One person’s “beautiful” is another person’s “dowdy,” and someone’s pronouncement of “architectural significance” is another’s “obsolescence.” These are the terms people are using in a clash over zoning and related plans that will likely shape a historic part of New York City for the future. Consider the character and skyline of Manhattan’s Midtown East, where New York icons such as Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, the Lever House, and the Look Building stand out among the mix of old and new buildings. Some say the area is falling behind and is a dead zone for new business development, but others cherish its character and say that quality is integral for its future success.
Now picture this area if developers construct many new, huge glass office towers, of the types we see in the Times Square vicinity and other city neighborhoods. What might the future look like in Midtown East? Would it remain a livable, walkable neighborhood for residents and others if it becomes home to a sea of humongous office towers? Would the changes kill the area’s uniqueness and what has made it one of the world’s most famous neighborhoods?
The makeup and quality of life in a 73-block area of Manhattan’s Midtown East are very much at stake as the Bloomberg Administration seeks major zoning changes before the end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term this year. Most everyone involved, from the administration to civic leaders to real estate and construction interests, agree that Midtown East – an area roughly from East 39th Street to East 57th Street between Second and Fifth avenues – needs some dedicated investment and zoning changes. But some say a push for bigger and bigger office towers without significant consideration of the neighborhood’s historic landmarks, transit, public space, and livability is going to create a sterile, congested neighborhood and kill the qualities that made this neighborhood so rich in the first place. [Read more →]