Upper East Side Patch Sutton Place Rezoning Passes City Council by Brendan Krisel

Upper East Side Patch
Sutton Place Rezoning Passes City Council
Brendan Krisel

A resident-led plan to curb overdevelopment in the Sutton Place neighborhood was approved Thursday by the New York City Council.

The City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the rezoning application proposed by a group called the East River Fifties Alliance. The plan will prevent supertall developments from rising in the small Sutton Place neighborhood from East 51st to 59th streets east of First Avenue.

The ERFA's plan would implement the city's "tower-on-a-base" development rules in the neighborhood. The rules require that 45 percent of a new development's floor area be contained below a height of 150 feet. Buildings could still rise above 150 feet, but nearly half of the total density would be at heights that wouldn't be uncharacteristic of the existing neighborhood, according to the plan.

The City Council also voted to remove a grandfather clause inserted into the plan by the City Planning Commission. The clause would have allowed any currently-planned developments from abiding by the new zoning rules.

City Councilman Ben Kallos hailed Thursday's City Council vote as a win for residents over billionaire developers.

"Today, the City Council voted to stop the march of supertall buildings from commercial districts on 57th Street into residential districts, where they would displace rent-regulated residents to build buildings for billionaires," Kallos said in a statement.

Since the East River Fifties Alliance's creation in 2015, the group has grown to include 45 Sutton Place buildings and 2,600 people from 500 buildings citywide, Kallos said.

Opponents to the ERFA's zoning plan say it creates a dangerous precedent for spot-zoning in the city. Gamma Real Estate's Jonathan Kalikow has been one of the most outspoken critics of the plan. Gamma Real Estate, which is planning to develop a 700-foot-tall residential tower on a three-building site on East 58th Street. The site's previous owner, Joseph Beninati's Bauhouse Group, planned an even larger development for the site, which helped inspire the rezoning fight.

Kalikow vowed to challenge the plan in the city's Board of Standards and Appeals when the plan was approved by two City Council committees earlier this month.

"This illegal spot zoning will not stop our building from being built. The only impact of this charade is to cause Gamma financial harm from the delay and put innocent workers out on the street," Kalikow said in a statement.

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