From the NY Times:
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.
Administration officials acknowledged that the current market for new office buildings across Manhattan was relatively weak. For example, a 40-story office tower at 11 Times Square, at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue, which was completed in 2010, is still not full.
But the officials said major changes in zoning were intended to make it possible to build when demand returned, as history suggests it inevitably will. In promoting the proposal, the administration has repeatedly stressed that Midtown Manhattan needed to keep pace with business districts in other world capitals. And New York does compete with London for some financial firms.
But many of New York’s prominent corporations, law firms and other businesses are not about to decamp for a spectacular skyscraper in Hong Kong anytime soon. Part of the obsession with taller buildings is about prestige and worldwide bragging rights, for size and architectural supremacy.
Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, a Manhattan Democrat, said the Bloomberg administration had failed to consider a host of substantive issues before plunging ahead.
“We need to address the impact of thousands of new office workers,” Mr. Garodnick said. “There are implications for transportation, sanitation and public safety.”
Amanda M. Burden, a close Bloomberg adviser who is director of the City Planning Department, has rebuffed requests from community boards and elected officials to slow down the process.