FRIENDS Challenges “Periscope” Tower at Second Avenue and 62nd Street


The construction of yet another megatower has been approved by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on the Upper East Side at 249 East 62nd Street. Just steps away from the Treadwell Farm Historic District, the Rafael Vinoly-designed building will contain a 152 foot “void” in the middle of the building. Slated to reach a height of 510 feet, the building will contain only 25 usable floors, with 12 residential stories at the base, the 152 foot octagonal void (with a party room) in the middle, and another 12 stories perched atop the “periscope” tower.

On November 3, 2017, FRIENDS, working with urban planner George Janes, filed a Zoning Challenge with the DOB. In the challenge, we argued that 249 East 62nd Street is a tower-on-base building unlike any ever conceived,with the octagonal void constituting a nearly unprecedented exploitation of the city’s Zoning Resolution. The void is vastly larger than necessary for any possible mechanical use, and the space is entirely deducted from the building’s floor area calculation, making it a particularly egregious example of zoning loopholes in action.

The architect’s filings for this building also contain a number of other technical issues, including basic arithmetic errors, which call to question the reliability of the project’s approval (and in turn, the approval process as a whole). FRIENDS raised these issues in the challenge, and requested that DOB require the applicant to address these issues.

249 East 62nd Street exemplifies the zoning loopholes FRIENDS has raised repeatedly over the last year. In April, FRIENDS hosted the half-day “Attack of the Killer Megatowers” workshop, which featured presentations on the basics of zoning and how developers are using loopholes in the city’s Zoning Resolution to game the system for additional height, including ultra-luxury ceiling heights, excessive void and mechanical spaces, and improper manipulation and sculpting of the zoning lot. To view videos of our presentations on these issues, including a video by George Janes, click HERE. Ultimately a legislative solution is needed to close the loopholes, and FRIENDS continues to meet with policymakers and experts to devise a solution.