De Blasio go-slow midtown plan makes sense

The Row hotel in midtown. The Row hotel in midtown. Photo Credit: Sheila Anne Feeney

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Can Mayor Bill de Blasio make the denizens of east midtown feel more comfortable -- even as he lets developers jam new waves of humans into one of the most densely packed swaths of commercial real estate in the world? He's going to try, and we hope he succeeds.

Seven months ago, a City Council deep in the throes of Bloomberg fatigue forced the then-mayor to pull the plug on a sweeping rezoning plan for the district.

Michael Bloomberg had the right idea. The average office tower in the area is about 70 years old. London and Tokyo are giving Manhattan a run for its money -- in an age when employers are looking for space in new, environmentally efficient buildings that can handle punishing electronic loads. East midtown needs a building boom.

So now de Blasio has put his own makeover blueprint on the table, and his strategy isn't bad.

Unlike Bloomberg's megavision, the de Blasio mission seems tame and piecemeal. But it's also politically smart. Before one shovel hits the dirt for any project, de Blasio wants developers to work with community leaders, public officials and business people to hash out what goes where.

Then he wants to barter: The city will give developers special permission to build taller if they will provide the citizens of New York with certain amenities.

Last week the mayor's office rolled out plans for the first project in the east midtown build-out. The city would let SL Green Realty Corp. build a 1,200-foot, 65-floor tower at Vanderbilt Avenue and 42nd Street -- across from Grand Central. In return, SL Green, among other things, would build the equivalent of a new waiting room on the ground floor of its tower, connected to the station by an underground passageway. That would be a major help when Long Island Rail Road service finally arrives at Grand Central -- bringing a new flood of people into the station.

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Drawbacks? Most obviously, the tower would worsen the crowding on beleaguered local subway lines.

There will be much to debate as this and other projects proceed. But with luck, someone will listen to what New Yorkers think -- and maybe act in our interest.

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