, rather than rezonings, but it also seems disingenuous to suggest that Midtown is somehow vulnerable to the next superstorm.

    Then again, look at happened with the One57 crane. And who knows which ConEd plant might blow next time, leaving uptown or Midtown, rather than downtown, without power.

    “We hope that in light of recent events, both the city and state will take a long, responsible, and critical look at how this East Midtown proposal, and other similar development proposals, can reflect altered circumstances, ensuring we build smarter,” the letter concludes. “The current timetable does not allow for that.”

    Appealing to Governor Cuomo, who has taken a keen interest in how the city and state rebuilds after Sandy, is not a bad idea. But governors in general, and this one in particular, have a habit of deferring on local issues like this to the local authorities, in this case City Planning and City Hall. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and these are crazy times we’re living in, what with Category 1 storms and 30 FAR towers buffeting the city. Anything could happen.

    http://observer.com/2012/11/with-san...east-rezoning/

  6. #21

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    What nonsense! It's the fed and state government responsibility to secure the city from future flooding not get involved with local zoning. How about bringing back the once proposed beltway that was to encircle the city. Not only would it alleviate the cities traffic problems it would also act as a sea wall to hold back future flooding.

  7. #22
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
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    Given the city's low lying infrastructure and the changes in sea levels sea gates should be built. We had two storms/hurricanes in a 2 year period. The cost of the gates will be less than the cost of the damage and economic impact.

  8. #23

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    ^
    Two separate issues.

    As for the article, it's time to get rid of the community boards. They server no real purpose except to give a platform to the NIMBYs, luddites, and neighborhood busy bodies. There are a lot of useless, inefficient, and duplicative government offices and bodies (these, the borough presidents, public advocate, etc., etc.). Time for them all to go.

    BTW, this is the perfect area to upzone, especially in light of Sandy. Most of, if not all of it, was uneffected.

  9. #24

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    One of the biggest problems I have with the rezoning is that developers have to secure a full avenue worth of frontage before building enlarged towers. The strongest aspect of Madison and Lexington is that the office towers don't span the entire block. This creates a decent street level environment that forces multiple small retailers together, creates interesting juxtapositions of old and new -- short and tall, allows a nice mix of building uses and a diversity of office tenants per block. If the upzoning goes through, these avenues will just be one step closer to becoming Sixth and Park Avenues- long glassy storefronts of corporate America branding and cold facades.

    City Planning should realize that Midtown’s cityscape is too complex to just blanket zone 85 square blocks of it. Though illegal, there would be a better outcome if they individually spot-zoned the sites they’d like to see redeveloped. This would be less of a feat than landmarking every pre-war building in the Midtown. Unfortunately, the value of saving pre-war structures to the city planning commission is questionable.


    Just look at all that could be redeveloped along Madison Avenue while still maintaining the historic integrity and uniqueness of the district:


    555 Madison Avenue



    360 Madison Avenue



    415 Madison






    335 Madison (BofA)



    477 Madison Avenue



    380 Madison Avenue



    340 Madison Avenue



    54th and Madison


    City Planning needs to stop listening to Cuozzo and the New York Post, who seem intent on turning this city into one worthy of it's toilet bound newspaper.
    The amount of new office space yielded in this stretch alone would meet demand for a decade. If companies need gigantic floor plates, let them deaden Hudson Yards and Long Island City.

    And since most of us (and visitors) view our cityscape as more than empty envelopes of aging office space that have no more of a function than squeezing in as many cubicles and corner offices together into one floor plate, why don’t they do some real planning and evaluate what is worth saving and what could be modernized. The goal should not to mimic Singapore or Canary Wharf but to create a desirable Midtown that people actually want to work, shop and reside in. A district this important deserves to be fine-tuned and shouldn’t be left up to developers and their profit margins.

  10. #25

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    Derek, great post; the city would benefit greatly if it listening to you / followed that recommendation.

    Can you please find a way to speak to the City Council, Amanda Burden, anyone?

    Some people here can probably get an audience with some of those folks - anyone want to take the lead here?

  11. #26

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    The biggest problem I have with the rezoning proposal is Mayor Bloombergs' plan to permit 'the city' to take a portion of the sale of development rights, and then reinvest those proceeds into a fund that will pay for "neighborhood improvements". That reinvestment scheme seems like more Bloomberg style political gamesmanship designed to provide some sort of slush fund for 'self-dealing' politicians; someone needs to look more deeply into the dirty little details of the rezoning proposal.

    There is more to this 'rezoning' than providing midtown with a new stock of bigger, taller, more modern office buildings. That being said, I will leave the sleuthing Steve C. over at the NY Post. (LOL)

  12. #27

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    I would like to see all of those structures redeveloped. I wish that the rezoning did not south of42nd St. I also would've liked for it to cover 5th Ave in the 40s since that area is a dump.

  13. #28

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    On Dec 3rd, the Real Deal and Curbed released images of S.L. Green'proposed tower on 42nd. It looks ridiculous.

  14. #29
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    It's not that bad .


    Say Hello to 1 Vanderbilt, the KPF Tower Coming to Midtown

    by Jessica Dailey



    One week after news broke that developer SL Green had tapped Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates to design a new tower near Grand Central, the Real Deal is reporting that said tower will be called One Vanderbilt. SL Green revealed the name and the above drawings today during its annual investor conference. The 1.55-million-square-foot building would be located on a block bound by 42nd and 43rd Streets, presumably fronting on Vanderbilt Avenue. As currently designed, the building would not actually be feasible unless the Midtown East rezoning is approved, so clearly SL Green is feeling optimistic about the rezoning moving forward.

    REIT Unveils, Names its Massive New Midtown Tower [TRD]

    http://ny.curbed.com/archives/2012/1...to_midtown.php

  15. #30
    Forum Veteran Tectonic's Avatar
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    Nothing impressive, so far.

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