As City Councilman Ben Kallos greeted constituents during an Easter egg hunt in Sutton Place Park two years ago, a resident approached him to discuss a less benign matter: Word had spread that a developer intended to build a luxury skyscraper on nearby East 58th Street.
He handed Kallos a nine-page packet of marketing materials prepared by Cushman & Wakefield.
"The Sutton Place Development is an ultra-luxury, as of right, ground up opportunity which will reach over 900 feet tall," the brochure boasted. It predicted the tower would be "an obvious choice for local and foreign buyers."
The councilman immediately notified the neighborhood paper, attended co-op board meetings and informed the local community board, which passed a resolution raising concerns about the plan.
And so began an unusual land use dispute that has outlived the previous developer, spanned two city planning commissioners and pitted a well-funded community group, East River Fifties Alliance, against the new developer and Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration. At one point Donald Trump Jr., who lives in the area, considered getting involved.
The alliance, Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer say their effort is not simply an attempt to shrink the imposing building — it would increase affordable housing requirements beyond what's mandated in a 30-year-old zoning policy that trades rent-regulated apartments for more density. They also say they would protect one of the last remaining neighborhoods in the city to allow residential buildings of unlimited height on side streets...