Category: News

Update from ERFA President, Alan Kersh

By Team ERFA,

Dear Friends,

I’m pleased to share this important and good news with you.

ERFA’s 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 encourage community diversity has been officially certified by the City Planning Commission.

As we’ve been discussing in these more than 18 months leading up to certification, this step clears the way for a formal public review similar to the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), and is a significant procedural milestone in the application by ERFA and its co-applicants: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilmember Daniel Garodnick, Councilmember Ben Kallos, and State Senator Liz Krueger.

To read the press release announcing this milestone, click here.

Certification by the Commission allows the proposal to enter a months-long review and decision process involving Community Board 6, the Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Approvals by the City Planning Commission and City Council are necessary for the rezoning to take effect.

This is a major milestone, but this fight is not over. We must continue to show our growing base of support and community solidarity every step along the way.

And, we are still in a race. To give us the best chance of success, it is important for ERFA’s constituency to continue to demonstrate support for our rezoning proposal during the public review process.

Here are a few ways: show up, be vocal, and make a financial contribution.

We will alert you to opportunities, such as those advertised for this week, where you can learn about what’s next, show your support of the effort, and connect to others who care about this issue:

Thank you for your support of this effort. We need it now more than ever. Please consider supporting this effort now in the way that works best for you.

I look forward to keeping you up-to-date as we work our way through the City process.

Read the press release — and all of our other official documents and releases — by visiting our media page.


Alan Kersh


ERFA Newsline: Report from February 10th Town Hall

By Team ERFA,

Dear ERFA friends,

For those of you who were unable to attend the East River Fifties Alliance’s Town Hall meeting on February 10th I’m pleased to share a summary of the meeting.

Our coalition is showing endurance, strength, support and keen interest in this cause — evidenced by a standing-room-only crowd, civic support, and our roster of speakers.

More than 150 constituents from all over the city and residents of our community were joined by representatives of Community Board 6 and ERFA’s allied civic groups – Friends of Upper East Side Historic Districts, CIVITAS, and the Municipal Art Society and Turtle Bay – who attended the meeting in support of ERFA’s goal. The event was covered by both TV and print media.

There were six speakers: Two representatives of ERFA’s board spoke, and all four of the elected officials who are co-applicants on ERFA’s rezoning proposal – State Senator Liz Krueger, Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, and City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos – also spoke. The speakers reported on the progress of ERFA’s proposal to rezone our neighborhood to include contextual zoning and affordable housing.

In brief:

  • ERFA’s application has reached the stage where it is ready for “certification” by the Department of City Planning (DCP). Certification is an official acknowledgment by DCP that the application is complete, and thus commences the formal review process that can take several months and, if successful, will culminate in approval of the proposed zoning change by the City Planning Commission and City Council.
  • The new owner of the 58th Street site, Gamma Real Estate, headed by N. Richard Kalikow, has filed an application with the City to build an 850-foot tower rising to 67 stories. BUT, the City rejected Gamma’s application because it is incomplete. Gamma’s rush to file – accompanied by a press release announcing their plans – was clearly intended to discourage ERFA’s rezoning effort.
  • As Gamma works to complete what, in reality, is a very complex application, ERFA remains undeterred and fully committed to advancing its rezoning effort. The most immediate necessary next step is for the Department of City Planning to certify ERFA’s rezoning application, so that it can move through the remaining steps of the City’s review process.
  • To view portions of the Town Hall meeting, click here.


Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer praised ERFA for blazing a trail not just for this community, but for other parts of the city. And, along with City Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos and State Senator Liz Krueger, she stressed that “letters really count.” They emphasized the importance of continuing the public letter writing campaign as a powerful way to convince government officials of how seriously the community takes this issue and that we want ERFA’s rezoning application to be certified by the DCP without delay.

I am pleased to report that ERFA’s supporters have already written more than 1,000 letters to the Mayor and the Chair of the City Planning Commission urging them to approve ERFA’s rezoning proposal.

To do your part to advance our shared goal: Please follow the Borough President’s advice and send letters of support to the Mayor and the Chair of the City Planning Commission. (Marisa Lago will become CPC Chair beginning March 1st, replacing Carl Weisbrod, but letters can be sent to her now.) You can send letters to the Mayor and Ms. Lago by going to ERFA’s website, and, via the website, sending the form letters which are provided there.

Another way to help is to coordinate the signing and collection of letters in your building. We will drop off an appropriate supply, collect them when they’re ready, and then mail them for you to City Planning and the Mayor. Write to  for more information.

Every letter counts.

And, last but not least – ERFA is in a race against time and needs continuing financial support for its rezoning effort, which still involves work by lobbying and other professionals as well as letter-writing by the community.

If you have already donated to ERFA, I thank you and hope you’ll consider another contribution. If you haven’t, now is your time to join your neighbors and friends to help win this campaign.

Donations of any amount are helpful — $50, $100, $250 or more – to support the next stage of work. Donations can be made by clicking on the red Donate button below, via ERFA’s website, or by writing a check payable to the East River Fifties Alliance and mailing it to ERFA, Attn: Donna Chin, 205 East 42nd Street, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017.

Thank you for your support.


Alan Kersh, President

Photo Credit:  Ed Lederman

Important Message from ERFA President, Alan Kersh – January 2017

By Anne Coates,

As many of you know, there have been recent developments to report.
First, according to City records, Gamma Real Estate, one of the major backers of the Bauhouse-planned skyscraper at 430 East 58th Street, filed plans before the end of 2016 for a new tower on the site shortly after buying the property and its development rights in a foreclosure auction in mid-December.

High-rise buildings typically require complex plans, and in most cases the Department of Buildings approval process is a lengthy one. ERFA’s lawyers and Councilman Kallos independently expressed concerns to the Department of Buildings that the project should not be reviewed until all components of the filing have been submitted.

The fact that the new owner has filed plans should not cause ERFA or its members to panic.  It is no surprise that the new owner is moving ahead, presumably with the hope that ERFA’s rezoning effort will lose momentum.

ERFA remains optimistic that it will be successful in obtaining rezoning before the developer for the 58th street parcel can substantially complete a foundation on the site.

And, the second bit of news is that Chairman Carl Weisbrod has announced he is stepping down effective the end of this month, and the City has announced Marisa Lago as the next Director of Department of City Planning and Chair of City Planning Commission as of March.

What’s next?

While we are in a race — make no mistake about that — our timeline is still adequate to get the zoning changed before the developer substantially completes its building foundation. We are pressing forward on all fronts towards success.

What are we doing:

  • ERFA and its legal team are monitoring the developer’s progress in this filing on the City’s Department of Building’s website.
  • ERFA is in ongoing discussion with the City’s Planning Department regarding the materials in its rezoning application and is pressing for certification as soon as possible.
  • ERFA is continuing to urge Chairman Weisbrod and his staff to certify the rezoning application so that it can go through the City’s legally-mandated process for rezoning applications.

What you can do:

  • Show your support and ask for the same considerations for rezoning as have been afforded other neighborhoods by asking the City to move our application through the process Click here to write to the City Planning Chairman.
  • Report any issues you see with the 58th Street development site to 311. The City must log each complaint and address it. Councilmember Kallos also monitors this log so that he can take action on our behalf.
  • Make financial contributions to help support this effort so that we can stay in this race. We must be in it to win it, and can’t stay the course without financial resources.  Click here to make a contribution.
  • Come to the next Town Hall on January 19th at 8 a.m. @ Morso, 420 East 59th, to hear the latest updates.

Take action. Contextual zoning, affordable housing, smart development for your community. This is not someone else’s fight. It’s yours.



Alan Kersh President
East River Fifties Alliance


By Anne Coates,

New York, December 8, 2016 – In an unprecedented action, a Manhattan residents’ group submitted a complete application to the City of New York for a zoning change to prevent the construction of supertall residential towers in the Sutton Place area and encourage community diversity.

The application by the non-profit East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) — co-signed by several prominent elected officials — is the first step in a months-long formal decision process that requires costly legal and consulting resources that, in almost all zoning cases, only major private real estate developers or government agencies can afford to risk. After months of preparation, the ERFA application now awaits the Department of City Planning’s review and certification to be accepted as an official filing.

ERFA is a nonprofit corporation that includes hundreds of member cooperatives, civic organizations and residents in the East Fifties dedicated to preserving community character and affordable housing.  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilman Dan Garodnick, Councilman Ben Kallos and N.Y.S. Senator Liz Krueger have joined as co-applicants and are providing guidance and leadership to the rezoning effort.

Alan Kersh, ERFA President, said, “We’ve been inspired by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for ‘One New York.’ This is a zoning change that will encourage development while keeping the low- and mid-rise character of the neighborhood intact. Our plan also increases neighborhood diversity by adding incentives to vastly increase the amount of affordable housing.”

The area between 52nd Street and 59th Street east of First Avenue is the only residential community left in New York City zoned R-10 where mid-blocks and quiet residential streets have no height controls for buildings. In most other residential districts, the City Planning Commission has replaced the 1960s-era R10 zoning designation with contextual zoning requirements that set height limits for buildings in those neighborhoods, or heights controlled through historic district protections.

In the East River Fifties, however, the R10 zoning designation, which sets no height limits and permits unlimited air rights purchases, remains in place.

At least one developer has assembled property and air rights in the East River Fifties to take advantage of R10’s lax height restrictions. In the assemblage process, the developer has removed and is demolishing affordable housing units. Using 21st century engineering technology, the developer has announced a plan to construct a 1,000-foot tall, pencil-like tower on East 58th Street. Several other “soft sites” in the neighborhood are susceptible to out-of-scale development as well.

ERFA’s mission is to stop that project and the genuine threat of several others.

Mr. Kersh added, “R10 zones throughout the city only create about 4-5% affordable units with each new development. In return for this small contribution to affordability, developers receive a 20% boost in floor area. That does not meet the city’s needs and gives away too much to developers for too little housing.”

ERFA’s formal filing today with the Department of City Planning is known as an application for a zoning text amendment.

Once the agency certifies the application as complete, it will proceed through a months-long, formal review process involving nonbinding reviews by the Community Board and Borough President and binding reviews by the City Planning Commission and City Council.   Applicants are aiming for certification in 2016.

ERFA’s plan would rezone the East River Fifties by creating a special zoning text to achieve two goals—contextual height limits and affordable housing incentives. The area would retain its R10 zoning designation, but its application would be modified on zoning lots east of First Avenue. ERFA is proposing a contextual district that would prevent supertowers through height limits and would provide greater incentives for affordable housing and design controls for wide buildings.

The developer who was planning to construct the 95-story, 1,000 foot megatower on 58th St.,  defaulted on its loan payments, resulting in the lender’s commencement of a foreclosure proceeding and the developer’s filing of a bankruptcy petition in response.  Complex litigation involving multiple parties has ensued.

The existence of that litigation does not remove the threat of a 1,000-foot-tall pencil tower on 58th Street.  By agreement of both the debtor and lender, the bankruptcy court has permitted the sale of the property under the court’s supervision.  An auction is tentatively scheduled for mid-December.  ERFA expects that once a buyer has been found and the sale completed, the new owner will resume the development effort.

Mr. Kersh said, “As long as the antiquated zoning laws that allow megatowers to be constructed in the East River Fifties residential neighborhood continue to exist, the law poses a threat to the community that it is supposed to protect.  New engineering technologies have made the construction of megatowers possible, and they are very profitable for developers because very wealthy people are willing to pay tens of millions of dollars per apartment on the high floors.  The only viable solution for the community is to change the zoning law.”

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.

Town Hall: December 8th at 8 a.m.

By Anne Coates,

Join NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos at ERFA’s next Town Hall Meeting.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 at 8 a.m. @ Morso Restaurant and Cafe, 420 East 59th Street  

Hear important updates on the progress of ERFA’s rezoning plan, the stop work order regarding demolition, and more news and strategies for the road ahead.

And, learn how you can help win this fight.