York Ave. tower approved over opposition

New residential tower will be nine feet from adjacent co-op building. On September 28, 2005, the City Council approved a text amendment and special permit to allow construction of a 26-story, mixed-use building at 1129-1133 York Avenue in Manhattan. The proposal called for a zoning map amendment to change the site from C8-4 to C1-9 and a special permit to build a 100-space parking garage.

The developer, the Witkoff Group, plans to use HPD’s Inclusionary Housing Program to develop inclusionary units off-site on East 76th Street between First and York in exchange for a bonus to develop the proposed project as-of-right with a total of 138,576 sq.ft., 120 dwelling units and 6,171 sq.ft. of retail space.

Shareholders of 440 East 62nd Street, an adjacent co-operative, opposed the 26-story tower, arguing that it would adversely impact light and air in 57 of 143 units in their building. In negotiations with 440, Witkoff made four concessions: relocating the residential tower from the north lot line to provide nine feet of separation; enlarging the inner court to provide 120 feet of open area; notching the north-west corner of the tower to provide greater light; and seeking reconsideration from Buildings to allow a 9- foot separation to be continued below the base of the building.

At the September 20, 2005 hearing before the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, Marvin Mitzner, representing Witkoff, cited to the prior negotiations and testified that, although the context of the building was not part of the application, the developer had made concessions to try to accommodate 440’s concerns. Mitzner also stated that two letters submitted by Witkoff to the Subcommittee in support of the application showed an “extraordinary effort by a developer to accommodate a neighboring building.”

Shareholders of 440 nonetheless opposed. They reiterated their concern about light and air, and stated that their request to move the building east by eight to ten feet had not been met and that Witkoff had stopped further negotiations. At the hearing, both sides committed to continue negotiations. The Subcommittee closed the hearing, but adjourned the vote to September 26, 2005.

At the September 26th vote, Witkoff submitted a letter reporting the outcome of the renewed negotiations, which stated that it would not locate the tower any further west; it would use reflective techniques on the building to direct greater sunlight into 440’s courtyard; and it would use its best efforts to adjust the location of the tower by either shifting the tower further east, shaving bulk from the western wall of the tower, or creating a second notch at the northwest corner of the tower.

Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella responded that “it was not the end of the matter, only the beginning,” noting that the Council would make sure that Witkoff works with 440. At the September 26, 2005 Land Use Committee hearing, Committee Chair Melinda Katz noted that the project, which is located in Council Speaker Gifford Miller’s district, had his support. The Committee approved and the full Council approved on the same day.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration conditioned on Witkoff submitting a hazardous materials sampling to DEP. Manhattan’s Community Board 8 approved with conditions, including that a seismographic monitor be installed at the site of the landmarked Abigail Adams Smith Museum and nearby buildings prior to demolition. Borough President C. Virginia Fields approved with the condition that Witkoff revisit the building’s rear design to allowmore space between the building and 440.

The Planning Commission approved the application on August 24, 2005, finding that the current C8-4 district was no longer appropriate for the area, the proposed C1- 9 district would fit in with the traditional Upper East Side pattern of high density residential buildings and ground floor retail on the avenues, and that the parking garage would not create serious traffic congestion or inhibit surface traffic or pedestrian movement. The Commission also noted that the building’s design was out of the scope of its approval.

Council: 1129-33 York Avenue Rezoning & Parking Garage (September 26, 2005); CPC: 1129-33 York Avenue Rezoning & Parking Garage (C 040488 ZMM – map amendment); (C 040489 ZSM – special permit for parking garage) (August 24, 2005) (Marvin B. Mitzner, Cozen O’Connor, for Witkoff; Howard Zipser, Stadtmauer Bailkin Biggins LLC, for 440). CITYADMIN


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