Manhattan Community Group Resists 'Super Tower'
Most developers proposing substantial new construction in New York City can expect a fair amount of opposition from residents trying to fend off changes to their neighborhoods.
Rarely is that opposition so organized and well-funded that it succeeds in upending the plans of a developer who isn't even seeking city approval for a land use change.
But that is what's happening in a residential neighborhood in Midtown. A community organization known as the East River Fifties Alliance is on the verge of blocking an 800-foot-tall tower planned for East 58th Street in Manhattan.
While many of the city's zoning fights pit disjointed community groups against well-funded developers, this fight is better matched. The city’s powerful real estate lobby supports the project, while the alliance — a group of wealthy and motivated East Side residents — want it stopped.
The alliance's application, which has the backing of the area's politicians, drew dozens of supporters and foes to a packed public hearing of the City Planning Commission Wednesday.
"Although the Sutton neighborhood is a community within New York City, it feels like a small town. Allowing super towers in, it reduces light and air," Minette Greenberg told the commission, which must vote on the proposal. "They destroy the architectural fabric that makes our neighborhood unique. They diminish the sense of community that the area's residents, and we believe the commissioners, value."
Greenberg was one of 16 people who signed up to testify in favor of the proposal to curb the height of the building by imposing a zoning regulation known as "tower on a base." If instituted, it would restrict the developer, Gamma Real Estate, to constructing roughly half the bulk of the structure below 150 feet.
Council Member Ben Kallos, who signed onto the alliance's application, said it "corrects an accident of history that has left the Sutton area the only residential neighborhood in the city with uncapped R10 zoning and without further protections." (R10 refers to the highest allowance for residential zoning in the city.)