To Remain Competitive, NYC Should Bolster Placemaking, Not Its Skyline

Michael Kimmelman comes out against the plan to rezone a 73-block area around Grand Central Terminal to allow the replacement of "aging commercial buildings with giant new office towers". The city should focus on planning, not zoning, he argues.

"New York can surely never win a skyscraper race with Shanghai or Singapore," says Kimmelman, in joining the chorus of opponents to the plan to upzone East Midtown. "Its future, including the future of Midtown real estate values, depends on strengthening and expanding what already makes the city a global magnet and model. This means mass transit, pedestrian-friendly streets, social diversity, neighborhoods that don’t shut down after 5 p.m., parks and landmarks like Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building."

"If New York wants to learn from London, Tokyo and Shanghai, the lessons aren’t about erecting new skyscrapers," he continues. "Big cities making gains on New York are investing in rail stations, airports and high-speed trains, while New York rests on the laurels of Grand Central and suffers the 4, 5 and 6 trains, which serve East Midtown."

"The Bloomberg administration has certainly not been tone deaf to place-making during the last dozen years, transforming many city parks, waterfronts and plazas, and embracing sustainable design," he notes. "But its plan for East Midtown fails to recognize a fundamental paradigm shift. The focus in designing cities has now turned from buildings to the spaces between those buildings — sidewalks, plazas, parks — whose disposition requires planning."

Full Story: The Plan to Swallow Midtown

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