- Last Updated: 2:53 AM, September 25, 2012
- Posted: 12:33 AM, September 25, 2012
Three powerful religious institutions are raising holy hell over the city’s proposed East Midtown Rezoning, claiming the district’s lines unfairly cut them out of selling air rights that could pay for urgently needed maintenance and restoration.
At a public hearing Thursday, reps from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York and St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church say they’ll urge the city to modify the proposal so they could sell air rights to developers seeking to put up larger structures which new rules would allow. And Central Synagogue says it “wholeheartedly” supports the churches’ efforts.
To understand the religious bodies’ ire might first require a refresher course in the rezoning scheme backed by Mayor Bloomberg and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.
Generally backed by real estate executives who say it’s overdue, it’s also complicated to the point of exhaustion.
Starting five years from its likely approval in mid-2013, it would allow larger office towers than are currently permitted to rise along and astride the coveted Park Avenue corridor — a 78-block area roughly bounded by Lexington and Fifth avenues and by East 39th and 57th streets, but with different north and south boundaries.
But the up-zoning doesn’t come free. Developers must pay to build larger “floor-area ratio,” or FAR, than the current limit of 15.
Anywhere in the rezoned area, they must buy a “District Improvement Bonus” (DIB) from the city — a number yet to be set, but which will rise with the amount of FAR above the current 15.
Within a smaller, Grand Central Subdistrict between 39th and 49th streets, builders could also buy air rights from private owners of landmarked properties within the subdistrict, after buying the first 3 additional FAR through DIBs.
St. Pat’s, St. Bart’s and Central Synagogue are all designated city landmarks. But the Grand Central Subdistrict as proposed would end a block south and a half-block west of St. Pat’s and one block south of St. Bart’s. Central Synagogue is an even closer call, standing on the north half of a block where rezoning covers only the south half.
Under existing law, the institutions can only sell their combined nearly 2 million square feet of air rights to adjacent “receiving” sites — which they haven’t yet been able to do. St. Pat’s has more than 1 million square feet of air rights, St. Bart’s 650,000 and Central Synagogue 110,000 — potentially worth up to $1 billion in all if sold for $500 a square foot.
The new rules would keep the next-door-only limitation even as it would make air rights sales easier, at least in theory, for the few landmarks within the Grand Central Subdistrict.