Category: News


October 2019 Update

By Team ERFA,

Dear Concerned ERFA Members,

We are writing to update you regarding the construction at 430 East 58th Street and the status of the litigation pertaining to it. You have not heard from us recently because there has not been much “new” news to report, but we do want to share the most up-to-date information.

First of all: many of you have asked whether the fact that the construction is taking place means that we have lost the litigation to prevent a megatower at that site. In a word, the answer is “No.”

Our Article 78 case — in which we have asked the Court to reverse the “grandfathering” that was granted to the developer by the Board of Standards and Appeals — is still pending. We had hoped and expected to receive the Court’s decision long before now, but no decision has been rendered yet.

As we previously informed you, the reason that construction is continuing while the lawsuit is pending is that the Court denied our request for a preliminary injunction. Please be aware, though, that the denial is NOT a statement by the Court as to how the Article 78 case will ultimately be decided. In making that point, the judge’s order specifically stated “… the court does not [now] reach the merits of the petition…”

If ERFA ultimately prevails, the law would require the developer to demolish any portion of the construction that is inconsistent with the tower-on-a-base zoning that was adopted by the City Council in December 2017. We have recently apprised the Court of the speed with which construction has been progressing and, therefore, the increasing logistical complexity that demolition would entail. We believe that calling the judge’s attention to the “facts on the ground” will help to move the case to a decision.

Separately — regarding the after-hours (evening and weekend) construction activities that so many of you have justifiably complained about — here is a letter that Ben Kallos sent to the Department of Buildings on September 19th questioning why permits have been issued for such work.

Finally, we want to thank you for your patience and continued support throughout the rezoning process and ensuing hearings and litigation, and also to let you know that — despite the difficulty of getting the Department of Buildings to respond to complaints in a timely manner — you should nevertheless call 311 if you see construction activity that appears inappropriate.

 

Your ERFA Leadership Team

Alan Kersh, Jessica Osborn, Lisa Mercurio and Robert Shepler

April Town Hall Notice

By Team ERFA,

TOWN HALL

ALERT

COME FOR THE FACTS

 

WHEN:  Thursday, April 18, 2019

WHERE: Morso Restaurant, 420 East 59th Street

TIME:     8 a.m.

Noise. Dirt. Traffic. Lights shining in our apartments. How can this be our neighborhood?

COME ONE, COME ALL.

Get answers to your questions regarding the current state of our fight to protect the East River Fifties.

We are in this to win

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

 

TOWN HALL NOTICE: VENUE CHANGE

By Team ERFA,

LOCATION CHANGE

TOWN HALL
TODAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2019

 

This morning’s Town Hall will be held at Bistro Vendome, NOT Morso. See you there.

WHEN: February 7, 2019 8 a.m.

WHERE: Bistro Vendome
405 East 58th Street
(between 1st Avenue and Sutton Place)

Pending Further Order of the Court, No Construction at 428-432 East 58th St. Will Be Permitted Above 80 Feet Until At Least February 26, 2019

By Team ERFA,

New York, December 18, 2018 – The East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA), represented by co-counsels Michael Hiller and New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, have negotiated a Court-Ordered Stipulation that requires the developer trying to build an 800-foot-tall mega-tower on East 58th St. to notify the Court when the building reaches a height of 80 feet above grade level, at which time, the Court will schedule a hearing to determine whether any further construction will be permitted.

In its lawsuit, ERFA has argued, among other things, that the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) illegally granted the developer a special exception to current zoning in order to build a supertall tower that would be filled with luxury apartments and would not provide for any affordable housing. Under the current zoning, which the developer seeks to avoid, the tower would have to be several hundred feet shorter and would be conducive to affordable housing.

The Court-Ordered Stipulation was negotiated while attorneys for ERFA, the developer and the BSA appeared in front of State Supreme Court Judge Debra A. James on December 11 for a hearing on the community group’s Article 78 proceeding against the BSA. At that time, the Developer’s lawyers represented to the Court that the 85-foot mark would constitute the point of no return for the proposed tower; according to the Developer’s lawyers, once the proposed tower were to exceed that height, it could not be built in conformity with current zoning.

During the December 11th hearing, the Court seemed to be receptive to ERFA’s argument that New York does not permit “grandfathering” exceptions to current zoning where the developer has engaged in construction activities that violate the law. ERFA has argued that the developer violated Department of Transportation and Department of Buildings permit requirements, creating hazards to the community, all in an effort to rush to complete the construction work.

Alan Kersh, ERFA President, said, “We know that the developer did not comply with all aspects of the law and, that the BSA did not act properly in granting an exception to proceed with construction of a supertall. Today’s stipulation is a significant milestone for a citizens’ group fighting overdevelopment in New York City.”

Mr. Hiller was critical of the City’s priorities, commenting: “I still cannot understand why the City would continue its efforts to twist the law into a pretzel in order to approve yet another luxury mega-tower at the expense of affordable housing.”

He added, “We are fortunate that the Judge in our case took the time during the hearing to focus on the issues and ask probing questions of the lawyers for the City and the developer in the court’s search for the truth. While there are certainly no guarantees as to the outcome, we remain optimistic that, owing to the strength of our case, the rule of law will prevail.”

“Developers can’t keep getting away with breaking the law. Public safety was endangered by after-hours variances and street closure permits that were issued under false pretenses and then not even complied with by the developer. We are in court to finally stop developers from perverting the law to harm communities when those laws were originally intended to protect residents,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Pro Bono Co-Counsel for ERFA and a petitioner. “Thank you Michael Hiller for a strong argument for applying the law as written. Judge Debra A. James is a credit to our judiciary with her ability to handle diverse cases, digging into a complex subject matter, and asking tough questions that really got to the heart of the matter.”

If constructed, the proposed mega-tower would dwarf adjacent structures, which mostly consist of 5-6 story townhouses and small apartment buildings to the south. Neighborhood residents and every public official to have commented on the project have opposed it as wildly out-of-scale and part of a larger, unfortunate trend in the City to favor the interests of well-connected real-estate developers over the needs of the community.

Public officials who oppose the project include City Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Keith Powers, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Assemblymember Dan Quart and Member of the House of Representatives, Carolyn Maloney.

The next court appearance has been scheduled for February 26, 2019.

December Town Hall

By Team ERFA,

Come to this week’s Town Hall and and hear the status of ERFA’s work to protect the East River Fifties.

 

WHEN:            December 13, 2018

WHERE:          Morso Restaurant

420 East 59th Street

TIME:              8-9 a.m.

Come hear an update on what happens in court before Judge Debra A. James on December 11th, when she hears arguments on the Article 78 appeal — in which ERFA is petitioning the Court to reverse the Board of Standards & Appeals decision to “grandfather” the megatower.

You’ll remember from our last update that in a significant win for ERFA, Gamma Real Estate (the developer that is trying to build the 800-foot-tall megatower on East 58th Street) has been restricted, pending further order of the Court, from constructing a building unless it is accordance with the new zoning enacted by the City Council on November 30, 2017.
On the 11th, Judge James will also face the issue of whether to extend restrictions on the developer while the case proceeds.
Since several months may elapse before she issues a decision on the Article 78 appeal, it is important for us to extend the restrictions on construction during that time.

After hearing both sides on the 11th, Judge James will likely issue a final decision in approximately 12-16 weeks .

Stay with us. Come hear the update in person, keep your neighbors informed, and help ERFA address the costly nature of this undertaking by making a donation today.