Crain's New York Residents file plans to curb supertall towers in tony Manhattan neighborhood by Joe Anuta

Crain's New York
Crain's New York
Residents file plans to curb supertall towers in tony Manhattan neighborhood
Joe Anuta

The group in Sutton Place hope to stop a planned 1,000-foot project, and have a handful of key city legislators on their side

Elected officials and a Manhattan neighborhood group submitted plans Thursday aiming to cap the height of new apartment towers in Sutton Place at roughly 25 stories, and in the process stop a nearly 900-foot-tall luxury tower proposed for the neighborhood.

The East River Fifties Alliance's proposal, which would alter the Manhattan neighborhood’s zoning, was also signed by three city elected officials who could end up voting on it. The plan would impose a height cap of 260 feet east of First Avenue between East 52st and East 59th streets. It was designed to prevent the construction of supertall condo towers—buildings topping 1,000-feet tall—which have cropped up along West 57th Street, an area known as Billionaire’s Row.

“Billionaire’s Row keeps growing and we are drawing the line at a residential neighborhood,” said City Councilman Benjamin Kallos, who represents the neighborhood and backs the plan, which was delivered to the Department of City Planning.

Grey represents existing buildings, pink shows planned supertall towers, and yellow shows buildings allowed by proposed rezoning. Images courtesy East River 50s Alliance.

The rezoning effort was galvanized by a plan from developer Bauhouse Group to build a 900-foot-tall luxury condo tower on East 58th Street. The developer is currently tearing down a series of buildings along the block in preparation for the project, but has not yet received financing to get out of the ground. Nevertheless, Bauhouse said that any effort to block the tower would be futile.

"Our project will be nearing completion by the time any rezoning would be heard," a spokeswoman for the developer said in a statement.

Bauhouse’s proposal surfaced last year, instantly mobilizing a well-heeled community to come up with its own plan to stop it from being built. The resulting rezoning proposal is likely to cost well-over six-figures as it works its way through the public review process. Under the plan, the actual square footage that could be built in Sutton Place would not be decreased (although the proposal only identified a handful of potential sites where new projects might rise under the height cap.) The plan also mentioned requiring affordable housing in new developments, but it is unclear if that would contradict a proposal already advanced by the de Blasio administration to require affordable housing in certain rezoned areas.

During the Bloomberg administration, civic groups and elected officials successfully pursued similar rezoning efforts in places including Staten Island and Queens that were eventually enacted into law. However, the de Blasio administration has already pledged to rezone 15 neighborhoods and is currently fighting for the passage of two complex laws involving citywide changes to the code, raising the question of how high Sutton Place would rise on its to-do list.

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