NYC Proposes East Midtown Towers Up to to 40% Residential

New skyscrapers built in the area near Grand Central Terminal would be allowed to be as much as 40 percent residential under a proposal by New York’s Department of City Planning.

The recommendation is in response to Manhattan community leaders who have said a greater mix of uses would make the area more vibrant, according to a statement by the planners today. Time Warner Center and the Bloomberg LP headquarters building were cited as examples of office towers that successfully integrated housing into their designs.

“It’s been a very repeated and vocal recommendation and we would like to consider it,” said Edith Hsu-Chen, Manhattan director of the city planning department. “We heard it from the community boards, civic groups, the real estate board and elected officials.”

The change was one of several proposed for the east Midtown rezoning plan, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pushed to get done before his term is completed at the year’s end. The initiative would enable developers to replace obsolete office buildings with taller, up-to-date towers to help New York compete with such financial capitals as London and Shanghai, which have modernized their office stock.

The plan also allows landmarks, such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Bartholemew’s Church, to sell their air rights to developers across a broader swath of Midtown. Under the proposal, developers seeking to build on sites between about 49th and 57th streets, and Third and Fifth avenues, would be able to buy unused development rights from any properties within that area. Currently they may only buy rights from adjacent properties.

Improvement Fund

Under the broader zoning plan, developers would be required to contribute to a fund that would finance improved entrances, platforms, stairways, escalators and other enhancements to the area’s streets and mass-transit network. The account, known as the District Improvement Fund, would help the area accommodate additional people working in the larger office buildings.

Residential developers would pay the fund a yet-undetermined amount for each square foot of housing they build. Construction of offices bigger than the proposed zoning limits would cost $250 a square foot.

The residential provision would apply to developers who want to build beyond certain size limits. Developers who want to make those projects more than 20 percent residential may apply for a special permit. The most housing any project could have would be 40 percent.

The zoning plan, including the proposed revisions, is slated for a public hearing on Aug. 7, the department said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.