New York Business Journal 'Billionaires' Row' towers, super-tall buildings have gone far enough, says one councilman by Lauren Clark

New York Business Journal
'Billionaires' Row' towers, super-tall buildings have gone far enough, says one councilman
Lauren Clark

With skyscrapers reaching new, dizzying heights in Midtown, one councilman says enough is enough.

The way Ben Kallos, who represents District 5 in N.Y.C.'s City Council, sees it, towers looming more than 500 feet in a residential area — or, approximately 50 stories tall — have been putting residents in the dark for too long. To help solve this problem, the councilman will be holding a community forum tomorrow to discuss implementing a cap on super-tall buildings within residential areas.

Kallos' district, which serves 168,325 residents from Sutton Place up to 100th Street and Roosevelt Island, is adjacent to the dubbed "Billionaires' Row" — the seven super-tall, super-luxurious towers within a six-block radius just south of Central Park. Their presence has been controversial with the community, as many claim their height diminishes sun light and substantially lowers foot traffic. But with construction occurring with the MoMA tower at 53 W. 53 St., and plans for the Nordstrom Tower to rise at 225 W. 57th St., there's no sign that they are going away anytime soon.

While these buildings aren't in Kallos' district, the problem hit home when one of his constituents informed him about a 90-story, 900-foot mega tower slated to go up near Sutton Place.

"There are a lot of skyscrapers in the 57th Street corridor, which is outside of my district, so I was unable to engage it, but when 58th Street's Sutton Place came across my desk on April Fool's Day, I had hoped it was a joke," Kallos told DNA info.

The building was also the topic of an investigation from the New York Daily News. Residents told the newspaper that developers allegedly tricked them into selling air rights under the guise that the tower would be 30 stories at most. Instead, many were outraged to see advertisements of a 90-story tower months later.

Kallos isn't the first to propose a halt to the rise of the so-called "superscrapers." In May, Community Board 5 — which spans the edge of Central Park near Columbus Circle all the way south to Union Square — attempted to put a temporary moratorium on towers higher than 600 feet. Noting that zoning laws have not been updated for 50 years, the board gained the support of several community groups and politicians. While their feat was ultimately unsuccessful, the subject began to concern the City Council, according to Councilman Mark Levin, who spoke with the New York Business Journal in May. He also predicted that his colleagues would be taking action in the near future.

It's this type of action that Kallos is hoping to accomplish with the forum, inviting both community members and elected officials to discuss the issue and find possible solutions.

The meeting will start a 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, located on 331 E 70th St. Interested attendees should RSVP online or e-mail rsvpatbenkallos [dot] com to reserve a seat.