NEW YORK CITY-Working to drum up support for the approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to rezone Midtown East, a group of leaders in the city’s business, labor, and real estate communities has come together to launch an advocacy campaign called Midtown21C: Coalition for a Globally Competitive NYC, the group announced Thursday.
Comprised of the New York Building Congress, Building Trades Employers Association, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Hotel Trades Council, 32BJ Service Employees International Union and the Real Estate Board of New York, the group sent city officials a letter emphasizing the competitive disadvantage likely to befall the Big Apple if the rezoning measure isn’t approved.
Midtown21C made the case that to compete on the world stage in the 21st century, Midtown East must gain the ability to develop office space in line with the product offered in international cities such as London, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Citing the aging design of many buildings in the district, the coalition noted that New York City must be able to develop structures with column-free floors, greater floor-to-ceiling heights, energy efficient features, and world-class design. Midtown21C pressed city officials to complete the rezoning over the next several months in order to equip developers with the information they need to go forward. Such an expeditious outcome is unlikely however, as the rezoning plan is far from completion. Once it has been written, it will go to review by any affected community boards and the City Council.
Meanwhile, the coalition proposed a number of changes to the rezoning plan as it’s currently written, including: permitting landmarked buildings—such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Bart’s and Central Synagogue—to transfer unused development rights more widely within the district; allowing both the District Improvement Bonus and landmark transferrable development rights to be used on the same project outside of the Grand Central sub-district:
Requiring developers to seek a special permit for hotels in the district; allowing for condo hotels within the district; and encouraging more development opportunities within the district.
The group’s members spoke in the announcement of several reasons why the midtown East rezoning is critical for the future of New York.
“Throughout the history of this city, Midtown East has been an economic and jobs juggernaut that constantly evolves to stay ahead of the competition,” says Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, in the announcement. “To stop growing now would be tantamount to surrendering Midtown’s reputation as the pre-eminent business district in the world. Midtown21C intends to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Adds Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, “The Building Trades believe strongly that to build a 21st-century New York, we need 21st-century office space.” And Peter Ward, president of the Hotel Trades Council, notes “This rezoning is not just about Class A office space, it’s about making sure that Midtown East remains a pre-eminent global business district with globally competitive amenities to attract tourists and business travelers. Rezoning Midtown East and requiring hotels only by special permit will allow for the construction of state-of-the-art accommodations.”
In addition, says Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, “The new development and redevelopment that this rezoning will generate will help to ensure work for everyone in the construction industry—including contractors and building trade workers—for many years to come.”
Over the coming weeks, Midtown21C members plan to meet with local officials and community organizations, and to launch a public advocacy campaign to make the case for the proposal.