180 East 88th Street Has First Board of Standards and Appeals Public Hearing

This week FRIENDS, along with other New Yorkers concerned with the impact of megatowers on our city, has been advocating full force for the City to make good on its promises to enforce the misuse of zoning loopholes.

The high profile development at 180 East 88th Street had its first public hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) yesterday to address the joint community challenge by FRIENDS and Carnegie Hill Neighbors to the Department of Buildings (DOB) approval of the carve out of a 10 foot by 22 foot portion of the property’s zoning lot in order to evade the City’s zoning requirements meant to regulate building’s height and form. 180 East 88th Street has utilized numerous other tactics, including excessive floor to ceiling heights and an unnecessary intra-building void, that undermine the predictability of development in New York, nullify zoning provisions that were designed to promote livability and thoughtful urban design, and threaten our residential neighborhoods.

The session contained several hours of arguments, thoughtful consideration from BSA commissioners, including pointed questions  from Chair Margery Perlmutter directed at the DOB’s rationale for the prior approval. There was also spirited public testimony in support of this community appeal, including strong comments supporting our position from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Ben Kallos.

FRIENDS of the Upper East Side made it clear to the members of the Board that, should they uphold reckless tactics like those employed at 180 East 88th Street, it will set a precedent that threatens to undermine any requirement of the Zoning Resolution based on avenue or street frontage. In her statement, Executive Director Rachel Levy warned that such a decision would threaten decades-old regulations that ban sliver buildings and require tower-on-base building forms that were enacted to avoid what FRIENDS’ founding president Halina Rosenthal called the “out of control hodge-podge at eye level.” Read FRIENDS’ full statement here. The BSA will continue the public hearing this fall.

We are not fighting alone! FRIENDS stood side by side at a press conferencewith colleagues and our partners in government on the steps of City Hall on Monday, July 16th to call for a comprehensive solution to zoning loopholes, like those in use at 180 East 88th Street, 200 Amsterdam Avenue, and numerous other developments citywide.

We thank Council Member Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for their leadership on these issues, and State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Keith Powers for their ongoing support. We salute our partners at Carnegie Hill NeighborsLandmark West!, the Committee for Environmentally Sound DevelopmentEast River Fifties AllianceEast 72nd Street Neighborhood Association, to name a few. All gathered to demand common sense zoning reform now, not six months from now, in order to stop the routine DOB approval of egregiously non-compliant buildings.

FRIENDS will release updates as information regarding 180 East 88th Street is made public. The next hearing at the BSA is tentatively set for Tuesday, October 30, 2018.

(Left) L-Shaped building lot pre-construction (Right) Rendering by DDG

Left to Right: Manhattan Borough President’s General Counsel and Director of Land Use Jim Caras, Council Member Keith Powers, Council Member Ben Kallos, and FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Executive Director Rachel Levy