Sutton Place mystery: Where is Carl Weisbrod?


ERFA town hall meeting to to oppose megatower invasion of Sutton Place

Had a developer proposed building a megatower in the middle of a narrow tree-lined street anywhere else in the five boroughs, he’d be laughed clear across the nearest river.  But the small piece of Manhattan encompassing most of the 50s, east of First Avenue, is the only residential area in the city with no height limits on buildings.  None at all.

Hence, Gamma Real Estate’s plan to shoehorn a ludicrous spike smack into the middle of E. 58th Street, just off First.  Although the Kalikow family is trying to portray its massive project as a done deal, it is not quite.

The East River 50s Alliance (ERFA) has submitted a sophisticated rezoning plan for the neighborhood that would impose sane height limits on new construction while promoting more affordable housing than Mayor de Blasio would require under current rules.

Supertower proposed for Sutton Place

ERFA held a packed town hall meeting this morning to engage more residents in the fight against the megatower.   Speakers included Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilman Dan Garodnick, Councilman Ben Kallos and New York State Sen. Liz Krueger.  All pledged their support for ERFA’s rezoning plan.

But here is the mystery:  ERFA submitted its plan two months ago to City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod, but has yet to receive a response.  It is the commissioner’s job to certify an application as complete. Once that happens, it goes through a formal review process involving the Community Board (CB6 in this case), the Manhattan borough president, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

But it’s been radio silence from Weisbrod (and his boss de Blasio).

This has made many in this 30,000-person community worried that  (to use the harsh term) the fix is in.  Adding to suspicions is the ongoing investigation of de Blasio for allegedly trading favors for donations from real estate interests.

New Yorkers in both rich and less-rich neighborhoods have joined in the fear that their quality of life is up for sale.  A tip of the hat to Inwood Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez for stopping a luxury development masquerading as an affordable housing plan.


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Stepping heavy on Sutton Place

skyline copyManhattanites are used to tall buildings. Many live in them. But many of those who live in them are finding common cause with the residents of shorter stuff as new megatowers arise. The supertalls make mere tall buildings look like pygmies, while low-rise apartments and townhouses look like ants. That’s just the buildings. Their inhabitants, venturing out onto the sidewalks, must feel like microbes.


The effect of tall buildings on the quality of life in the city’s streets was recognized with the passage of its pathbreaking 1916 zoning law, which mandated setbacks in the massing of tall buildings so that light could get through to the street. Naturally, as the ways around zoning leapfrog each new round of zoning, buildings here have grown taller and taller, blotting out the sun and generating a wind-tunnel effect that buffets the disenfranchised user of the sidewalk environment. The latest rush of developers to out-leap each other into the sky is only making matters worse.

Twenty towers of more than 900 feet are planned or under construction in the city. Fourteen break the 1,000-foot mark. The vicinity of 57th Street is the locus for residential supertalls, with 432 Park Ave., at 1,396 feet, the latest to be completed. It is also considered a super-thin — a designation that kicks in when height is more than 10 times the width: 432 Park boasts a 15-1 height-to-width ratio; 111 West 57th, under construction, will be 23-1. Engineers may shrink from revealing what architects deny, but the combination of super-tall and super-thin looks super-fragile.

And hold on to your hats! Sutton Place, known for its quiet elegance, may be next in line for belittlement. Permits have been issued for developer Bauhouse Group to raze three six-story buildings, 428-432 East 58th St., right around the corner. The British “starchitect” Sir Norman Foster has been hired to design a super-tall with 100-plus residential units reaching as high as 1,000 feet. Renderings depict a narrow, squarish tower of glass panes framed by thin pilasters and spandrels, rising straight up some 90 stories. A smattering of corner and mid-facade inset balconies are festooned by Foster’s imaginative artists with verdure.


No salt warnings on the menu today, thankfully

The city’s Board of Health has been a tireless advocate for turning New York menus into joyless hospital checklists.  Its latest thrust has been a demand that restaurants with 15 or more locations post little salt shaker icons next to food items containing 2,300-or-more milligrams of sodium. That’s a warning to diners, whether they want one or not.

“I believe information is power,” NYS Supreme Court Justice Eileen Rakower said in rejecting the National Restaurant Association’s objection to the new rule.

We would dissent. We believe that the city’s nanny squad is using its power to force-feed an opinion.





Happily, NYS Appellate Justice David Friedman temporarily stopped the health department from enforcing the mandate. It was to begin today.

We have confidence in our diners’ ability to assess whether they are consuming too much salt and avoid the establishments that overdo it.  Restaurants wishing to attract a sodium-averse clientele can put salt-shaker icons on their menus as they choose.

The Board of Health has important work to do, but we wonder whether its $1.6 billion annual budget and army of 6,000 employees might be slimmed down by removing excess menu meddling from its diet.