Category: Blog Post


ERFA’S QUEST CONTINUES — NO MEGATOWERS IN RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS

By Team ERFA,

Dear All,

The impressive participation at the July 12th Town Hall meeting showed our community’s unyielding commitment to TAKE ACTION to bring the 430 East 58th Street development site into compliance with the new zoning law that was enacted by the City Council last November. The developer should not be exempted from having to abide by the same law that now applies to everyone else in the neighborhood!

For those of you who could not attend, here’s an overall summary of the points that were made:

  • ERFA achieved a zoning change, enacted by the NYC City Council on November 30, 2017, to prevent the construction of megatowers in the East River Fifties.
  • The developer of the 430 East 58th Street site then applied to the Board of Standards & Appeals to be exempted from the new law and allowed to construct a megatower.
  • On June 26, 2018, the BSA granted the developer’s request for an exemption.
  • ERFA will commence a legal action known as an Article 78 proceeding in the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeking to reverse the BSA’s decision.
  • The community’s support is essential to achieving this goal. Please give to the cause, by following this link.

 At the Town Hall meeting on July 12th, we discussed the history of ERFA’s quest to save the East River Fifties and what the continuing fight will entail. Here are the answers to various questions that were covered:

Q. How did we get to the point where we are now?

A. In brief, the major events leading up to the present time are:

  • In 2015, when we became aware of a developer’s intention to construct a 1,000 ft. tall megatower at 430 East 58th Street, we realized that a 1960s-era zoning law posed a threat to our entire neighborhood. We began discussing possible solutions to the problem with the NYC Dept. of City Planning (“DCP”)
  • On January 21, 2016, after several months of discussion and analysis, ERFA submitted a proposal to DCP to re-zone the East River Fifties (the area from 51st Street to 59th Street, east of First Avenue) so as to prevent the construction of megatowers and provide for affordable housing.
  • Almost two years later, on November 15, 2017, after much additional discussion and negotiation with DCP — and our submission of hundreds of pages of supporting documents — the NYC Planning Commission (“CPC”) approved a zoning change applying tower-on-a-base (“TOB”) standards to new construction in the East River Fifties. (TOB standards serve as a “functional height limit” by imposing size and design requirements which, in effect, limit building heights.)
  • However — At the last minute before approving the zoning change, CPC inserted a “grandfathering” exception to allow construction of the megatower that had been planned by the developer of the 430 East 58th Street construction site — the same site that alerted us to the need for overall re-zoning in the first place. (See June 17, 2018, Daily News article, Law firm owed $300G by de Blasio lobbied mayor’s top aides, won big favor for high-rise developer””
  • The final step necessary to achieve the rezoning was a vote by the City Council. On November 30, 2017, the rezoning was enacted into law by a City Council vote of 45-0 (with one abstention). Importantly — In enacting the rezoning, the City Council specifically removed the grandfathering provision that had been inserted by CPC, thus making the developer subject to the new law.
  • In December 2017, the developer again sought to grandfather the 430 East 58th Street development site by applying to the Board of Standards & Appeals (“BSA”) for permission to do so. Under the NYC Zoning Resolution, the BSA may grant such permission if a developer made “substantial progress” on a building’s foundation prior to a zoning change and also met certain other requirements. The developer claimed that it had met those standards.
  • In hearings conducted by the BSA on April 10th and June 19th, 2018, ERFA presented a great deal of evidence and made numerous arguments why the BSA should NOT approve the developer’s application for grandfathering. As part of that presentation, ERFA provided compelling evidence that the Dept. of Buildings (“DOB”) and Dept. of Transportation (“DOT”) permits that had been issued to allow extensive after-hours (i.e., weekend) work on the foundation were invalid, and that therefore, the work performed pursuant to those permits – which included the pouring of 73% of the foundation’s concrete – should not be counted in the calculation of whether “substantial progress” had been made.
  • Despite the evidence we presented, the BSA voted on June 26, 2018 to approve the developer’s application. In other words, the BSA gave the developer a green light (in legal terminology, a “vested right”) to construct the above-ground portion of the building after completing the foundation. See June 26, 2018 Daily News article, Client of lobbyist law firm Mayor de Blasio owes big money to wins approval for tower from mayor-appointed board.”

 

Q. What is the next step?

A. Although the BSA voted in favor of the developer at its June 26th meeting, the matter is on hold – so to speak – until the BSA issues its written decision. Pending the written decision, the developer may not do any work at the site, nor may ERFA commence legal action to reverse the BSA decision. Based on the most recent information from the BSA, we expect the written decision will be issued at the end of July or beginning of August.

 

Q. ERFA has said it will go to court to challenge the BSA decision. How and when will that happen?

A. ERFA will file papers with the NY State Supreme Court to commence what is known as an Article 78 proceeding. The papers to start the proceeding (an “Article 78 petition”) can’t be filed until the BSA issues its written decision. Once the BSA’s decision is issued, the deadline for filing the Article 78 petition will be 30 days after that.

 

Q. What exactly is an Article 78 proceeding?

A. Article 78 is the portion of the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) – the rules governing all civil actions in New York courts — that sets out the legal procedure for challenging determinations of administrative agencies or other governmental bodies. The person challenging a determination is called the “Petitioner” and the person defending the determination is called the “Respondent.”  In our case, ERFA will file an “Article 78 petition” to challenge the BSA’s decision to grandfather the 430 East 58th Street project. We will argue that in issuing that decision, the BSA failed to comply with the applicable law (the requirements of the Zoning Resolution), and we will ask the court to reverse the BSA decision.

 

Q. What is the timing for an Article 78 proceeding?

A. Article 78 proceedings can vary in length from a few months to several years, depending upon the subject matter and the arguments that are made by the parties. Based on currently available information, we anticipate that our Article 78 proceeding will last for one or two years.

 

Q. What is the name of the lawyer who will represent ERFA at the Article 78 proceeding?

A. Michael Hiller, Esq. represented ERFA at the BSA hearings and will also represent ERFA at the Article 78 proceeding.

 

Q. Can the developer continue constructing the building while the Article 78 proceeding is ongoing?

A. Once the BSA issues its written decision, the developer will have the legal right to renew its building permit with the DOB and continue construction. We don’t know whether or how soon the developer would actually take that step. If the developer does resume construction, we intend to immediately apply to the court for a Temporary Restraining Order and then a Preliminary Injunction to prohibit further construction until the Article 78 proceeding is completed.

 

Q. If ERFA is not granted a Preliminary Injunction and the developer continues construction, what will happen if ERFA ultimately wins the Article 78 proceeding?

A.The law provides that the developer would have to remove the newly-built structure if it does not comply with the zoning that was enacted by the City Council on November 30th.

 

We need your support now more than ever. Please donate now.

 

ERFA Will Take Its Case to Court

By Team ERFA,

Dear Friends of ERFA,

After a three-year battle with this developer — and all that we have stood for and all that we have won, all that we have extended in the form of time, heart, soul and spirit — the Board of Standards & Appeals voted in favor of the developer yesterday and granted it the right to a zoning exception in our neighborhood.

Are we angry? You bet.

Are we going to accept this?   Friends, we haven’t worked this hard for this long to roll over and play dead, blithely accepting a ruling from a City agency that is not a proper court and for all intents and purposes, kowtows to the real estate industry. We haven’t worked this hard to lose the very real chance to win!

This is now a matter for the courts, and the outcome will have public policy implications for the entire city. When you’re right, you’re right and so there is nothing left to do but FIGHT!

For those that have been following our story, it was reported by the Daily News, and subsequently followed by other prominent papers, that this developer has been working with the mayor’s own law firm.

ERFA’s official statement to the news media is as follows:

“Today’s decision by the Board of Standards & Appeals comes as no surprise. The East River Fifties Alliance will now take the community’s fight against this monstrous, out-of-place megatower to the courts and away from a City agency. Unfortunately for the community and the city at large, the Board of Standards & Appeals abrogated its responsibilities under the Zoning Resolution, including especially its obligation to independently assess the invalidity of ill-gotten, after-hours work variances and alleged street closure permits that allowed the tower’s developer to engage in a race to complete the foundation. The Board committed multiple errors of law based upon a misapprehension of what the Zoning Resolution provides.”

Please attend our July 12th Town Hall meeting to understand and embrace the next phase of our battle–what it will require both financially and operatively and how it will differ from other phases of our quest to protect the East River Fifties. Find out how you can help.

ERFA stands with the community in helping to preserve the quality of life of the city we know and love.

Please help us ensure that a wrong decision does not overtake the right that  this community deserves.

We need your support now more than ever. Please donate now.

 

ERFA Leadership Committee

In Case You Missed It

By Team ERFA,

Dear Concerned Citizens of the East River Fifties Alliance,

As many of you know, ERFA appeared in front of the Board of Standards & Appeals yesterday afternoon, the 19th of June, 2018.

Additional and noteworthy merits of our case were presented by our lawyer, Michael Hiller which were reinforced by our indomitable Council Member Ben Kallos. Supporting community members and ERFA Leadership also supplied testimony as did the office of the Borough President, the office of Carolyn Maloney and the Municipal Art Society. ERFA is most grateful for everyone’s time, effort and spirit.

We have been informed that a decision will be reached by the BSA on the 26th of June.

In the meantime, we are sharing some highlighted press links from these past few weeks which under-score the many dynamics that have accompanied our efforts.

Note: Due to the upcoming 4th of July holiday, we are tentatively scheduling the next ERFA Town Hall for Thursday, the 12th. This meeting will be critical as we will be discussing the next phase in our quest – REGARDLESS of the outcome at the Board of Standards and Appeals.

As always, your support is essential to the full success of the East River Fifties rezoning, To protect the neighborhood we know and love, there is a continuing battle to be fought to assure that the 58th Street development site will not be exempted from the zoning change we achieved on November 30, 2017. Please continue to support us.

With thanks and gratitude,
ERFA Leadership

 

P.S.  ERFA has been in the news.  Please follow these links for important articles by Greg B. Smith in the Daily News and Sydney Pereira of the Manhattan Press, and Sally Goldenberg of Politico.

ERFA Members: Join us for the last and final chapter of our battle

By Team ERFA,

ERFA IS THE POWER OF MANY VOICES

 

HELP US SAVE THE EAST RIVER FIFTIES FROM A LOOMING, TOWERING NIGHTMARE

JOIN US FOR THE LAST AND FINAL CHAPTER OF OUR BATTLE

 

WHEN:  Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 10 a.m.

WHAT:   2nd BSA Hearing re: 430 East 58th StreeT

WHERE: 22 Reade Street, New York, NY

WHY: Oppose Construction of a Megatower at 430 East 58th Street

 

SPECIAL NOTE: The BSA hearing is called for 10 a.m.  ERFA will likely be called to appear around 11 a.m., but that is subject to change, without notice.If you have time constraints, please bring a copy of your testimony to the hearing to ensure that it is included with all of our submissions.Winning requires a level of commitment that transcends what is typically necessary in connection with the exercise of rights in the democratic process.We must absolutely bring a show of force to this hearing: speakers, passionate community members, concerned citizens to help us get to the finish line.

 

Express yourself. Make your voice heard.  

ERFA. We are the power of many voices.  Together we can preserve our city.

 

Tell the BSA to make them Build it Right.

Support the East River Fifties Alliance. Please donate now. 

REMINDER: UPCOMING BSA HEARING

By Team ERFA,

WHEN: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 time to be announced
WHAT: 2nd BSA Hearing re 430 East 58th
WHERE: 22 Reade Street, New York, NY
WHY: Oppose Construction of a Megatower at 430 East 58th Street

After a two-month lull in public activity following the Board of Standards & Appeals (“BSA”) April 10th hearing, the fight to protect our neighborhood from construction of a massive, overbearing megatower is again in high gear and we need your participation.

When we learned that a developer was planning to construct a monstrous megatower at 430 East 58th Street and realized that our entire neighborhood was at risk, we rose up and, with the help of our elected officials, succeeded in achieving a zoning change to prevent the construction of megatowers anywhere in our community. The rezoning of the East River Fifties was approved by the City Council on November 30, 2017 by a 45-0 vote with one abstention.

Remember that when the City Council enacted the zoning change, it removed a grandfathering provision which had been inserted by the City Planning Commission to permit the developer to construct the planned 58th Street megatower. The developer tried to persuade the City Council to retain the grandfathering provision, but, after listening to testimony by ERFA and others, the City Council expressly rejected it.

Then – In December 2017, in a further effort to avoid the restrictions of the new law, the developer submitted an application to the BSA seeking authorization to construct a building as per plans filed with the Department of Buildings prior to the zoning change, i.e., to have its planned megatower “grandfathered.”

We were undeterred from our resolve to protect our community!

 

WHAT HAPPENED?
The BSA held a hearing on April 10th to consider arguments for and against grandfathering the developer’s planned megatower under the old zoning rules. The developer sought approval of its application, and ERFA presented numerous reasons why the application should be disapproved.
Because of issues raised by ERFA at the April 10th hearing, the BSA concluded that it needed more information and further analysis before it could make a decision. The BSA scheduled a second hearing to take place on June 19th at which it will hear further arguments for and against approval of the developer’s application.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
During the past two months, we have been actively gathering information and preparing legal arguments in preparation for the June 19th hearing. We are now convinced even more than before that the developer has not met the legal requirements for BSA approval of its application, and we intend to prove our case.
We will demonstrate, among other things, that the after-hours and weekend work permits obtained by the developer as a “safety” measure were not necessary for safety reasons, did not meet the legal requirements for issuance of such permits, and should never have been issued. That means that the construction work performed on those days should NOT be counted when deciding whether the developer made “substantial progress” toward construction of the building’s foundation prior to the zoning change. And if “substantial progress” was not made, the BSA must disapprove the application.
That argument is only one of numerous compelling reasons we will give for the BSA to disapprove the developer’s application — any one of which, alone, would be sufficient to show that the developer is not entitled to the “grandfathering” exception requested, and that to grant it would constitute a violation of New York City Law.

 

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT
We remain optimistic that, working with our public officials, we can be successful in the defense of our community.

The continued unwavering resolve of our community is a critical component of that success. Let’s show our strength!

We urge all New Yorkers who are against the Looming Towering Nightmare that the developer is trying to construct at 430 East 58th Street to attend the BSA public hearing on June 19th and show support for ERFA and the City’s zoning law.

We encourage all of our supporters to speak at the hearing, but regardless of whether you choose to make a personal statement, your presence itself makes an essential statement.