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Midtown East rezoning clears City Council

August 15, 2017

On August 9, after five years of review and heated public debate, the full City Council unanimously approved the proposal to rezone Midtown East. The vote followed approvals in July—also unanimous—by the Council’s land use and zoning committees. The affected area is generally bounded by Fifth Avenue, Third Avenue, East 39th Street, and East 57th Street, with most attention focused on the blocks adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. With the rezoning, developers can build taller buildings in exchange for buying air rights from designated Landmarks, contributing to pre-identified infrastructure improvements, or creating public plazas on their properties.

Of concern to DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State—beyond the basic question of the public good these incentives serve in a city that already has large development projects underway on just about every block—are three Modern buildings vulnerable to redevelopment without Landmarks protection: the Universal Pictures Building at 445 Park Ave (Kahn & Jacobs, 1947), Girl Scouts Building at 830 Third Ave (SOM, 1957), and Union Carbide Building at 270 Park Ave (SOM/Gordon Bunshaft, 1961). The designation of the Citicorp Center (Hugh A. Stubbins, Jr. and Emery Roth & Sons, 1978) in late 2016 was part of the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Greater East Midtown Initiative, a multi-year study of historic resources in the area from three periods of development—pre-Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central/Terminal City, and post-Grand Central (since 1933)—that culminated in the identification of twelve buildings in the area to prioritize for protection. While DOCOMOMO NY is pleased about Citicorp, we are disappointed that it is the only new designation from the post-Grand Central era, notwithstanding the Commission’s previous identification of the three aforementioned buildings as “potentially eligible” historic resources. DOCOMOMO NY will continue to advocate for their protection.

Midtown East Rezoning gets final approval from City Council.” August 9, 2017.


From top: Universal Pictures Building at 445 Park Ave in 2013 (Kahn & Jacobs), courtesy The Skyscraper Center; Girl Scouts of America Building at 830 Third Ave in 1958 (SOM), photo by Wurts Bros. courtesy The Museum of the City of New York; Union Carbide Building at 270 Park Ave in 1961 (SOM/Gordon Bunshaft), photo by Ezra Stoller/ESTO.