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.

Q&A With Gail Wasserman and Jennifer Crandall: It’s Not Over Yet!

By Team ERFA,

East River Fifties residents and ERFA members Gail Wasserman and Jennifer Crandall have been leading our tabling efforts around the neighborhood. They are the smiling faces that distribute information and answer questions about ERFA’s plan and its progress. We asked them about the most common questions and misconceptions. Here’s what the ladies said:

What is the biggest misconception that you keep hearing?

People think that the former developer’s bankruptcy and foreclosure struggle means that there is no longer any danger of the E 58th St. building being built.

The truth:

Foreclosure on a loan only means that the property would be transferred to another owner via an auction conducted by the lender. Another developer could take over the project and plan an equally tall building, perhaps with greater ability than the Bauhouse Group to see the project through to completion. Although the bankruptcy proceeding has caused a temporary delay, it could be resolved at any time and the project could rapidly move forward with a very able developer. The antiquated zoning laws that allow megatowers in our residential neighborhood would still exist and continue to be a threat in the future. 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.

Most asked question:

Do you really think you can win?


Yes! Not only do we have an energized and involved community and a rezoning plan that exemplifies everything that the City says it wants, we also have four elected officials (Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, City Council Members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, and State Senator Liz Krueger) that actually co-filed our plan with us at the Department of City Planning.

The takeaway:

The East River Fifties community is angry that this may happen in the Sutton neighborhood as well as elsewhere in the City. People are energized and committed to getting the rezoning accomplished.

Thank you again to Gail Wasserman and Jennifer Crandall for their continued hard work on this cause. You can find them at their next tabling event on June 16th at Cathedral High School (across the street from Le Pain Quotidien) on 1st Avenue and 56th Street.

Meanwhile, you can read our full FAQ here, or ask us something else by sending an email to

ERFA’s Lisa Mercurio Led a Jane’s Walk

By Team ERFA,

Each year, the Municipal Art Society oversees a series of Jane’s Walks in honor of legendary urban activist Jane Jacobs. As part of that effort, on Saturday, May 7, East River Fifties resident and ERFA Communications Director Lisa Mercurio lead 25 people on a Jane’s Walk around our quiet residential neighborhood.


Ms. Mercurio’s walk, entitled, Historic Sutton Place Clashes with Billionaire’s Row, highlighted the conflict that is taking place between oversized towers and the unique nature of this residential neighborhood as Billionaire’s Row extends eastward. Her tour took participants past many of the “soft sites” in the neighborhood where supertalls can be built and talked about ERFA’s rezoning plan and its critical importance in keeping our residential community livable. During the lively walk, Ms. Mercurio fielded many questions and talked about the neighborhood’s history. Everyone left with a much better understanding of the threat posed by megatowers and the unique character of the community. They also each got their very own ERFA lapel pin.


Video of May 10th Rally

By Team ERFA,

Missed the May 10th ERFA rally? Hear the speeches now.

Speakers (in order): Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla, representing Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Senior Policy Advisor Marianna Vaidman Stone representing Councilmember Dan Garodnick; Lynn Ellsworth Co-Founder of New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City; Councilmember Ben Kallos
Emcee: ERFA Director of Communications Lisa Mercurio


Video courtesy of Councilmember Ben Kallos.

Our Rally Was a Rousing Success

By Team ERFA,

Last Tuesday, we held a rally/demonstration at Sutton Square calling on the City to hurry along approval of our rezoning plan and help us protect the East River Fifties community (the area between 52nd and 59th Streets, east of First Avenue) from megatowers forever.

ERFA’s Director of Communications Lisa Mercurio emceed the event. Councilmember Ben Kallos, spoke to the crowd, as did representatives from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office and Councilmember Dan Garodnick. Lynn Ellsworth, Co-Founder of New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City also addressed the community.

All photos by ERFA unless otherwise noted.

Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla

Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla

May 10 Rally Marianna Vaidman Stone Garodnick Representative

Senior Policy Advisor Marianna Vaidman Stone speaking on behalf of Councilmember Dan Garodnick



May 10 Rally Lynn Ellsworth Drew Credit

Photo by Drew Bolton

Lynn Ellsworth from New Yorkers for a Human-Scale City



May 10 Rally Crowd

Photo by Drew Bolton


May 10 Rally CM Kallos Lisa Be Afraid Poster

Photo by Drew Bolton

Councilmember Ben Kallos and ERFA Communications Director Lisa Mercurio


May 10 Rally CM Kallos Deputy BP Bonilla Drew Credit

Photo by Drew Bolton

Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla and Council Member Ben Kallos


May 10 Rally Lisa and Alan Drew

Photo by Drew Bolton

ERFA President Alan Kersh and Communications Director/Emcee extraordinaire Lisa Mercurio


May 10 Rally Crowd Drew 3

Photo by Drew Bolton



May 10 Rally Community Poster Drew Credit

Photo by Drew Bolton


May 10 Rally Posters, Raymond, Safety - Drew Credit

Photo by Drew Bolton