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, www.ERFA.nyc 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 info@erfa.nyc  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.

Sincerely,

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.

 

Best,

Alan Kersh President
East River Fifties Alliance

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.

  

ERFA in the news: Wall Street Journal on the order blocking demolition on construction site on East 58th Street

By Anne Coates,

According to the WSJ: “Last Monday, a bankruptcy judge ordered the sale of the East 58th Street site, assembled by Joseph Beninati’s Bauhouse Group. But the community groups, along with elected officials,
are hoping to delay the project until a new zoning plan limiting building heights can be put into effect.

“The plan, which the groups and officials said they were ready to formally propose to the City Planning Commission as early as this week, calls for buildings in the neighborhood to be no taller than 260 feet…”The groups hope it is approved before development work begins at the site. The proposed change also could discourage bidders at the auction, which was ordered by the court following a dispute between Bauhouse Group and its lenders, led by N. Richard Kalikow.

“The zoning change isn’t the only hurdle the project faces. On Wednesday, the Department of Buildings blocked a permit needed to complete demolition of the site, after conducting an audit requested by [Councilmember Ben] Kallos.” To read more, click here.

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?

Answer:

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 info@erfa.nyc.