CityLand’s Top Ten Stories of 2017

Welcome to CityLand‘s sixth annual top ten stories of the year! We have selected a range of our most popular and prominent stories, and guest commentaries concerning New York City land use in 2017. Our 2017 coverage was highlighted by articles concerning the approval of construction safety training for construction workers, proposals for the creation of more affordable housing, neighborhood rezonings, the protection of landmarks, and a guide on tort liability for injuries involving trees. We at CityLand are excited to continue providing in-depth coverage of the latest land use projects, cases, and legislation in 2018 and look forward to seeing what the year will bring. Thank you for all of your support and have a happy new year!

Image credit: CityLaw

(1) Trees: Tort Liability For Injuries Involving Trees

Trees under the common law were considered natural conditions with the result that possessors of land were not liable for injuries caused trees. Professor William Prosser wrote in the first edition of the hornbook on Torts (1941) that the traditional common law rule was that the possessor of land was under no affirmative duty to make safe dangerous conditions on the land that were natural in origin. Prosser went on to say, however, that there “were indications of the development of a different rule as to urban land.”  Today, after many developments in the law of negligence and nuisance, coupled with statutory enactments and changes in the law of immunity, there are significant liability risks to the City for injuries caused by trees.

Rendering of proposed development in East Harlem, Manhattan. Image Credit: Perkins Eastman Architects

(2) City Planning Holds Hearing on Skyscraper East Harlem Development [UPDATE: Application Found to be Appropriate]

The proposed rezoning would facilitate the construction of two new buildings for three high schools, up to 1,200 new apartments, over 300 affordable units, 1.5 acres of playground, and up to 25,000 square feet of new retail space. On May 10, 2017, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on an application for multiple land use actions to facilitate the development of a replacement facility for an on-site existing school, a new facility for the relocation of two existing local public high schools, a mixed-use building, and the relocation and rehabilitation of an existing jointly-operated playground. The applicants, the New York City Educational Construction Fund and AvalonBay Communities, proposed the redevelopment of a city block bounded by First Avenue to the east, East 96th Street on the south, Second Avenue to the west, and East 97th Street to the north in Manhattan’s East Harlem neighborhood.

Image credit: Perkins Eastman Architects

(3) Ebenezer Plaza Approved by City Council:

City Council approved the development of Ebenezer Plaza that will bring affordable housing, jobs, and a new church space to Brownsville, Brooklyn. On September 7, 2017, City Council passed two land use actions by a vote of 45-0 to allow for the development of a mixed-used plaza in Brownsville. The actions enact a zoning map amendment that allows mixed-use development, and a zoning text amendment that establishes a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area. The affected area is located north of Hegeman Avenue between Mother Gaston Boulevard and Powell Street. For CityLand’s prior coverage click here.

39 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Image credit: CityLand

(4) Airbnb Host Evicted from Apartment in Greenwich Village:

Rent-stabilized tenant substantially profited from 93 individual Airbnb sublettings. In 2010, Linda Lipetz was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to work for over a year. From March 2011 to August 2012, in order to subsidize her rent, Lipetz sublet her rent-regulated apartment located at 39 Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Lipetz hosted 93 different people for 338 total days through Airbnb, charging a nightly rate of $95 for one person and $120 for two, and generating $33,592 in revenue.

One Vanderbilt. Image credit: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC


(5) A Better Path for East Midtown:

Early in January 2017 the City of New York began the official public approval process for a proposal to rezone East Midtown Manhattan. The proposal was based in part on a report by the East Midtown Steering Committee co-chaired by the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the District 4 Council Member Daniel Garodnick.



Rendering of the proposed True Holy Church. Image Credit: Heritage Architecture

(6) True Holy Church to Build New Facilities with 67 Affordable Units Atop:

The City Planning Commission approved a new ten-story building to contain 67 affordable units and a new house of worship for the True Holy Church. On April 5, 2017, the City Planning Commission voted to approve an application from the developer Atlantic East Affiliates LLC, an affiliate of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, to rezone 1860 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn’s Ocean Hill neighborhood. The developer sought to rezone portions of two blocks on the south side of Atlantic Avenue at its intersection with Eastern Parkway which includes the proposed development site. The application would facilitate the construction of a new ten-story mixed-use building with ground floor community facility space and about 67 affordable dwelling units. In a concurrent application the developer applied to have the area designated as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area.

New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

(7) Council Approves Construction Safety Training Requirement:

City Council unanimously passed a landmark construction safety bill mandating worker training. On September 27, 2017, City Council voted 42-0 to pass Int. No. 1447-C, which will implement mandatory construction safety training standards citywide with equal accessibility. This bill was a controversial aspect of a package of construction safety bills, some of which were passed in May 2017. For CityLand’s prior coverage on this matter, click here.

143 Bergen Street in Brooklyn. Image Credit: CityLaw.

(8) Landmark Owner Sues Architect Over Renovation:

Architect failed to submit plans to Commission for renovation of landmarked building; owner had to remove alterations. In 2008, Lorraine and Edward Gerrity, the owners of a landmarked building located at 143 Bergen St. in Brooklyn, contracted with architects Herbert Ruderman and George Restivo to renovate their home. The architects submitted plans to Buildings and to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which approved the alteration to the landmarked building. The Gerritys then made changes in the plans. Buildings approved the second set of plans with a ten foot extension on all three levels of the building, and an excavation of the backyard. The architects assured the Gerritys that the necessary approvals had been obtained and that they were free to move forward with their construction.

Boerum Hill HD. Image Credit: LPC.

(9) Landmarks to Consider Expansion of Boerum Hill Historic District by 288 Buildings:

Composed of three distinct areas to the north, south and west of the existing historic district, proposed expansion shares a character and development history designated section of Boerum Hill. Landmarks voted to add an extension to the Boerum Hill Historic District to its calendar for consideration for designation on October 31, 2017. The extension, as calendared, would bring approximately 288 properties under Landmarks’ purview. The extension is not contiguous, but composed of three separate sections to the north, south and west of the existing historic district.

Webber Packing House. Image Credit: LPC.

(10) Historic Buildings Identified as Potential Landmarks ahead of East Harlem Rezoning:

Potential individual landmarks added to the Commission’s calendar include two schools and a former meat packing plant. On November 14, 2017, Landmarks voted to add three items in East Harlem to its calendar for consideration as individual City landmarks. The three buildings are: The Richard Webber Harlem Parking House, at 207 East 109th Street; the former Public School 109, at 215 East 99th Street;  and the former Benjamin Franklin High School, at 260 Pleasant Avenue. The identification of the properties were done through a survey undertaken as part of a comprehensive plan to bring affordable housing and other public benefits to East Harlem.

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