Actors' Equity has passed a resolution calling for a major revision in New York City's proposal to rezone a span of Eighth Avenue covering part of the theatre district. The actors' union called for the removal of the west side of Eighth Avenue, in the Manhattan neighborhood of Clinton, from any rezoning plan, thereby cutting nearly in half the amount of land that would be available for increased development. A previous resolution by the union had not called for such a change.
Equity's resolution voiced its "strong support of a final version of the Rezoning Plan which either removes the entire West of Eighth Avenue, or, if in the judgement of the City Planning Commission and the City Council, said Rezoning Plan would be rendered unworkable without the inclusion of part or all of the West Side of Eighth Avenue, such inclusion of that portion will be structured so as to have some directly beneficial impact of the Clinton community."
"Many in the community feel the current proposal cuts too wide, too deep and too broad into the Clinton neighborhood," said John Fisher of the Clinton Special District Coalition. "We welcome Equity's consideration." The west side of midtown Eighth Avenue is part of Clinton and many residents have objected to the plan, which they say benefits real estate and theatre interests to the detriment of the surrounding neighborhood.
Put forth as a boost for the Broadway theatre industry, the Department of Planning's proposal would allow theatre owners to sell the "air rights" to their landmarked buildings to developers who wished to build along Eighth Avenue between 40th and 57th streets in excess of current zoning laws. A portion of the money theatre owners would cull from such a windfall, meanwhile, would be deposited into a Theatre Fund, intended for the upkeep of landmark theatres and the development of new plays and used by the Broadway Initiative Working Group -- a coalition of theatrical management and union groups.
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, while endorsing the city's Eighth Avenue Zoning Proposal, has also recommended the exemption of much of the west side of the street from the plan and the requirement that any air rights transfer require a special permit. Still, Fields' has been the most positive reaction the proposed rezoning has yet elicited. In recent months, the proposal has been strongly, and, in some cases, unanimously rejected, first by Community Boards 4 and 5 (which encompass Clinton and the Theatre District) and then the Manhattan Borough Board. Broadway interests have argued that the plan would be beneficial to the city's billion-dollar theatre industry and necessary for its continued health and survival.
The City Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on June 3. Following that, the plan will go before the City Council.
-- By Robert Simonson