December 8, 2016 — At the December 2016 Town Hall, longtime supporter and co-applicant of ERFA’s rezoning proposal NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos presented East River Fifties community member Charles Fernandez with a City Council Citation for his part in the fight in this neighborhood against out-of-scale development.
Category: Blog Post
According to Curbed New York: “The East River Fifties Alliance, which includes officials like City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and neighborhood stakeholders, are not letting up on their fight against Bauhouse Group’s proposed 950-foot tower at 426-432 East 58th Street despite last week’s court ordered auction of the site due to the developer’s mounting fiscal troubles.” For more, click here.
According to the WSJ: “Last Monday, a bankruptcy judge ordered the sale of the East 58th Street site, assembled by Joseph Beninati’s Bauhouse Group. But the community groups, along with elected officials,
are hoping to delay the project until a new zoning plan limiting building heights can be put into effect.
“The plan, which the groups and officials said they were ready to formally propose to the City Planning Commission as early as this week, calls for buildings in the neighborhood to be no taller than 260 feet…”The groups hope it is approved before development work begins at the site. The proposed change also could discourage bidders at the auction, which was ordered by the court following a dispute between Bauhouse Group and its lenders, led by N. Richard Kalikow.
“The zoning change isn’t the only hurdle the project faces. On Wednesday, the Department of Buildings blocked a permit needed to complete demolition of the site, after conducting an audit requested by [Councilmember Ben] Kallos.” To read more, click here.
When the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) embarked on a volunteer-led effort to rezone the Sutton community, we knew it was our only chance to prevent a 900-foot megatower from being developed on East 58 Street – and to prevent the construction of additional megatowers on other sites just blocks away.
We also knew that we’d entered an ominous race against time – because, to achieve our goal, the rezoning must take effect before the developer substantially completes a foundation.
While the 58th Street site has been fraught with problems, from the developer declaring bankruptcy, to multiple lawsuits, to an order last month by a US Bankruptcy Court Judge ordering the sale of the project to a new developer, ERFA has been doggedly making its way through the City’s planning process, keeping our eye on the prize: the long-term preservation of our neighborhood’s human-scale character and livability.
Here’s why we have a good chance to get our rezoning approved in time to prevent the construction of megatowers in our neighborhood:
- The City knows we’re serious. Since last January, when we submitted our pre-application statement to the Department of City Planning, our attorneys and planners have had numerous meetings with DCP; it is clear from these negotiations that our proposal is front and center at DCP and that the City recognizes that megatowers may not be appropriate for the Sutton community.
- Our proposal includes substantial affordable housing. The City is balancing its desire for more housing production and new construction with ERFA’s desire for more reasonable height controls. ERFA’s proposal, in fact, has the potential to more than triple the amount of affordable housing built as part of any new developments in the neighborhood as compared to the status quo zoning.
- Our application is on schedule. We are about conclude a key stage in the process – the Environmental Assessment Statement – after which we will seek “certification” by the City Planning Commission, an acknowledgement by the CPC that that we’ve submitted all of the required documents and our application is complete. Certification triggers the final stage of the process, the formal review by Community Board 6, the Manhattan Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. If our application receives certification this fall, as anticipated, the full review process should be completed sometime this spring.
- Key decision-makers are on our side. As our application goes through the formal review process, it is to our advantage that various persons within City government who will be involved in that review have already expressed support for us. Community Board 6 has spoken favorably about the desirability of a zoning change for our neighborhood, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick (along with State Senator Liz Krueger) are actually co-applicants on ERFA’s rezoning proposal.
The final steps of the formal review process are that ERFA’s rezoning proposal, to be adopted, must be approved by the City Planning Commission, the City Council and the Mayor.
To this end, ERFA will launch another public outreach effort to rally as many forces as possible to endorse our initiative – including Sutton area residents and businesses, important civic organizations and influential New Yorkers. Indeed, we intend to let our elected officials know of the vast amount of support for ERFA’s proposal.
A rezoning is a $1.5 million endeavor, and ERFA is actively raising funds for the effort. If readers wish to contribute, they can do so on-line at ERFA.nyc or send a check made payable to the East River Fifties Alliance to ERFA, Attn: Donna Chin, 205 East 42nd Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017.
East River Fifties residents and ERFA members Gail Wasserman and Jennifer Crandall have been leading our tabling efforts around the neighborhood. They are the smiling faces that distribute information and answer questions about ERFA’s plan and its progress. We asked them about the most common questions and misconceptions. Here’s what the ladies said:
What is the biggest misconception that you keep hearing?
People think that the former developer’s bankruptcy and foreclosure struggle means that there is no longer any danger of the E 58th St. building being built.
Foreclosure on a loan only means that the property would be transferred to another owner via an auction conducted by the lender. Another developer could take over the project and plan an equally tall building, perhaps with greater ability than the Bauhouse Group to see the project through to completion. Although the bankruptcy proceeding has caused a temporary delay, it could be resolved at any time and the project could rapidly move forward with a very able developer. The antiquated zoning laws that allow megatowers in our residential neighborhood would still exist and continue to be a threat in the future. ERFA’s rezoning plan, if successful, will ensure that this site and others in the East River Fifties community will no longer permit such towers.
Most asked question:
Do you really think you can win?
Yes! Not only do we have an energized and involved community and a rezoning plan that exemplifies everything that the City says it wants, we also have four elected officials (Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, City Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, and State Senator Liz Krueger) that actually co-filed our plan with us at the Department of City Planning.
The East River Fifties community is angry that this may happen in the Sutton neighborhood as well as elsewhere in the City. People are energized and committed to getting the rezoning accomplished.
Thank you again to Gail Wasserman and Jennifer Crandall for their continued hard work on this cause. You can find them at their next tabling event on June 16th at Cathedral High School (across the street from Le Pain Quotidien) on 1st Avenue and 56th Street.