ADVOCACY UPDATE: Inter-building Void at 62nd Street Periscope Tower Endorsed by DOB

After six months, the Department of Buildings (DOB) has finally responded to FRIENDS’ Zoning Challenge of 249 East 62nd Street filed in November 2017. The DOB has denied any error in its zoning approval for this building, despite FRIENDS’ argument that the 150-foot void at the center of the building is vastly larger than necessary for any possible mechanical use and constitutes a nearly unprecedented exploitation of the city’s Zoning Resolution.

Just steps away from the Treadwell Farm Historic District, the Rafael Vinoly-designed building will contain a 150-foot octagonal core of unlivable, mostly vacant space that is wholly exempt from zoning because of its classification as “mechanical” space. Because the void makes up nearly a third of the building’s height, it will be among the tallest buildings on the Upper East Side, yet it will contain only 25 usable residential floors.

As covered in Crain’s, the DOB partially accepted two other technical issues raised by FRIENDS in the challenge, including basic arithmetic errors and will require the applicant to fix them before proceeding with construction. But DOB’s endorsement of the developer’s tactic to game the system for additional height and the agency’s unwillingness to enforce the intent of zoning, underscores the need for a legislative solution to close the loopholes in our Zoning Resolution that contribute to overdevelopment.

In response to FRIENDS’ concerns, Marisa Lago, Chair of the City Planning Commission, has previously pledged to investigate the exploitation of mechanical voids for extra height. FRIENDS continues to meet with policymakers and experts to devise a policy solution, and will continue to fight the approval of a 150-foot pedestal of empty space set to rise at 249 East 62nd Street, as well as out of context developments at 180 East 88th Street and the Marx Brothers Playground Site on East 96th Street.

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Credit: Rafael Viñoly Architects