Category: Blog Post

Message from Alan Kersh, ERFA President

By Team ERFA,



As you know, when ERFA’s re-zoning application was certified by the City Planning Commission (CPC) in June 2017, the Department of City Planning (DCP) expressed numerous “concerns.” It became clear to ERFA’s leadership and our elected officials that ERFA’s application faced likely rejection by the City Planning Commission (CPC) if it were to be brought to a vote. Following public feedback from CPC Chair Marisa Lago illustrating a path forward, ERFA submitted a new application to DCP in September, which was certified by CPC on October 2nd. ERFA’s original, related application, about which DCP had raised concerns, has been withdrawn.

At the CPC’s public meeting on October 4th, CPC approved calendaring ERFA’s new rezoning application for public hearing at its upcoming public meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. on October 18th at Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street, New York, NY. Members of ERFA’s leadership and our elected officials will be attending and speaking at that meeting.

In a nutshell, ERFA’s new zoning amendment will require all new residential buildings that are constructed in the rezoned area (north of 51st Street to 59th Street, east of First Avenue) to conform to “tower-on-a base” rules (TOB), irrespective of whether the building has wide street or narrow street frontage.

Specifics of the text amendment that will soon be voted on by CPC can be found by going to the following link:

The tower-on-a-base (TOB) so-called packing rules that normally apply to the avenues and wide streets were modified to provide, among other things, that at least 45 percent of the total floor area permitted on the zoning lot must be located in stories located either partially or entirely below a height of 150 feet. TOB also imposes rules and limitations on a developer’s ability to assemble air rights through the use of zoning lot mergers.

Under the new application, developers are eligible to receive bonus FAR by utilizing the bonus structure currently in place under the 1987 Inclusionary Housing program for R10 zoned districts.

Under ERFA’s new zoning application, new buildings will be constructed with livable heights and contextual street fronts. The resulting building heights will likely be taller than what was proposed in ERFA’s earlier application but significantly shorter than what development under the current R10 rules would permit if the existing zoning remained in place.

The district map was adjusted slightly from the original application. The new Application covers the area north of 51st Street up to the south side of 59th Street, east of First Avenue. Previously, the application excluded portions along the south side of 59th Street with commercial overlays or commercial equivalent zoning.

The re-zoning is pro development. It is not a downzoning. Density will remain at 10 FAR with the opportunity to expand that to 12 FAR with the creation of affordable housing.

Utilizing TOB rules will prevent out-of-scale development that could be built under the current R10 zoning.

ERFA’s justification — and mission — continues to be to right the wrong of an aberration in the 1961 zoning law which allowed unlimited building heights on the side streets of our community. The new zoning plan will block the development of megatowers in the East River Fifties.

Following discussion at CPC’s meeting on October 18th, it is anticipated that the City Planning Commissioners will vote on ERFA’s application at their next meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. on November 1st at 22 Reade Street, New York, NY.

Upon receiving a vote of approval by CPC, the Application will then go to the City Council where it will be voted on at its meetings in mid-November.

After almost three years, we look forward to seeing you at the finish line.  Our work is not done until the rezoning amendment is passed by the City Council and becomes law.  ERFA still needs the professional expertise it has assembled to support this application right up to the vote.

As we look at this final stretch of our rezoning effort, we need your help.  We have worked to protect this entire neighborhood and hope we can count on you to join us by making a financial contribution.  Click here to do that now.


Alan Kersh, President

East River Fifties Alliance

Helpful links to view and monitor Department of Buildings information on the East 58th Street Site

By Team ERFA,

For those most affected by the construction on East 58th Street, don’t be silent.  Make your voice heard if you have concerns about public safety or construction violations.

We don’t encourage spurious complaints, but you don’t need to be an expert on the legalities if you have a  concern. Contact DOB and they have to investigate if it is a legitimate complaint.  The only way they can investigate is if you file your concerns officially. And, our elected officials can’t follow up and act on your behalf if they don’t know that you have complaints.

Don’t complain to each other, complain to the Department of Buildings when you see something you suspect is a violation, or you see is a public safety hazard.  Or, if crews are working after hours without a permit.  The link to the After Hours Variance permits is here and below.

The developer is permitted to work M-F, 7 am-6pm. Crews are allowed to be onsite to get ready to work before 7, but are not permitted to start work until 7.  On weekends, if they have an after-hours variance permit, they are allowed to work from 9 am-5 pm.

If you are able to take pictures which illustrate your complaint, please submit them along with the complaint and/or send them to us with date/time information.


For the main DOB page about the work site, including Permits, Violations, Complaints, click here:

To see After Hours Variance Permits and Status, click here

To see information about Cranes on the site: click here

To see Complaints and Status, click here


To file a complaint

Use this information:  420 East 58th Street, Manhattan


  • Call 311, file your complaint, ask for and write down the complaint number, send complaint and number to ERFA at
  • Use 311 online click here; forward your receipt to
  • Write directly to Rick D. Chandler, P.E., Commissioner of the Department of Buildings, at; cc on your email 

    ERFA urges you to do your part.  Make your voice heard if you have legitimate complaints, especially if they concern personal safely, the safety of your building, or if work is being performed after hours without a permit.

If you send us your complaint and reference number, we will forward your information as soon as we get it to both Ben Kallos’ office and Gale Brewer’s office so that they may monitor them.

Don’t rely on your neighbor to report unsafe or after hours conditions. It’s up to you too. 

East 50s Residents: How to file a complaint with the Department of Buildings

By Team ERFA,

We know many of you are deeply concerned about the active construction site on east 58th Street.
Those that are most affected by the construction on East 58th Street can express complaints about unsafe conditions, after hours work without a permit, and legitimate concerns about the construction by:


We do not encourage spurious complaints, but we do urge you to make your voice heard if you have legitimate complaints, especially if they concern personal safely, the safety of your building, or if work is being performed after hours without a permit.

Please keep us informed of any complaints you make.  Be sure to give the address of the construction site: 430 East 58th Street in your complaint to 311 or include it in the subject line of your email.  You must ask the operator for a complaint number, which provides assurance that the complaint will be properly logged in. Then let us know the complaint number so we can monitor it.
If you send a message to Rick Chandler, please forward a copy to us. You can provide this information to us by writing to
Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Ben Kallos are following up on this issue. Their offices are able to track complaints made to 311 and we will also make them aware of complaints you send directly to Rick Chandler.
The developer is permitted to work M-F, 7 am-6pm Crews are allowed to be onsite to get ready to work before 7, but are not permitted to start work until 7.  On weekends, if they have an after-hours variance permit, they are allowed to work from 9 am-5 pm.
If you are able to take pictures which illustrate your complaint, please submit them along with the complaint and/or send them to us with date/time information.
This is not someone else’s fight or concern – it’s yours if it affects you personally. And we encourage you to act.
Don’t think your neighbor will do it – both of you should, every time there is a concern or violation.


By Team ERFA,

New York, July 17, 2017 – The East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) announced today that it has gained the full, formal endorsement of LANDMARK WEST!, the decades-old organization whose record of achievement for community  preservation on Manhattan’s Upper West Side includes the creation of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, advocating for contextual zoning and, recently, the continued protection of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist from a condo conversion that would have destroyed defining elements.

In a July 12 letter to Marisa Lago, Chair of the City Planning Commission, LANDMARK WEST! urged Chair Lago and her fellow commissioners to approve ERFA’s unprecedented citizens’ application to the City of New York for a zoning change to prevent the construction of supertall residential towers in the East River Fifties area and to encourage community diversity.

Co-signed by Kate Wood, President, and Sean Khorsandi, Interim Executive Director, the letter stated: “The ERFA proposal is a serious, thoughtful response to the spread of towers of extraordinary height that is transforming our city’s skyline, changing the scale of our streets, straining infrastructure, raising serious questions about safety, challenging sustainability, and casting shadows.”

It added, “The unchecked, out-of-scale, ‘as-of-right’ nature of these structures underscores the need for a hard look at policies that facilitate the disruption of the quality of life on our streets by blotting out the sun. There are few areas on this planet where a 1,000-foot tower represents regulation, or a limit on building size or height. There are even fewer where it would be viewed as a harbinger of a pleasant environment. Under no definition could the appearance of such a colossus in long-established residential neighborhoods such as the tidy enclaves of Sutton and Beekman Place yield anything else but catastrophe.”

Alan Kersh, ERFA President said that LANDMARK WEST!’s support is a powerful and influential force in the fight against the proliferation of Billionaire’s Row superscrapers into quiet residential neighborhoods. He said, “Our two-year campaign gains an enormous amount of momentum with this endorsement. We welcome the support of Landmark West! as part of our coalition that also includes Municipal Art Society, Friends of Upper East Side Historic Districts, CIVITAS, and New Yorkers for a Human Scale City.

ERFA’s proposed zoning change application has been officially – and unanimously — approved by the full board of Community Board 6, and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President.  State Senator Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and New York City Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick are co-applicants.

The City Planning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the application later this summer. If approved by the Commission, the application is expected to win approval from the City Council. At that point, it would become part of the City’s zoning law.

The East River Fifties – roughly the area between 52nd and 58th/59th Streets east of First Avenue — is the only residential neighborhood in New York City zoned R10 (the City’s highest-density zoning category) without any type of contextual protection for its residential side streets.  For this reason, it is uniquely vulnerable to the development of supertall towers, a building form that was neither contemplated nor feasible when the local zoning district was created in 1961.

ERFA has seen a steady growth of widespread interest and support for its goals, which — as of July 17th — comes from 2176 supporters in 347 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.

Robert Shepler, Co-chairman of the ERFA Leadership Committee, said, “The coalition’s proposal embraces the City’s goals of planned growth, increased affordability and contextual protection for residential neighborhoods. It is among the first, if not the first, proposal from a neighborhood coalition to combine these goals.

“Right now, R10 zones throughout the city only create about 4-5% affordable units with each new development. That does not meet the city’s needs and gives away too much to developers. The coalition embraces the Mayor’s goal of creating affordable housing in new developments, and the proposed zoning change supports that goal. If fully implemented, the ERFA plan would more than double the amount of affordable housing in new developments in the East River Fifties neighborhood,” Mr. Shepler said.”

In the ERFA proposal, new building heights in the East River Fifties would be capped at 260 feet. The height of more than 91% of the existing buildings in the proposed Rezoning Area is equal to or less than the proposed 260-foot maximum limit, a statistic that has supported contextual rezoning approved by the Commission for other neighborhoods. (To be sure, there are taller existing buildings in the area, but they are largely located on or close to the wide commercial corridors of First Avenue or 59th Street, which are expressly excluded from the proposal in keeping with the City’s practice of allowing more height and density on such corridors.)

ERFA’s proposal is expected to generate 823 units of new housing, almost as many as projected under the existing R10 zoning (888 units) using the Planning Commission’s required assumptions.  If the 888-unit projection is adjusted to reflect the ACTUAL plan filed by the developer for the 58th Street site (which provides for luxury-sized apartments), only 708 units would be projected for the Rezoning Area under the existing zoning – which is actually LESS than the amount projected under ERFA’s proposal.

To see the press release, click here.

Community Board Six Unanimously Approves Resolution in Support of ERFA’s Proposed Zoning Change

By Team ERFA,

Friends and Neighbors –
I’m pleased to share with you the news that at a public meeting on Tuesday evening, the full board of Community Board Six voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of the zoning change proposed by ERFA and its co applicants. As a significant procedural milestone in a formal public review process, the resolution is expected to be presented in the form of CB6 comments to the City Planning Commission early next month.
Co-applicants Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, Councilmember Ben Kallos, and State Senator Liz Krueger all hailed the decision as a victory for the community at large. The Borough President is also expected to provide official comments in support early next month.


As you all know, we have been working with the Department of City Planning for almost two years in order to get this far. Now we are more energized than ever. We hope to move this initiative to completion with a ‘yes’ vote from the City Planning Commission and then final approval from the full City Council – and we hope to have your continued enthusiasm and support for this final leg of our work together to prevent out-of-scale development in this community.


To read the full press release, click here.

The individual and collective voices of ERFA supporters have been critical to our success so far and will become even more important as we move forward together.Watch your emails and the ERFA website for plans on what is next, as well as a notice for the next Town Hall!

Alan Kersh