Upper East Side Patch Sutton Place Plan To Limit Buildings' Height Clears Hurdle by Brendan Krisel

Upper East Side Patch
Sutton Place Plan To Limit Buildings' Height Clears Hurdle
Brendan Krisel

SUTTON PLACE, NY — A plan to cap how how buildings can be in the Sutton Place neighborhood — a small residential area sandwiched between the Upper East Side and Midtown East — has cleared a hurdle. Manhattan Community Board 6 voted unanimously Tuesday night to support the application, filed by neighborhood resident group the East River Fifties Association.

“We have been working with the Department of City Planning for almost two years in order to get this far, Alan Kersh, president of the East River Fifties Association, said in a statement.

"Now, we are more energized than ever. We hope to move this initiative to completion with a ‘yes’ vote from the City Planning Commission and then final approval from the full City Council."

The next step for the rezoning proposal is a ruling by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who has previously announced support for the application.

The East River Fifties Alliance plan would cap new developments — built within the confines of East 52nd to 59th streets East of First Avenue — at 260 feet tall. Additionally, developers would be required to set aside 20 percent of their building's residential units at below market rate prices in exchange for bonus Floor Area Ratio (the amount legally allowed square footage in relation to the size of the building lot).

The alliance submitted their proposal to the Department of City Planning over fears that Sutton Place's relaxed and outdated zoning regulations would make the area a ripe target for extremely tall "Megatowers."

But rezoning advocates shouldn't be over the over the moon about the Community Board approval. Both the Community Board and the Borough President's rulings are considered advisory votes in the public review process, Department of City Planning staffers told Patch. The plan still needs to be approved by City Planning and the City Council.

It does have supporters in the City Council including local representative Ben Kallos, who celebrated Tuesday night's vote.

"This is victory for thousands of residents from hundreds of buildings in and out of the neighborhood who have organized a grassroots application that would use height as an incentive to include affordable housing in any new building," Kallos said in a statement.

In April, city planning staffers shared concerns with Patchregarding the plan's potential to pass public review because it may harm the neighborhood's potential for affordable housing. In the context of Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing agenda — which holds the idea that all newly-created housing is good for the affordable housing crisis — the Sutton Place rezoning plan places onerous requirements on developers which may prevent the creation of affordable housing units, a spokesman for the Department of City Planning Said.

The Community Board's decision to back the East River Fifties Association drew the ire of Gamma Real Estate, a development firm planning the Sutton 58 project which would become the neighborhood's largest building.

“Community Board 6’s decision to approve ERFA’s application – an illegal attempt to “spot zone” the Sutton 58 Project – not only threatens the future of projects like Sutton 58, but also could inflict long-lasting damage across this neighborhood. Simply put, this was not a well-considered plan," Gamma Real Estate President Jonathan Kalikow said in a statement.

Gamma Real Estate recently gained permission from the Department of Buildings to begin preliminary construction on its proposed 700 foot residential tower.