An article in the NYT a few weeks ago described some proposed changes in the zoning for midtown Manhattan.
The accompanying map says, "Around Grand Central Terminal, towers could be up to twice the size now permitted. Development could also take place along the Park Avenue corridor, where towers could be more than 40% larger. Elsewhere in the district, towers could be 20% larger."
But New York’s premier district, the 70-block area around Grand Central Terminal, has lagged, Bloomberg officials say, hampered by zoning rules, decades old, that have limited the height of buildings.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wants to overhaul these rules so that buildings in Midtown Manhattan can soar as high as those elsewhere. New towers could eventually cast shadows over landmarks across the area, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. They could rise above the 59-story MetLife Building and even the 77-story Chrysler Building.
Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal reflects his effort to put his stamp on the city well after his tenure ends in December 2013. Moving swiftly, he wants the City Council to adopt the new zoning, for what is being called Midtown East, by October 2013, with the first permits for new buildings granted four years later.
His administration says that without the changes, the neighborhood around Grand Central will not retain its reputation as “the best business address in the world” because 300 of its roughly 400 buildings are more than 50 years old. These structures also lack the large column-free spaces, tall ceilings and environmental features now sought by corporate tenants.
The rezoning — from 39th Street to 57th Street on the East Side — would make it easier to demolish aging buildings in order to make way for state of-the-art towers.
Without it, “the top Class A tenants who have been attracted to the area in the past would begin to look elsewhere for space,” the administration says in its proposal.
The plan has stirred criticism from some urban planners, community boards and City Council members, who have contended that the mayor has acted hastily. They said they were concerned about the impact of taller towers in an already dense district where buildings, public spaces, streets, sidewalks and subways have long remained unchanged.
Mr. Bloomberg has encouraged high-rise development in industrial neighborhoods, including the Far West Side of Manhattan, the waterfront in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and in Long Island City, Queens. But with the proposal for Midtown, which is working its way through environmental and public reviews, he is tackling the city’s commercial heart.
“Unlocking the development potential in this area will generate historic opportunities for investment in New York City,” Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel said.
The initiative would, in some cases, allow developers to build towers twice the size now permitted in the Grand Central area. The owner of the 19-story Roosevelt Hotel at Madison and 45th Street could replace it with a 58-story tower under the proposed rules. Current regulations permit no more than 30 floors.
See also http://lvtfan.typepad.com/lvtfans_blog/2008/03/hotel-roosevelt.html , which discusses this in terms of value of land per buildable square foot.
When zoning changes increase the value of land, who should reap the benefit? The current landholder, or the community? What did the landholder do to earn that windfall? Do you think it comes out of thin air? Do you think it is paid him by other rich people?
Or do you recognize that it is part of the structure which enriches a few and impoverishes the many?
It is easy to fix this one. One just has to recognize the structure, and value the land correctly, and start collecting the lion's share of the land rent for the community. If it is more than NYC can put to use -- and it will be -- then apply the excess to reducing our federal taxes on productive effort. Use it to fund Social Security, or Medicare, or universal health insurance, or something else that will benefit the vast majority of us instead of an undeserving tiny privileged minority. Don't throw it in the ocean, and don't leave it in private pockets, be they American or not.
Collect the land rent. Repeat next year, and the next, and the next. Natural Public Revenue.