Although New York is a city whose landscape continues to change, most agree that in recent years we have seen an overabundance of outsized, unneeded, and unwanted development projects. For example, in 2015, the Bauhouse Group publicized a plan to construct a 1,000-foot building on East 58th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place—a plan which would have placed a megatower in the middle of a narrow residential side street!
Gamma Real Estate subsequently acquired the property from Bauhouse and is continuing the effort to construct a supertall building on that site.
When that project was first planned, it was possible for a developer to construct a megatower at that site, as well as other “soft sites” in our neighborhood (the residential area from 51st to 59th Streets, east of First Avenue), because of the neighborhood’s uniquely outdated zoning, which failed to protect against such out-of-scale development. In the face of that threat, ERFA worked with urban planners, a legal team, architects, and other professionals to propose a new zoning law for our neighborhood which would maintain the character and livability of our community.
That proposal worked its way through the City process over the next 2 years, and became law on November 30th, 2017. This multi-year process involved discussions with the Department of City Planning, and review and approvals by Community Board 6, the Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. This was a major victory for this neighborhood and a community-led zoning proposal.
Thanks to the unwavering support of thousands of fellow citizens residing both in our own neighborhood and throughout the city, most streets in the East River Fifties are no longer susceptible to the construction of out-of-scale towers.
The exception is the 58th Street site between Sutton Place and First Avenue that called our attention to the problem in the first place.
That lingering threat exists because Gamma Real Estate was able to commence construction of a foundation for a supertall building before the zoning change was enacted. That progress makes Gamma eligible to file an appeal with the Board of Standards and Appeals (“BSA”) seeking “grandfather” status for the project—i.e., the right to construct a building in accordance with the plans it submitted to the Dept. of Buildings before the zoning change.
Gamma’s BSA appeal has just begun and is at a very early stage. And we are fighting it.
The fact that Gamma filed the appeal does not mean that BSA will accede. In evaluating requests for grandfathering, BSA generally requires a great deal of information to be provided by the applicant and conducts public hearings before making a decision.
ERFA will be a very strong voice for the neighborhood in opposition to BSA approval of Gamma’s request. We will continue to fight vigorously on behalf of the East River Fifties to prevent out-of-scale development.