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Sutton Place Plan to Cap Skyscraper Heights Sent to City for Review

By Shaye Weaver | April 10, 2017 3:03pm

SUTTON PLACE — A group of residents trying to block developers from building super-tall skyscrapers in their neighborhood has officially submitted a rezoning proposal to limit building heights.

In the first official step the group has taken since initially pitching the proposal in January 2016, the group expects the Department of City Planning to certify the application in the next two weeks, meaning the formal public review process can begin.

Under the proposal, the zoning would ban any commercial development— except for “community uses,” such as medical offices and daycares — as well as impose a height cap limiting any new development to 260 feet, or about 25 stories.

"We're very confident that all the parties needed to approve the change — except the Department of City Planning — are members of this application, and now we're hopeful city planning takes appropriate action to keep this residential neighborhood contextual," said Alan Kersh, president of the The East River 50s Alliance, which is behind the effort.

The rezoning would allow a slight increase in maximum floor-area ratio (FAR), from 12 to 13, which would allow for slightly higher building densities than current zoning allows to attract developers to the area.

The plan would also mandate that 20 percent of any new development be dedicated to below-market-rate housing on site.

The East River 50s Alliance, which represents 45 buildings and 1,900 people, began pushing for a rezoning after plans were filed by the Bauhouse Group for a 900-foot skyscraper at 430 E. 58th St. in 2015. 

Bauhouse ultimately went into bankruptcy, and now Gamma Real Estate is planning an 850-foot residential tower there.

The neighborhood's current R10 zoning has no cap on building heights, so developers can combine lots and buy unused development rights from neighboring lots in order to build towers like the one planned for East 58th Street.

The rezoning plan has major backers, including Borough President Gale Brewer, state Sen. Gale Brewer, and councilmen Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick — all of whom have said they'd sign off on the rezoning if it were to pass the review process.

If the Department of City Planning certifies the application, it will move forward with public review.