Testimony to the City Planning Commission New York City Council Member Ben Kallos RE: Land Use Review Application N 180082 ZRM In Support of Rezoning the Sutton Area
I am here today to give testimony in support of the community-led grassroots zoning text change application submitted to the Commission by the East River Fifties Alliance in partnership with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Council Member Dan Garodnick, and me. ERFA, the community coalition leading this application, consists of 45 buildings, represented by co-op boards, condo boards and individual owners, and over 2600 individual supporters living in more than 500 buildings within and beyond the rezoning area.
Thank you to Commission Chair Marisa Lago, Vice Chair Kenneth J. Knuckles, and the members of the City Planning Commission for hearing us today. Thank you as well to your staff, and in particular to the Department of City Planning’s community affairs and Manhattan Borough offices’ professional and dedicated work in handling this application.
In the Sutton Area, a small residential neighborhood by the East River in Midtown Manhattan, we have come together to envision a community that welcomes new construction while protecting the rent-regulated tenants who have lived in our neighborhood for decades, like our friends Herndon Werth and Charles Fernandez.
We are here to support real housing for real New Yorkers, including affordable housing, instead of 800-foot-high full-story penthouses built to serve as investments, often for foreign speculators.
We envision a residential community in the Sutton Area where new buildings serve the needs of the local community and of the City as a whole, adding to our housing stock for working people and fitting the shape and character of our neighborhood.
We have seen the super-tall buildings at 432 Park and 111 West 57th Street, and we believe they have no role on quiet side streets in fully residential neighborhoods. When I first learned that the super-tall buildings could creep onto our residential side streets, I wanted to do something that had not been done before: to organize the community to propose our own plan to rezone the neighborhood for the present and the future. That is what we did, led by residents from the Sutton Area and co-signed by four elected officials: we filed the first ever community-led rezoning at City Planning, which we are discussing today.
This rezoning corrects an accident of history that has left the Sutton Area the only residential neighborhood in the city with uncapped R10 zoning without any further protections. The proposal seeks to impose tower-on-a-base zoning, which would result in squatter, more human-scale buildings, with a dense base and a shorter tower, adding more units to our housing stock, which will be filled by real New Yorkers. Depending on lot configuration, maximum building heights in tower-on-a-base zoning are estimated between 300 and 500 feet, far closer to the built context of the neighborhood than a super-tall building that would cast a shadow all the way across the East River into Queens.