Month's have passed since the New York City Council approved a resident-submitted rezoning application to curb development in the Sutton Place neighborhood, but local council representatives are still battling real estate developers over the plan.
Gamma Real Estate, which was planning to build a 700-foot residential tower on East 58th Street, is appealing the rezoning plan with the city Board of Standards and Appeals. Gamma's development had initially been grandfathered into the new zoning map by the City Planning Commission, but the City Council removed that grandfather clause when it approved the rezoning in November.
City Councilman Ben Kallos, who represents Sutton Place and the Upper East Side, testified Tuesday that residents had been fighting to rezone Sutton Place before Gamma even bought its development site.
"If the BSA is going to live up to its purpose which is to grant relief to developers when there is undue hardship, it cannot grant this exemption because these developers knew exactly what they were doing at all times and decided to assume risk despite the clear and present intentions and efforts of the community," Kallos said at a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing.
Kallos also accused Gamma of illegally acquiring 30 after hours work variances on the grounds that work needed to be done for "public safety reasons." Kallos claimed that the the developers were really just trying to pour a foundation before the rezoning application passed.
The City Council overwhelmingly passed the Sutton Place rezoning application in November of 2017. The application was proposed by a group called the East River Fifties Alliance to prevent supertall developments from rising in the Sutton Place neighborhood from East 51st to 59th streets east of First Avenue.
The ERFA's plan implements the city's "tower-on-a-base" development rules in the neighborhood. The rules require that 45 percent of a new development's floor area be contained below a height of 150 feet. Buildings could still rise above 150 feet, but nearly half of the total density would be at heights that wouldn't be uncharacteristic of the existing neighborhood, according to the plan.
Opponents to the ERFA's zoning plan say it creates a dangerous precedent for spot-zoning in the city. Gamma Real Estate's Jonathan Kalikow has been one of the most outspoken critics of the plan.
"This illegal spot zoning will not stop our building from being built. The only impact of this charade is to cause Gamma financial harm from the delay and put innocent workers out on the street," Kalikow said in a statement when the City Council passed the rezoning.
Photo courtesy East River Fifties Alliance