New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Land Use

New York County Politics Brewer Lets Borough Testify on Zoning Loopholes by William Engel

Brewer Lets Borough Testify on Zoning Loopholes

City Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Yorkville, Lenox Hill) got a little emotional when he stood up to testify at a recent hearing on zoning loopholes. By his account, the jogs he takes with his infant daughter at Central Park are becoming less and less enjoyable, as the surrounding architecture casts a larger and larger shadow over the park.

“Objects to the south cast a shadow, at least in this hemisphere, to the north,” said Kallos. “I go running with my daughter; she’s in a jogging stroller. And when I take her jogging in the afternoon, when I finally get to do it, it’s dark in the southern part of the park, particularly in the winter months when it gets cold. And she gets cold, and so we have to stay away from the southern end of the park, because it’s starting to be very, very dark and very, very cold.”

Curbed Lawmakers say the city must crack down on ambiguities in the zoning code by Caroline Spivack

Lawmakers say the city must crack down on ambiguities in the zoning code

Councilmember Ben Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and who has been a champion of strengthening restriction on voids, called for the city to limit mechanical spaces to no more than 40 feet in these areas, broaden the scope of its review, and to narrow possible exemptions for mixed-use buildings. The issue is especially crucial because excessive voids fill buildings with empty space rather than housing, said Kallos.

City Land City Council Approves City Planning’s Mechanical Voids Text Amendment by Veronica Rose

City Council Approves City Planning’s Mechanical Voids Text Amendment

Developers were using excessive mechanical spaces to increase the height of their buildings. On May 29, 2019, the City Council voted to adopt the Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment with modifications. The Department of City Planning proposed the amendment in response to developers incorporating excessively tall mechanical floors – “mechanical voids” – in residential towers to increase their allowable height, as mechanical floors did not count toward the zoning floor area in the Zoning Resolution. This would result in towers with several floors of mostly empty space that would allow developers to build higher, increasing the values of the apartments on higher floors. In late 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio asked the Department of City Planning (DCP) to investigate the mechanical voids problem and find a solution.

Curbed NYCHA backtracks on 50-story Upper East Side infill tower by Caroline Spivack

NYCHA backtracks on 50-story Upper East Side infill tower

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has scrapped a controversial private development on an Upper East Side public housing complex after fierce pushback and a lawsuit against the project.

NYCHA withdrew its application for a 50-story building on a playground at the Holmes Towers development it had planned with Fetner Properties. The building was intended to be the first of NYCHA’s 50/50 projects—rental towers built by private developers on public housing property—and was set to rise 530 feet above East 92nd Street with 339 apartments.

Curbed City Council resolution supports aggressive state bills to cap ceiling heights by Caroline Spivack

City Council resolution supports aggressive state bills to cap ceiling heights

Last month the City Council voted to strengthen restrictions on excessive mechanical spaces used to beef up building heights. Now, a pair of council members are throwing their weight behind state efforts to make it even harder for developers to exploit those spaces.

Manhattan Council members Ben Kallos and Keith Powers have introduced a resolution backing state legislation that would place aggressive limits on ceiling heights to curb cavernous mechanical voids. It’s a necessary step to discourage overdevelopment in some of the city’s densest areas where there’s no shortage of luxury skyscrapers, says Kallos.

“We don’t need more buildings for billionaires, we need new affordable homes for everyday New Yorkers,” Kallos said. “We are fighting overdevelopment at every level of government, whether through city zoning, the city’s building code, or state legislation.”

Upper East Side Patch Sutton Place Tower At Center Of Zoning Fight Begins Rise by Brendan Krisel

Sutton Place Tower At Center Of Zoning Fight Begins Rise

SUTTON PLACE, NY — The planned skyscraper that played a central role in the resident-led rezoning of the small Sutton Place neighborhood on the East River has begun its rise, according to new reports.

Upper East Side Patch Developer Claims No Clear Plan For Replacing Demolished UES Block by Brendan Krisel

Developer Claims No Clear Plan For Replacing Demolished UES Block

UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — Extell Development's Gary Barnett revealed few details Tuesday night during a Community Board meeting to discuss his firm's planned full-block developments on First Avenue between East 79th and 80th streets and East 85th and 86th streets.

Curbed City will study how ‘gerrymandered’ zoning lots affect NYC neighborhoods by Caroline Spivack

City will study how ‘gerrymandered’ zoning lots affect NYC neighborhoods

“The point of city planning is to have predictability and we have a zoning text that has been under attack by people looking for loopholes, and the newest is these gerrymandered lots,” says Upper East Side City Council member Ben Kallos, who requested the study and has staunchly advocated for the city to crack down on the practice. “The point is to restore the predictability.”

In a May 13 letter to Marisa Lago, the director of the DCP, Kallos suggested applying lot restrictions already in place for residential properties to all zoning districts, with a certification process for instances where carving out a tiny lot is legitimate. In low-density neighborhoods zoned for single-family, detached homes, for instance, the minimum lot area is 9,500 square feet and the minimum lot width is 100 feet. Another solution could be creating a “Minimum Distance Between Lot Lines” restriction, Kallos suggested.

Upper East Side Patch Development Brings 28 Below-Market Units, Preschool To UES by Brendan Krisel

Development Brings 28 Below-Market Units, Preschool To UES

City Councilman Ben Kallos praised the project as a win for the neighborhood because it proves that below-market housing can be built on the Upper East Side despite the expensive cost of real estate. Extell bought the site for $14 million in 2014, according to city Department of Finance records.

Extell Development is using 421A and Mandatory Inclusionary Hosing subsidies at the building, developers said.