Tuesday, December 11, 2012
An obvious question: Why not upzone around Penn Station instead of around Grand Central?
OY VEY UPDATE: Now I'm told that the area around Penn Station HAS been massively upzoned. What, the guys with buildings around Grand Central are upset because they don't get as much upzoning as the guys with buildings around Penn Station? Haven't they ever played Monopoly? The game is about buying and selling, not waiting for the government to upzone your land.
Midtown has been under assault by glass behemoths that are boring and that make mediocre streetscapes, but it still has many good blocks and streets. There is talk of preserving individual buildings in midtown, but good buildings are diminished by bad neighbors, and good streets can be turned into bad streets with new construction. Midtown should have a large historic district protecting streets like Vanderbilt Avenue from further encroachment. With the exception of the buildings that have been reskinned, the buildings around Grand Central are one of the best ensembles in New York.
The streets around Penn Station are not as good, and the buildings there are smaller and often undistinghuished. If the idea is that we need big buildings, why tear down the big buildings already in Midtown, which is already so dense that the sidewalks are crowded and the subway often overtaxed?
On the other hand, the West Side is getting the number 7 extension, development of the Hudson Yards, and a new boulevard that will provide good sites for new towers. The idea would be a natural extension of the development that has happened around the High Line from the Village to Hudson Yards. If there's one thing Manhattan doesn't need, in my opinion, it's another big boring glass tower. If the Mayor and his administration are going to insist that we get them, let's at least do it without spoiling the best of what's left in Midtown.
Last but not least, there is no current or foreseeable demand for these giant buildings. Larry Silverstein has been forced to give inexpensive leases to entice tenants into the Ground Zero buildings. In most cases the tenants are moving out of other giant towers, creating a game of musical chairs. Developers want to upzone now, however, because they know future mayors may not be as well disposed towards them as this administration. And once upzoning is given, it's very hard to go back.
V&V: The Shanghaiing of New York