Midtown East


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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De Blasio’s Bait-and-Switch Zoning

 

New York Midtown Skyline in 1932

Midtown East skyline, 1932

 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has chosen a mighty strange way of celebrating the 100th anniversary of zoning in New York City. His zoning plan, approved in March, calls for more affordable housing for low-income families, but more housing affordable to the wealthy will be its main achievement.

 

A century ago last year New York City passed what is widely believed to be the first zoning ordinance in the country. At a time when skyscrapers were coming into vogue, the 1916 regulation set no height limit but sought to prevent structures such as the new 40-story Equitable Life Insurance Building from blotting out the sky. A formula used the width of streets to calculate required setbacks permitting sunlight to filter down to the ground. The setbacks ended up popularizing the wedding-cake style of Manhattan architecture for decades, but was originally intended entirely to make life more bearable for people on sidewalks.

 

De Blasio’s zoning changes make the 1916 law and its formulas look as if they could fit on a postcard. The changes bring mandatory inclusionary housing to a new level. First, they are mandatory. The reward for developers in city subsidies and zoning exemptions is negotiated in light of the number of affordable units. And deals are configured differently for different parts of town. Finally, local members of council get to tweak agreements for development projects in their districts.

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