Midtown East Rezoning
Yale Club - 50 Vanderbilt Ave - James Gamble Rogers, 1915
250 Park Avenue, Postum Building - Cross & Cross 1925
Roosevelt Hotel, George B. Post, 1925
125 Park Avenue, 1922, York and Sawyer
125 Park Avenue, 1922, York and Sawyer
Lexington Hotel, 511 Lexington Avenue - Schultze & Weaver, 1928
Graybar Building - 420 Lexington Avenue ca. 1926
Lincoln Building, 60 East 42nd Street - Mulliken & Mueller, 1902
51 East 42nd Street - Vanderbilt Avenue Facade
295 Madison Ave
292 Madison Ave.
299 Madison Ave.
400 Madison Avenue - Between E.47 and E.48 Streets
Beverly Hotel, now Benjamin Hotel, 125 East 50th Street - Emery Roth, 1925
Hotel W - 541 Lexington Avenue
Shelton Towers (now Marriott) - 525 Lexington Avenue
Hotel InterContinental - Barclay
UPDATE: NOVEMBER 25, 2013
The issue of rezoning Midtown East is sure to resurface in the new Administration. The Conservancy intends to continue to work with elected officials, community boards and our colleagues to ensure that new growth does not come at the expense of the iconic older buildings that give the area its character. And, for the first time, the three citywide preservation groups have an agreed upon list of 16 historically significant buildings that we will push to be designated as landmarks.
Councilmember Daniel Garodnick , who represents much of the area, asked Conservancy Chair Lloyd Zuckerberg for one list during a meeting early this month. The Conservancy had focused our advocacy on buildings City Planning had identified for likely demolition. The other groups based their lists on different criteria. Now, the Conservancy, Municipal Art Society and Historic Districts Council will push for designation of the following buildings.
16 historically significant buildings that we will push to be designated as landmarks.
- The Yale Club, 60 Vanderbilt Avenue;
- Pershing Square Building, 125 Park Avenue;
- Postum Building, 250 Park Avenue;
- Lincoln Building, 60 East 42nd Street;
- Graybar Building, 420 Lexington Avenue;
- Hotel Intercontinental, 111 East 48th St.;
- Chemists Club, 50-52 East 41st St.;
- Benjamin Hotel, 541 Lexington Avenue;
- Hotel Lexington, 511 Lexington Avenue;
- Halloran House (Shelton Club Hotel), 525 Lexington Avenue;
- Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street;
- 52 Vanderbilt Avenue;
- Grand Rapids Furniture Co., 18-20 East 50th St.;
- Union Carbide Building, 270 Park Avenue;
- 400 Madison Avenue and
- Girl Scouts of America, 830 Third Avenue.
The City Landmarks Commission has calendared 125 Park Avenue, the Graybar Building, and the Halloran, Lexington and Benjamin Hotels. But the Commission is not expected to take any action on them before the end of this Administration. Next year could bring a new cast of characters at the Commission. As always, we’ll continue our advocacy and count on your show of public support. Thank you again for all your help in defeating Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal.
NOVEMBER 13, 2013
YOUR VOICE WAS HEARD – THANK YOU!!!
COUNCIL DECISION ON MIDTOWN EAST
ALLOWS TIME FOR BETTER PLAN
Our great thanks to all of you who wrote to your Council Member on behalf of the Conservancy’s position on Midtown East.
The defeat of the current Midtown East proposal clears the way to discuss a better plan that doesn’t target the most distinctive buildings in the area for destruction, allows the Landmarks Commission to continue designations, ensures public input on new development, and addresses mass transit challenges.
We are ready to work with the new Administration and Council, as well as our allies at the Community Boards and colleague organizations, to fashion a plan that benefits all New Yorkers.
Preservation took many unwarranted hits during this debate. And we are sure some criticism will continue. As we have said, and as the Times Editorial Board and Robert A.M. Stern emphasized, there is room for growth in Midtown East without destroying its character.
Our work continues.
November 4, 2013
Shouldn’t the next Mayor and City Council have a say in major changes to the future of this section of the City?
The Midtown East upzoning proposal is deeply flawed. It threatens historic buildings, adds to transportation gridlock, and cuts the public and the Council out of the review process that has allowed new construction all across the City.
A new poll commissioned by the company that owns the air rights at Grand Central Terminal shows a lack of support for upzoning Midtown East. Across the City, 62% oppose the plan, 85% think it’s more important to get the plan right than to pass it this year, and an overwhelming 93% think that it’s important to protect the historic buildings and landmarks of Midtown East.
The New York Times editorial board, New York Times architecture critic, Manhattan Institute, a coalition of Community Boards, and the City Club have joined preservation groups to say that this is not the right plan for Midtown East.
Now it’s time for your voice to be heard.
CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION.
OCTOBER 2013 UPDATE
At a press conference on Tuesday October 1, Councilmembers Daniel Garodnick and Gale Brewer joined other elected officials, as well as community, civic and preservation groups who detailed serious issues with the current proposal. Everyone made it clear that they were not objecting to building new towers in Midtown. They were objecting to a proposal being rushed through the land use process as a “legacy” for the current Administration. Speakers noted that the rezoning of Hudson Yards–a much smaller area–took several years of negotiation to reach a plan that satisfied all the parties. There is no reason the next Council and Administration couldn’t work on a better plan.
The City Council now has 50 days from October 1 to vote on the proposed Midtown East upzoning. Passing the plan could mean the destruction of the great historic commercial buildings surrounding Grand Central Terminal. It will add to the already severe crowding on the area’s sidewalks and subways. It is virtually impossible for the Council to fix the proposal’s many flaws in such a limited time frame.
Please contact your councilmember and ask him or her to VOTE NO ON MIDTOWN EAST. The negative impacts of this plan will hurt the entire City.
SEPTEMBER 2013 UPDATE
The Landmarks Conservancy is co-sponsoring a press conference on Midtown East rezoning on October 1 at 11 a.m. at City Hall. The Conservancy will join elected officials and colleague groups to detail the many problems with the Administration’s proposal.
The Council takes up the controversial proposal on Tuesday October 1, and has 50 days to decide its fate. The plan would overwhelm Midtown’s crowded subways and streets and have a detrimental impact that will affect New Yorkers from throughout the City.
The Conservancy’s primary concern is the likely demolition of the historic, landmark quality buildings surrounding Grand Central Terminal. These buildings, from the Yale Club and Roosevelt Hotel on Vanderbilt Avenue to the Graybar Building on the Terminal’s east side, define the area and give its iconic character.
The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has only calendared five buildings in the area as the first step in the landmarking process. The owner of two of them … the Graybar Building and 125 Park Avenue … is opposing designation.
Given the short time left in the Bloomberg Administration, the Commission will not have time to designate any other worthy buildings. The result could be a ring of 110 story glass and steel towers overwhelming the Terminal and its transit systems.
Additionally, a rare coalition of Community Boards published a lengthy and detailed examination that underscores how the plan benefits developers and shortchanges the public. If the plan passes, the normal public review process for development will not occur. The public will have no say in the number, location or size of buildings in the area.
If the Council listens to our concerns, as well as those of The New York Times Editorial Board and its architectural critic, the Manhattan Institute, and noted architect Robert A.M. Stern, they could deal with Midtown East improvements with the next Administration.
Help Stop the Destruction of Midtown East
The New York City Council will be taking up the Midtown East rezoning plan on October 1. Now is the time for you to tell your Council Member to vote no!
The Council has heard from the Mayor. They’ve heard from developers. Now they need to hear from you! Contact your council member and tell them to stop this plan and go back to the drawing board. This rezoning is too important for the whole city to accept this flawed plan.
Click here to find your Council member.
The New York Times and the Manhattan Institute agree that this plan should not go forward:
New York Times Editorial Board:
“The rezoning process has been a rush job, too hurried for the public good, and aimed chiefly at ratifying Michael Bloomberg’s grand design before he leaves office at the end of the year.”
Michael Kimmelman, NYT architecture critic
says the plan is “a variation on an old, failed city policy: hinging prospective, unsecured benefits on the actions of private developers, which, as often as not, fail to pay off.”
Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute:
“Quinn should be in no hurry to rezone midtown. She should propose postponing the project for three years. That would give the current mayor and the next mayor time to fix the city’s budget so that New York can build underground before inviting developers to build above ground.”
This plan threatens the historic buildings that complement Grand Central Terminal. Designed by the starchitects of their day, these magnificent structures are the City’s link to its history and its legacy. The mix of old and new is what makes New York so vibrant. The administration’s haphazard proposal risks losing more than it gains by ignoring the historical resources of the area.
Robert Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, argued in an Op-Ed in the New York Times:
“Instead of blindly targeting what is oldest for replacement, as the study does, why not develop a thoughtful preservation plan that takes a broad look at what is worth saving?”
This plan could bury or obscure Grand Central and the Chrysler Building with 110-story towers. The public will have no say in how many, or where, or when new buildings will be developed. Civic engagement is a hallmark of New York City. This plan, however, seeks to undermine the public’s involvement.
The platforms at Grand Central and the sidewalks of Midtown East are already dangerously overcrowded. This plan has nebulous promises of transit improvements without any provisions for additional users. How can we begin to evaluate a proposal when the supposed public good is completely undefined? A firm commitment to desperately needed infrastructure improvements is a starting point for a proposal, not a last minute bargaining chip.
As Michael Kimmelman writes,
the plan’s “priorities are upside down, focusing on buildings, not what’s around them.” A quality plan would encourage “mass transit, pedestrian-friendly streets, social diversity, neighborhoods that don’t shut down after 5 p.m., parks and landmarks like Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.” A vibrant, 24-hour street life is what makes a successful city.
AUGUST 2013 UPDATE
Stringer Supports Midtown East Over Conservancy and Community Objections & Conservancy Testifies at City Planning Commission Meeting
JUNE 2013 UPDATE:
Community Boards Vote “No” on Midtown East Upzoning
A special task force representing four Community Boards voted to reject the proposed Midtown East upzoning in an unprecedented and detailed rebuttal of the proposal. Community Boards rarely flat-out reject City Planning Commission proposals. The “No” vote demonstrates how deeply flawed the proposal is. “The consideration of the public’s needs was secondary to the interest of real estate developers,” said Lola Finkelstein, who chaired the task force representing Community Boards 1, 4, 5, and 6. While the Boards agree that Midtown East needs to remain globally competitive, they said the City Administration’s proposal would not achieve that goal.
Read More here.
The City’s controversial Midtown East Rezoning proposal targets several historic buildings by significant American architects as potential development sites. These include the 1915 Yale Club designed by James Gamble Rogers, York and Sawyer’s 125 Park Avenue, built in 1922 and the great hotels built in the 1920’s along Lexington Avenue.
The Conservancy believes you don’t “upgrade” an area by destroying existing quality architecture and objected to this approach at a session before the City Planning Commission.
What you can do to help:
We need your help to once again save Grand Central.
Read our testimony to the City Planning Commission below.
September 27, 2012
STATEMENT OF THE NEW YORK LANDMARKS CONSERVANCY AT THE PUBLIC SCOPING MEETING REGARDING THE PROPOSED DRAFT SCOPE OF WORK FOR THE PREPARATION OF A SUPPLEMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR REZONING MIDTOWN EAST
Good day Chair Burden. I am Andrea Goldwyn, speaking on behalf of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. The Landmarks Conservancy is a private, independent, not-for-profit organization, founded in 1973. Our mission is to preserve and protect historic resources throughout New York.
The Conservancy has substantial concerns about the proposed Midtown East rezoning. We agree that New York needs to change and grow, and that new development can stimulate the economy and sometimes results in fantastic architecture. This proposal, however, almost entirely ignores the fine historic buildings that already grace Midtown East, and give this part of the City its character.
While the draft scoping documents exclude City-designated landmarks as potential development sites, they lack a comprehensive review of historic resources in Midtown East. Besides those City-designated landmarks, there are 21 buildings that the State Historic Preservation Office has determined are eligible for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. We have recently completed a survey and found 17 additional historic structures, designed by significant architects such as Warren & Wetmore, York & Sawyer, and James Rogers Gamble, that we plan to submit for such eligibility. Of this total group, 16 have been identified as projected or potential development sites (images attached). These are fine, old buildings that date to the early 20th century, with soaring masonry facades enlivened by decorative details. They are an essential part of the mix that makes New York such a special place. London didn’t tear down its historic architecture to build the Shard, and neither should New York.
We also question whether the proposed changes to the Grand Central Subdistrict will be of any help to this landmark. The owners of Grand Central’s air rights are rightly concerned that those rights will now be set aside in favor of those that the City is selling. And we have heard from major religious institutions wondering that if the City can create special districts where none existed, why can’t it do the same for those landmark buildings that so enrich New York?
Our concern about the historic buildings is only one of many that this plan raises. It reduces the City’s commitment to sustainability by encouraging the demolition of perfectly intact buildings with all their embodied energy. It lacks specifics about how the transportation improvement funds will be used. And it is not clear that authority exists for the “sunrise” provision.
In many cases, the City Planning Department has used rezoning judiciously, responding to community concerns and codifying existing building patterns. That thoughtful application has improved neighborhoods. If fully implemented, the plan presented today would irreparably damage one of New York’s great historic commercial zones. The blend of new and old is what keeps New York vital and unique. That principle should be a starting point for revitalizing this significant area, not an afterthought as it is presented here.
Thank you for the opportunity to express The Landmarks Conservancy’s views.
“We’re not saying don’t do this; we’re saying you don’t upgrade an area by taking out its architectural language,” Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.
Midtown East Historic Resources Threatened by Proposed Zoning Changes
The following is a list of 17 historic buildings situated on sites that have been identified by the Planning Commission as ideal for redevelopment under the proposed rezoning.
1. 60 Vanderbilt Avenue, The Yale Club 1915, James Gamble Rogers
2. 52 Vanderbilt Avenue 1915, Warren and Wetmore
3. 51 East 42nd Street 1913, Warren and Wetmore
4. 125 Park Avenue 1922, York and Sawyer
5. 250 Park Avenue, Postum Building 1925, Cross and Cross
6. 45 East 45th Street, Roosevelt Hotel 1925, George B. Post
7. 111 East 48th Street, Hotel InterContinental – Barclay 1927, Cross and Cross
8. 366 Madison Avenue 1920, Warren and Wetmore
9. 346 Madison Avenue, Brooks Brothers 1914, La Farge and Morris
10. 347 Madison Avenue, Equitable Trust Company 1918, Warren and Wetmore
11. 300 Park Avenue, Colgate Palmolive Building 1955 Emery Roth and Sons
12. 285 Madison Avenue 1925, Rouse and Goldstone
13. 331 Madison Avenue 1911, Severance and Van Alen
14. 511 Lexington Avenue, Lexington Hotel 1928, Schultze and Weaver
15. 525 Lexington Avenue, Shelton Club Hotel 1924, Arthur Loomis Harmons
16. 541 Lexington Avenue, Hotel Montclair 1929, Emery Roth.
17. 292 Madison Avenue, 1923, Ludlow and Peabody
From The Environmental Simulation Center (http://www.simcenter.org)
East Midtown Study: Proposed Rezoning Simulations
Click here to view the entire report (8mb .pdf file)
This Environmental Simulation Center study dramatically shows what new towers could mean for Midtown East. As you’ll see, Grand Central is swallowed and the Chrysler Building disappears from various angles.