180 EAST 88TH STREET
Building Name: 180 East 88th Street
Architect: HTO Architects
Developer: DDG Partners
Building Height (to roof): 469 feet
Number of Stories: 31
Number of Units: 48
DOB Information: Click here.
DDG Partners’ condominium tower on the corner of Third Avenue and East 88th Street is well underway towards completion, having passed the 14-story mark in late 2017. When this 31-story, 524 foot tall tower tops out it will be the tallest building north of 67th Street.
The developers of 180 East 88th Street have utilized multiple loopholes in the Zoning Resolution to increase the height of the building, including 16-foot floor-to-floor heights for residential units in the upper floors of the building, and a 34 foot void in the middle to further boost the overall building height. Current zoning regulations provides floor area exemptions for mechanical and other spaces, and lack a mechanism to account for interior floor-to-floor heights. The developers further skirted zoning regulations by annexing a small portion of the lot’s 88th street frontage into a separate, unbuildable micro-lot just ten feet deep (originally four feet, but later enlarged to ten). This allowed for DDG evade zoning regulations which would have required the building to conform to tower-on-base zoning requirements to produce a tower with a more contextual base that is built out to the sidewalk to match the existing uniformity of East 88th Street. By slicing off the 88th Street micro-lot, the developers claim no street frontage on 88th Street and have shifted that square footage to the tower, raising the overall height of the building.
After our colleagues Carnegie Hill Neighbors’ Zoning Challenge and Appeal were denied by DOB in 2017, FRIENDS joined CNH in challenging the Department of Building’s approval of this building to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Unfortunately, in December 11, 2018, after two public hearings, the BSA voted to deny our challenge. FRIENDS and Carnegie Hill Neighbors also joined forces with State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Ben Kallos to file an Article 78 lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court. In March 5, 2018 the Court ruled against our coalition and in favor of the Respondents. For a complete understanding of this years-long challenge, see the Timeline of Events below.
FRIENDS maintains that the micro-lot, positioned between the building’s façade and the sidewalk, serves only to insulate the building from its frontage on East 88th Street. The subdivision of the zoning lot that created this annexed micro-lot was improper because it served no legitimate land use purpose other than to permit blatant evasion of zoning requirements intended to regulate the building’s height and form. Our challenge endeavored to hold the DOB accountable for upholding the spirit and intent of the Zoning Resolution and we intend to continue our efforts to strengthen the City’s adherence to contextual zoning. These zoning requirements, known as the tower-on-base envelope and the sliver law, were hard-won following community advocacy over twenty years ago in response to buildings that were at odds with neighborhood context. FRIENDS would like to thank the members, elected officials, and neighborhood residents who supported our challenge.
Timeline of Events
In a vote of 4-1 on December 11, 2018, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted to deny our appeal of 180 East 88th Street, conceding that the Department of Buildings (DOB) acted within its right to approve the subdivision of the zoning lot that created the micro-lot. In their comments, Commissioners acknowledged the deficiency of the Zoning Resolution’s text regarding this issue. Because the text does not prescribe a minimum lot size in this zoning district, the Commissioners therefore determined that DOB was reasonable in approving the 10 foot lot. Significantly, several Commissioners suggested that a legislative solution would be needed to disallow use of this loophole in future projects. Specifically, the Department of City Planning (DCP) could specify a minimum lot size for commercial districts within the text of the Zoning Resolution. Commissioner Salvatore Scibetta cast the sole vote in support of our appeal, stating in his verbal comments that the subdivision was a violation of the spirit of the Zoning Resolution. Read the BSA's final decision here.
Second public hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals is held.
The high profile development at 180 East 88th Street had its first public hearing at the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) 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.
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.
New York County Supreme Court ruled against FRIENDS, CHN, State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Ben Kallos. Read the Court proceedings here.
Respondents filed their brief to the Article 78 lawsuit. Read it here.
FRIENDS and Carnegie Hill Neighbors joined forces with State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Ben Kallos to file an Article 78 lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court. The brief for the lawsuit is available here.
FRIENDS and Carnegie Hill Neighbors challenged the Department of Building's approval of this building to the Board of Standards and Appeals.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Kallos and Powers Call on the BSA to Prohibit the Creation of Unbuildable, Gerrymandered Lots Used by Developers to Evade Zoning Rules , July 17, 2018
Lawsuit Filed by Upper East Side Elected Officials and Community Leaders Challenges Proposed Skyscraper that Mocks Area Zoning Laws, February 5, 2018
Upper East Side’s Tallest Planned Skyscraper Opposed by Council Members Kallos and Borough President Brewer: Four Foot Lot Allowed Developer to Skirt Law, May 23, 2016
DDG’s Gaudi-Inspired 180 East 88th Street Gets Its Curtain Wall On The Upper East Side, by Michael Young. New York YIMBY, March 19, 2019
UES tower dispute heads to appeal, by Michael Garofolo. Our Town, July 17, 2018
Manhattan elected officials call on city to crack down on zoning workarounds, by Sam Raskin. Politico, July 16, 2018
Construction On 180 East 88th Street Nears Topping Out, Upper East Side, Manhattan, by Andrew Nelson. New York YIMBY, June 26,2018
Community groups launch lawsuit to block in-progress Upper East Side tower, by Joe Anuta. Crain’s New York Business, February 9, 2018
Upper East Side residents sue over 524-foot-tall development, by Sarina Trangle. AMNY, February 8, 2018
88th St. Developer Using 'Unbuildable' Lot to Skirt Zoning Rules, Foes Say, by Shaye Weaver. DNAinfo, April 28, 2017
City lifts stop-work order at DDG’s UES condo project, by E.B. Solomont. The Real Deal, December 22, 2016
DDG faces scrutiny over UES zoning “gymnastics”. The Real Deal, December 15, 2016
Developer Ordered to Stop Work on Upper East Side Luxury Apartment Tower, by J. David Goodman. The New York Times, May 25, 2016
4-Foot-Wide Lot, Carved Out by Developers, Causes Big Stir in Manhattan, by J. David Goodman. The New York Times, May 22, 2106
More on 180 East 88th Street
- 25 MayRead more
Responding to pressure from civic groups including Carnegie Hill Neighbors
- 24 MayRead more
An article in Monday’s New York Times, “4-Foot-Wide Lot, Carved Out by