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Board Unanimously Approves Plan to Cap Sutton Place Building Heights

By Shaye Weaver | June 29, 2017 9:46am
 The East River 50s Alliance is proposing to cap building heights at 260 feet.
The East River 50s Alliance is proposing to cap building heights at 260 feet.
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East River 50s Alliance

SUTTON PLACE — Members of Community Board 6 officially lent their support to a neighborhood-led zoning proposal aimed at preventing super-tall skyscrapers in Sutton Place, despite the city's concerns that the plan would discourage affordable housing.

CB6 held two public hearings on the East River 50s Alliance's zoning proposal, which would ban any commercial development between East 52nd and 59th streets east of First Avenue, except for “community uses” such as medical offices and day care centers.

It would also impose a height cap limiting any new development to 260 feet, as well as mandate that 13 percent of any new development be dedicated to below-market-rate housing in exchange for bonus Floor Area Ratio (FAR).

On June 5, members of the Department of City Planning started its review of the plan and noted "serious reservations" about the appropriateness of the proposed height limit and whether the rezoning would discourage developers from building housing, including affordable units, in the area.

If there's a requirement for developers to provide a certain amount of affordable housing to earn more square footage, it's less likely they will take that chance, agency chairwoman Marisa Lago noted at the time.

Jonathan Kalikow — president of Gamma Real Estate, which is planning a 850-foot tower at 430 E. 58th St. — says the plan is actually meant to stop projects like his from blocking the view of buildings like The Sovereign next door.

"This self-serving proposal is not about community zoning," he said in a statement. "Their application would discourage new development in the Community Board, reducing the construction of market-rate and affordable housing — worsening our city’s housing shortage and affordability crisis — and in turn, hurting existing and inhibiting new small businesses."

Locals at the meeting were still adamant about supporting the plan, including resident Carol Whitton, who held up a poster showing the difference between the buildings surrounding Gamma's planned Sutton 58 skyscraper.

"Where is the logic?" she asked during Tuesday's CB6 meeting. "There is no conceivable reason for this to be permitted. It's nothing to do with The Sovereign or blocking people's views... it's just stupid."

The resolution the board adopted on Tuesday asks the Planning Commission to reconsider any objections it has to the proposed zoning text changes and notes that the project's environmental impact statement projects a 130 percent increase in affordable housing.

"Now, we are more energized than ever," said Alan Kersh, president of the East River 50s Alliance. "We hope to move this initiative to completion with a ‘yes’ vote from the City Planning Commission and then final approval from the full City Council.”