Category: Blog Post


YOUR VOICE, YOUR PRESENCE  LED THE DAY at BSA

By Team ERFA,

10 April 2018

Dear All,

An expression of tremendous gratitude goes out to our many committed ERFA members for attending today’s hearing at the Board of Standards & Appeals. While the downtown early morning was gray and misty, the sky began to clear many hours later when the hearing adjourned.

If you attended the hearing and were able to testify, please know that the registered impact of that was powerful. Whether your speech was a simple, “I live in the neighborhood and I am opposed to this megatower,” or a more extended explanation, there is no question that our steadfast commitment to protecting the East River Fifties is now well documented with this government agency.

Importantly, if you attended the hearing and were unable to stay due to time constraints, we remain grateful for your effort and your presence.

PLEASE KNOW THAT YOUR TESTIMONY CAN STILL BE REGISTERED BY MAILING IT TO:

Hon. Chair Margery Perlmutter

Board of Standards & Appeals
250 Broadway, 29th floor
New York, NY 10007 

Also, your names as participating speakers was registered with the BSA upon sign in. That long list of people who wished to speak, plus the very presence of so many other members of our community, made a vivid impression on the commissioners.

Finally, our next hearing date has been set for the 19th of June. Please stay tuned for further information regarding upcoming ERFA meetings, and again, many thanks for your commitment and passion on behalf of the neighborhood we all know and love.

All best wishes,

 

ERFA leadership Team


Please help fund this effort by making a donation today.

Your Voice Counts More Than Ever: Be Heard at BSA

By Team ERFA,

COME AND BE HEARD AT THE
BOARD OF STANDARDS & APPEALS
MARK YOUR CALENDAR!

WHEN:       Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
LOCATION: Hearing Room, 22 Reade Street, New York, NY
TIME:          9:00 a.m.

On the 30th of November, 2017, the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) together with the steadfast support and commitment of elected officials Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, and State Senator Liz Krueger, achieved an appropriate rezoning of the area from East 51st Street to East 59th Street, east of First Avenue, an unprecedented and hard-won victory for this neighborhood and community.
Prior to the rezoning, the developer of the 430 East 58th Street construction site requested a special grandfathering exception that would have allowed construction of a massive, overbearing mega-tower in our neighborhood, but the City Council expressly rejected it.

In December, notwithstanding the City Council’s rejection of the grandfathering request, the developer applied to the Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) to request a special exception to the new zoning law to implement his plan to build a megatower in our neighborhood.

WHERE WE ARE

ERFA will present a strong case to the BSA opposing the developer’s request for the special exception he seeks to construct the megatower.

We will emphasize to the BSA that ERFA does not want to stop construction; it wants to stop a Looming Towering Nightmare of a building in a residential neighborhood that is now protected — by law — against such absurdly tall towers. The developer is free to build a luxury building that complies with the new law’s “tower-on-a-base” design requirements. That design standard is reasonable and the developer is required to adhere to it. This is also the position taken by Mayor de Blasio on this issue.

Although the history of the development site is complex, the present developer took control of the site months after a public, community-led, formal and official rezoning initiative was already well underway. Our community effort was supported by key elected officials; yet the developer continued to move ahead with an accelerated construction schedule, aided and abetted by numerous and unusual City-issued permits to work on off-hours, weekends, and holidays.

We have amassed a body of evidence confirming that the developer is not entitled to the exception requested, and that to grant it would constitute a violation of New York City law.

ERFA expects to receive a fair hearing on the facts at the Board of Standards & Appeals. That hearing is now scheduled for the 10th of April.

COME AND BE HEARD. 

LET THE BOARD OF STANDARDS & APPEALS KNOW THAT

THERE IS NO PLACE FOR A MEGATOWER 

IN THE EAST RIVER FIFTIES.

 

We urge all New Yorkers who are against the Looming Towering Nightmare to attend the BSA public hearing on April 10 and show support for ERFA and the City’s zoning law.

It’s time for the good people of New York City to win on the merits, not the greedy ones who want an exception from the law.

Update from ERFA Leadership Committee

By Team ERFA,

Dear Friends of ERFA,

We’ve won the battle but we have not won the war….yet!

As many of you know, we had a very successful evening Town Hall meeting in February. For those that missed it, here is a summary of the current facts and status surrounding our rezoning:
  • The New York City Council approved the rezoning of the East River Fifties on November 30, 2017.
  • The new zoning requires buildings constructed in the East River Fifties to comply with “tower-on-a-base” requirements.
  • The megatower that Gamma Real Estate had planned to construct at the 430 E. 58th Street site would not comply with the new zoning. Since the foundation that Gamma had been constructing at that site was based on plans for a megatower which Gamma had filed with the DOB, the DOB issued a stop work order to halt construction of the building’s foundation.
  • Gamma obtained a partial lifting of the stop work order on the theory that additional work on the foundation was necessary to stabilize the site and thus prevent potential damage to the buildings on either side. That’s why residents of our neighborhood saw construction work taking place during December and January.
  • At this point, ALL construction at the site has been halted. Gamma will not be able to construct the megatower it had planned unless it receives approval to do from the Board of Standards and Appeals (“BSA”).
  • Gamma has submitted an appeal to the BSA to allow it to proceed with its planned construction.
  • ERFA has retained Michael Hiller, Esq., to oppose the BSA’s granting of such approval.
  • Mr. Hiller made a presentation at the Feb. 8th Town Hall explaining why he believes ERFA can win this fight and further emphasized that Gamma’s work on the foundation, occurring many weeks after the rezoning, will have no effect on the BSA decision.
  • The BSA will hold one or more hearings during the next few months. ERFA supporters will be encouraged to attend.
  • Timing: The BSA will most likely make a decision on Gamma’s appeal during or after the summer of 2018.
Notably, and in contrast to the nearly three previous years surrounding this re-zoning battle, the next few months are likely to be comparatively quiet.

That does not — and should not — suggest in any way that this battle is over.  On the contrary, we continue to work with our legal team on a daily basis and are in the process of building other associations and hiring experts that will provide us with the necessary insight and counsel to reach our goal.

We will inform you of any breaking news and will request your presence at all appropriate legal hearings that will benefit from your attendance. Stand by for those details in the coming weeks.

How can you help?
Our mission to finish this battle and truly “win the war” for contextual development in the East River Fifties continues to rely on your generosity. To persevere on behalf of the East River Fifties neighborhood, we hope we can depend on you to donate whatever you can. Please join the many who have given to this cause at the level that is most comfortable for you and reflects your commitment to the quality of life in this neighborhood.

And, if you’ve already given, please give again. Many of you have done just that — more than 60 individuals have given more than once to help us win this fight. That’s commitment! We hope you’ll join them and give generously.

Next ERFA meeting: March 8, 2018, Morso Restaurant, 8 am.

Many thanks for your support. We couldn’t have – and can’t – do it without you.

ERFA Leadership Committee
About ERFA
ERFA is a nonprofit 501(c)(4) corporation which represents 45 member buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2700 individual supporters living in more than 550 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.

Update From ERFA President, Alan Kersh

By Team ERFA,

As you know, ERFA was successful in its years-long effort to secure rezoning for this neighborhood to protect it from out-of-scale development.  As we reported in early December, despite this victory we believed that Gamma Real Estate would continue its efforts to develop the 58th Street site (at 430 East 58th) according to its original plans with an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).  That is exactly what is happening.

I’m writing to tell you that the fight is not over, to brief you on what ERFA is doing, and how you can help.

 

Status update

When the zoning law was changed on November 30th, the 430 East 58th Street site came under that new law.  Gamma Real Estate’s construction permit automatically lapsed because the building plan that Gamma had submitted to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) for approval did not comport with the new zoning. Accordingly, the DOB immediately issued a Stop Work Order (SWO) for construction at that site. The net result:  the new applicable law means that Gamma could not move forward with construction of the supertall tower it had planned unless and until it receives approval from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

ERFA has learned that Gamma has filed an appeal with BSA. Because Gamma had commenced construction of the building’s foundation before the new zoning law was adopted, it is eligible to seek “grandfather” status for the project – i.e., the right to construct a building in accordance with the plans it submitted to DOB before the zoning change.  While we do not yet know the details of Gamma’s presentation, we are aware that in considering such applications for grandfathering one of the main factors BSA considers is whether “substantial progress” was made on the foundation prior to the zoning change.  ERFA expects that the amount of work that was done on the foundation prior to November 30th (not after that date) will be an important focus for BSA.

ERFA was surprised to learn last week that despite the zoning change the DOB has partially rescinded its SWO and has given Gamma permission to perform additional work on the 58th Street building’s foundation.  In response to questions, DOB explained to Councilmember Ben Kallos that the additional work was authorized in order to stabilize the buildings next to the construction site, but that the new foundation work was unlikely to help Gamma with its BSA appeal.

Gamma’s BSA appeal has just begun and is at a very early stage. In evaluating requests for grandfathering, BSA generally requires a great deal of information to be provided by the applicant and conducts public hearings before making a decision.  ERFA will be a very strong voice for this neighborhood in opposition to BSA approval of Gamma’s request.

 

What ERFA is doing

Construction Site: ERFA continues to question DOB why/how the new work can be justified.  DOB has said that its expects the stabilization work to take four weeks. The four-week projected timeframe seems inconsistent with public statements that Jonathan Kalikow, representing Gamma, made at the time the zoning was changed.

ERFA’s consulting engineer has viewed the site, and ERFA continues to monitor and document construction efforts. If you have pictures, please send them to info@ERFA.nyc.  Please make sure that we have the date and time of the photograph, as well as the location the photograph was taken.  These photos will help us to demonstrate the amount of work that was done on the foundation after November 30th.

BSA Appeal:  ERFA is not giving up and will fight Gamma as it goes through the process of seeking grandfather status for its construction project on East 58th Street. To that end, ERFA has hired a new legal team which specializes in BSA appeals.  At this point, the time estimate for the process is believed to be four to six months.

 

What You Can Do

ERFA will schedule a Town Hall in January to update everyone on where we are.  Come and show your continued support to fight this fight. We can also come to your building if you are interested in gathering with your neighbors.  Inquiries should go to info@erfa.nyc. We will send a notice out shortly with the date, time and location.  Stay tuned.

Keeping this fight going will take resources.  ERFA needs your financial support and will be embarking on a new fundraising campaign in the new year.  You can make a contribution, however, at any time. To donate now, please click here.

This fight can be successful only if we have your support. You’ve helped the community get this far; we need you again and to the end.

If you are affected by the continued construction on East 58th Street, contact DOB if you feel the work is outside of the permit – e.g. after hours, unsafe conditions, etc.  As always, we do not encourage spurious complaints. Use the online form or call 311.  If you call 311, please get a complaint number and send it to info@erfa.nyc.

As we approach the end of this year, and look to 2018 and to a successful end to this long hard-fought battle, we thank all of our friends across the city and neighbors closer to home for joining us in ensuring the quality of life in this neighborhood.

We knew this would be a long and hard fight.  And, we knew that if we stuck together, we would prevail.  We are – and we will.  Stay with us.  Support ERFA today.

With best wishes for the new year,

 

Alan Kersh

President, East River Fifties Alliance

 

New York City Council Land Use Committee Votes in Favor of ERFA Zoning Proposal

By Team ERFA,

Alan Kersh, ERFA President

Today the New York City Council Land Use Committee voted 17 – 0 (with one abstention) to approve a rezoning measure preserving the context and character of Sutton Place’s quiet residential side streets.

In addition to approving the measure – as approved last week by the New York City Planning Commission – the Council Land Use Committee also removed a special vesting provision that would have benefited a single property owner and undermined the uniform application of the new zoning text.

The rezoning will impose “tower on a base” standards in the area, which means that 45 to 50 percent of a building would need to be built below 150 feet.

Today’s action represents a significant milestone in a years-long effort by the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) to correct an aberration of the 1961-era zoning law that allows buildings of unlimited height on residential side streets in the district, roughly the area between 51st and 59th Streets east of First Avenue. Every other residential community in New York City has legal protections in the form of lower-density zoning or contextual regulations that prevent the construction of supertall towers.

EFRA’s zoning text amendment application was co-signed and vigorously supported from the start by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick, and State Senator Liz Krueger. The ERFA team is also supported by more than 2,600 residents in several hundred buildings throughout Manhattan.

Today’s action is a milestone in our citizen-led initiative to ensure that future development in our neighborhood is consistent with community character, and that our residential streets receive the same protections against out-of-scale development as other residential areas. The proposed modified tower-on-a-base rules will prevent construction of towers with unlimited heights, while still accommodating future housing growth.

I urge the City Council to vote ‘yes’ on the East River Fifties Text Amendment.