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

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

Don’t Miss ERFA’s Jane’s Walk May 7th: What Would Jane Do?

By Team ERFA,

Jane's Walk Municipal Art Society

Saturday, May 7th @ 10am

ERFA’s Lisa Mercurio Leads a Jane’s Walk:

Each year, the Municipal Art Society is the local organizer of “Jane’s Walk,” a three-day event that honors the legacy of urban activist Jane Jacobs with hundreds of walking tours in over 180 cities across the globe. This year, ERFA’s Lisa Mercurio has generously volunteered to lead a Jane’s Walk of our neighborhood.

The walk is entitled, Historic Sutton Place Clashes with Billionaire’s Row. WWJD: What Would Jane Do? See Why City History, Megatowers and Residential Neighborhoods Don’t Mix.”

When: Saturday, May 7th, from 10 am -11 am.
Where: Meet at this small Privately Owned Public Space (POPS), a beautifully landscaped park between 400 and 410 E. 59th St. The tour will continue on Foot

It will highlight our community’s struggle to maintain our unique character in the face of oversized and unwanted development. The meeting place is between 400 and 410 E. 59th St., a pretty, privately-owned public space between First and York Avenues. You can see the walk’s details and sign up to join the walk right here. To RSVP, simply create a login on the Jane’s Walk site and click the “I’m going” button next to the event’s date and time.

Spread the word.  Get your neighbors and friends to come along as well. See you there!

  Category: Event
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