New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Crain's New York City board approves Sutton Place tower, but the fight is far from over by Joe Anuta

City board approves Sutton Place tower, but the fight is far from over

The city's Board of Standards and Appeals approved plans for a luxury apartment tower in Sutton Place today. The project has gone through a tortuous development process and generated heated opposition from a community group, which immediately vowed to sue.

The 800-foot tower proposed for East 58th Street was first begun by Connecticut developer Joseph Beninanti, who took a huge financing gamble and ultimately lost the property to one of his lenders, Gamma Real Estate. During the foreclosure process, a coalition made up of nearby residents opposed to the soaring scale of the building and City Councilman Ben Kallos began advancing a rezoning proposal to cap heights in the area. The goal was to push through changes before Gamma completed the foundation work, which would have ensured that the project would be subject to existing zoning rules.

The developer ultimately lost that race and was forced to halt construction when the rezoning was passed last year. But as Crain's predicted at the time, Gamma was likely to receive an exemption, which the board granted today.

Jonathan Kalikow, head of Gamma, declined to comment. But the neighborhood group behind the rezoning effort pledged to challenge the project in court.

"Today's decision by the Board of Standards and Appeals comes as no surprise," the East River Fifties Alliance said in a statement. "[We] will now take the community's fight against this monstrous, out-of-place megatower to the courts and away from a city agency."

For now, the board's ruling means that Gamma will be able to restart work on the tower.

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