Category: News

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

By Team ERFA,



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


  • 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. 

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

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