A supertall battle
Sutton Place residents submit proposal to thwart plan for 850-foot tower
The Skytop Lounge at Plaza 400 was packed on Friday morning with Sutton Place residents opposed to supertall towers, especially the one planned for 430 East 58th Street. Photo courtesy of Ed Lederman
A warning from the East River Fifties Alliance about how the skyline could look if the neighborhood isn't rezoned against supertall towers. Photo courtesy of East River Fifties Alliance
In what has become a race to the finish, the Sutton Place community in East Midtown has officially submitted its proposal to limit development in hopes of preventing the construction of an 850-foot tower. Announced in 2015, the supertall residential building has hurdled considerable obstacles from bankruptcy to intense community opposition. But, as of now, it is still in the works unless Sutton Place residents can get their rezoning plan approved first.
In order to “keep the sun shining on our community,” according to the East River Fifties Alliance (ERFA) website, the rezoning plan aims to cap building heights at 260 feet. Because the area’s current zone has no height limits, developers behind the Sutton Place tower were able to move forward as of right, or without requiring public input. Rather than let it happen, the residents represented by the East River Fifties Alliance banded together to devise a rezoning of their neighborhood; a rare and potentially groundbreaking move because residents generally don’t attempt such an undertaking.
In addition to imposing a height limit, the community’s plan also includes provisions for more affordable housing by providing developers with some benefits in exchange for “reserving 20 percent of total units for people earning at or below 80 percent of area median income,” according to ERFA. The proposal would disallow commercial development.
At a February town hall in support of the rezoning, high hopes were pinned on Marisa Lago, who began her tenure as director of the Department of City Planning in March. Should the agency certify the community’s plan, it would then proceed to review by the community board, borough board, borough president and City Planning Commission before being given the stamp of approval by the City Council. ERFA expects the process to be completed sometime in the middle of this year. Elected officials such as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos have already spoken out in favor of the rezoning.
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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