The City Council will not pass one of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final significant proposals, a sweeping plan to rezone the eastern section of Midtown Manhattan to allow taller skyscrapers to populate the city’s top commercial district.
The plan, which would have rezoned a 73-block area around Grand Central Terminal, has been the subject of weeks of contentious debate as the clock tickets down to the expiration of Bloomberg’s third and final term at year’s end.
Its proponents, who include much of the real estate industry and several construction unions, say the current office space is outdated and sleek modern skyscrapers are needed to keep New York competitive with other world capitals. Its detractors, which include several preservationists, community boards and elected officials, said they believe the proposal was rushed and would overburden a neighborhood already contending with overcrowded streets and subway lines.
The lame duck Bloomberg administration scrambled to find last-ditch council votes but failed. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and councilman Daniel Garodnick, who represents the neighborhood, released a statement late Tuesday saying East Midtown should be rezoned “but only when we can do so properly.”
They cited concerns over air rights and infrastructure improvements as to why they are delaying the plan.
“There is no good reason to rush the proposal through,” they said in the statement.
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio applauded the council for “pressing the pause button on the plan.”
“We cannot afford to hand over the right to develop some of the most valuable real estate in the world without ensuring real and fair benefits for the people of New York City,” said de Blasio. He pledged to present a revised rezoning plan for the neighborhood by the end of 2014.
The stinging rebuke to Bloomberg was in part delivered by Quinn, who has been a frequent ally. Her mayoral campaign was doomed in large part due to fellow Democrats, including de Blasio, attacking her for her close ties to incumbent mayor.
Bloomberg released a statement denouncing the decision, saying his administration was withdrawing the rezoning application.
“This will unfortunately cost the area hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed subway and street improvements and $1 billion in additional tax revenue, as well as tens of thousands of new jobs that would have been created,” the mayor said in the statement. “We are glad to at least be leaving the next administration a blueprint for future action.”