The proposal would protect neighborhood aesthetics with height caps on new developments and provide additional benefits to affected communities. On January 21, 2016, the Department of City Planning received a zoning proposal from the East River Fifties Alliance, a neighborhood coalition led by City Council members Ben Kallos and Daniel Garodnick, which is the most comprehensive residential re-zoning proposal to ever be submitted by a community group. The proposal seeks to safeguard the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan from the construction of skyscrapers. Council members Kallos and Garodnick, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and New York State Senator Liz Krueger are also co-applicants on the proposal, which can be found here.
The re-zoning proposal would affect the largest geographic scope of any zoning proposal to be submitted by a community group in the history of New York City. The proposal would create a brand-new zoning district, located east of 1st Avenue from 52nd Street to 59th Street, where new developments would be prohibited from exceeding heights of 260 feet. Additionally, the proposal would provide incentives benefitting local schools and require such developers to build inclusionary housing. The proposal was drafted and managed by urban planners Douglas Woodward and Sandy Hornick, and Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP, environmental and land use counsel.
The proposal seeks to close a loophole in the “1960’s era zoning designation,” which continues to dictate new construction in the affected neighborhood, despite its lack of height restrictions imposed on new residential developments. This loophole has recently been exploited, for example, by the Bauhouse Group in its recent proposal to construct an “out-of-scale 1,000 foot megatower” on East 58th Street between First Avenue and Sutton Place in the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.
“We are drawing a line on the march of superscrapers at billionaire’s row to protect our city’s residential neighborhoods. The outdated zoning laws developers currently use for self-enrichment will be updated to protect residential neighborhoods from over-development,” said Council member Ben Kallos, who is the representative for the affected neighborhood.
“This is a historic day. Our ‘people’s plan’ is one of the largest and most comprehensive re-zoning proposals put together by a community in the City’s history. It is also the first plan of its kind to include affordable housing as a component,” said Alan Kersh, President of the East River Fifties Alliance, which is a coalition of residents, residential buildings—both co-ops and condominiums, and community organizations located in the “East River Fifties” neighborhood.
“The community is striking back with a thoughtful plan that can serve as a model for future contextual rezoning efforts, and it deserves the Department of City Planning’s serious and careful attention,” said Council member Dan Garodnick.
“We support the efforts of the East River Fifties Alliance to develop a community-driven neighborhood re-zoning plan that provides for smart development and affordable housing, while at the same time preserving neighborhood character,” said Borough President Gale Brewer.
“The people of this community don’t want unbridled and inappropriate development that overwhelms our infrastructure and drastically alters the character of our neighborhoods. In fact, most New Yorkers agree the explosion of new super towers filled with empty apartments only billionaires can afford is harming our city’s future. This zoning plan is truly a grassroots effort in community-based planning. It lays a foundation for ratonal growth and allows the affordable housing we desperately need,” said Senator Liz Krueger.
Since the re-zoning proposal has been submitted to DCP, it will begin its journey through the public review process with a public hearing at Manhattan Community Board Six, which should be held within the next two months.
DCP: East River Fifties/Sutton Rezoning (Project ID No. P2016M012)(Jan. 21, 2016).
By: Jessica Soultanian-Braunstein (Jessica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2015)