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88th St. Developer Using 'Unbuildable' Lot to Skirt Zoning Rules, Foes Say

By Shaye Weaver | April 28, 2017 8:43am
 A view of the site at 180 E. 88th St./1558 Third Ave. from where the separate lot is planned.
A view of the site at 180 E. 88th St./1558 Third Ave. from where the separate lot is planned.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — Opponents of a skyscraper rising on East 88th Street are calling on the city to reject the project because the developer is "drawing an imaginary line" in order to build taller, they say — a move for which the city previously chided the developer. 

Developer DDG's L-shaped residential tower currently under construction at 1558 Third Ave., at East 88th Street, is set to rise 521 feet after the company carved out a second, 10-by-22-foot lot on the property, plans show.

Because the property borders Third Avenue, the developer is allowed to build higher under that thoroughfare's zoning regulations, despite the fact that the property technically touches East 88th Street.

To local elected officials and area residents, the new lot was added to skirt zoning rules that prohibit that tall of a building on 88th Street.

The project was previously hit with stop-work order by the Department of Buildings for including a smaller, "unbuildable lot for the sole purpose of evading zoning restrictions.”

"If you own a piece of land where the zoning says you can't build a skyscraper in this part of the district, you don’t get to draw an imaginary line in the sand," said City Councilman Ben Kallos, who filed the appeal with other elected officials and the Carnegie Hill Neighbors group this month.

Neighbors have already filed two challenges with the Department of Buildings asking that DDG's plans be rejected, and they filed a third challenge this month asking officials to completely revoke all construction permits.

On March 23, the Department of Buildings issued an "intent to revoke," warning DDG to refile updated zoning diagrams or else have its construction permits pulled, agency spokesman Alex Schnell said.

The intent to revoke gives a developer 15 days to respond, which they did, Schnell said. Now, the department is working with DDG to get the updated diagrams.

The updated documents should show the 10-by 22-foot lot bordering 88th Street, Schnell said, as the previous diagrams only show a 4-by-22-foot lot that the developer referred to as a "rear yard."

The stop-work order on that plac was lifted on Dec. 21 and construction resumed, he added.

► Developer Hit With Stop Work Order For Manipulating Zoning Code: Officials

► UES Tower Developer Who Tried to Skirt Zoning Law Is At it Again: Officials

Opponents said the new "rear yard" is still illegal because nothing can be realistically built on it.

“Pretending this tiny, unbuildable lot was drawn for any other reason than to skirt the neighborhood’s zoning is just silly," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who supports the appeal. "We will keep the pressure on and keep insisting that the law be enforced.”

DDG did not respond to requests for comment.