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Panel backs mayor's midtown rezone proposal



The City Planning Commission Monday backed the Bloomberg administration’s plan to rezone 73 blocks in midtown east to allow for larger, modern skyscrapers.

The commission voted 11-0 with one recusal and one abstention to send the plan to the City Council, which will have the final say on the rezoning.

“If we are to continue to have a world-class district with top-tier state of the art office space, we need to change the zoning, but carefully,” said Amanda Burden, chair of the City Planning Commission, in a statement.

The mayor’s office pushed the proposal to encourage developers to build denser and larger developments around the Grand Central Terminal area, which has been under a more restrictive zoning code since the 1980s.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lauded the plan as way to finance street-level and transit improvements by requiring developers to pay $250 for each square foot of commercial space.

Bloomberg later said the city would front the money. The MTA estimated that transit improvements could cost between $350 to $500 million.

Under changes the City Planning Commission made to the plan, developers can devote 20% of a new building to residential and hotel space and must provide the MTA easements if necessary for access to transit facilities.

Lola Finkelstein, chair of a multi-community board task force on the plan, and one of its critics, lamented that the rezoning was being pushed through without a comprehensive plan to accommodate new workers and commuters.

“The funding that the mayor has repeatedly said would be there is just a statement that there will be funding. But there are no specifics, there are no details,” Finkelstein said.

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