Category: News


NYC City Council 45-0 Vote in Favor of Rezoning

By Team ERFA,

Dear ERFA Friends:

The New York City Council members cast their votes for the people yesterday, November 30th, and approved 45-0 (with one abstention) a re-zoning measure preserving the context and character of Sutton Place’s quiet residential side streets.

This is an unprecedented victory for a community-led effort.

This action represents the penultimate victory in a years-long effort by the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) and our elected officials, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick, and State Senator Liz Krueger, 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.

Until now, every other residential community in New York City has had legal protections in the form of lower-density zoning or contextual regulations that prevent the construction of supertall towers. The new zoning language imposes “tower on a base” standards in the area — which means that 45-50% of a building would need to be built below 150 feet.

The new zoning is now in effect. While this is all quite promising, our work is not over.

The Department of Buildings has placed a stop work order on the construction site at 430 East 58th Street. We fully expect that Gamma Real Estate, the developer of the absurdly out-of-scale megatower, will continue to fight.

Gamma has stated that it will appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for authorization to construct its tower as planned.  Based on past BSA performance, there is a chance that Gamma could succeed.

But, for us, this was never about just one building. It was a district-wide application to prevent megatowers on soft sites. It was a successful effort to deter assemblages of parcels containing low-rise, often rent-stabilized, housing to be demolished for the construction of megatowers.

We intend to fight this battle to the finish with you, the more than 2,600 residents in hundreds of buildings throughout the city who have shown their support these many, many months.

We need your financial support to see this through the BSA appeal process. Please use the donate link to make your contribution to this effort.
And, thank you for your voices, your emails to our officials, and your financial support that helped us get to this milestone.

 

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.

City Planning Commission Testimony by Alan Kersh, President, East River Fifties Alliance

By Team ERFA,

TESTIMONY OF ALAN KERSH, PRESIDENT, EAST RIVER FIFTIES ALLIANCE

BEFORE CITY PLANNING COMMISSION

OCTOBER 18, 2017

 

Good morning Chair Lago and members of the City Planning Commission.  My name is Alan Kersh and I am the President of the East River Fifties Alliance (“ERFA”).

My organization is a co-applicant with Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick and State Senator Liz Krueger on the rezoning application that is the subject of today’s hearing.

As many of you have heard, we had a rude awakening two and a half years ago when we learned that our local zoning would allow the construction of a 1,000-foot-tall tower, midblock, on a narrow, quiet residential side street.  To put that news in context, I want to emphasize that the majority of existing buildings in the neighborhood are mid-rise, with 14-20 stories.  We quickly discovered that towers of unlimited height are permitted as-of-right on every narrow street in the East River Fifties.

We also learned that the East River Fifties is the only residential neighborhood in the city still zoned R10 without any type of height control and contextual protections.  It is thus uniquely vulnerable to as-of-right development of supertall towers, a building form that wasn’t contemplated when the R10 district was created in 1961.  This is an anomaly that super luxury housing developers identified and want to exploit.  Residential side streets in all other neighborhoods in the city are protected against supertall towers by lower density zoning designations, contextual protections, or both.  We are simply asking for protections that every other residential neighborhood in NYC has already received.

Thus began our over two year effort to fight these out-of-context developments and encourage the creation of additional affordable housing within our neighborhood. We eagerly and whole-heartedly embraced a steep learning curve as we retained, at our own expense, experts in city planning, land use, and environmental issues. With this team we explored options to right-size the zoning in our community, while still allowing new housing development for a growing City.

Our effort quickly received the support of many elected officials and civic organizations, and ERFA’s membership grew to include 45 buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2600 individual supporters living in more than 500 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area. All of us, together, seek to defend the East River Fifties community against out-of-scale development that clashes with community character, and tends to produce very few, very large, very expensive apartments that do little to address the City’s housing needs.

ERFA and its co-applicants have been working with the Department of City Planning for over two years to develop an application that could address these community concerns, align with the City’s larger planning goals, and, ultimately, earn your support.  After countless meetings, planning studies, and airing of concerns on earlier proposals, we are confident that the current application achieves the first two goals, and hopeful that it achieves the third.

Our zoning text amendment to apply modified tower‐on‐a‐base (“TOB”) rules in lieu of tower zoning regulations for narrow streets in the East River Fifties will result in new development across the district that is consistent with neighborhood context and built character.  The amendment’s minimum tower coverage requirements, modified packing rules, and base height and set back rules will prevent unlimited zoning lot mergers and the development of mega-towers, while providing more than enough room to facilitate and encourage housing development.

I urge you to protect the character of the East River Fifties and to encourage the construction of human-scale housing for New Yorkers over ultra-luxury apartments for investors by voting to approve our application at your upcoming November 1st meeting.

 

Thank you.

 

Special Town Hall — Sept 19th @ 8 a.m.

By Team ERFA,

ERFA is holding a special Town Hall on Tuesday, September 19th at 8 a.m. @ Morso, 420 East 59th Street

Join us on Tuesday next week to hear an update on our community rezoning application. Please note the date of this meeting as it falls on a Tuesday, not our regular day of the week for meetings.

We have invited our four co-applicant elected officials and their representatives to join us.

Discussions with the Department of City Planning have continued since our last Town Hall.  Come hear the results of those negotiations. ERFA is committed to transparency with its community around the process and status of our application to rezone and protect this community.

 

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

Options:

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