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Locals lose round in fight to block Gamma’s planned 700-foot tall Sutton Place tower

The City Planning Commission has approved a plan to rezone Sutton Place.

The proposal aims to impose a “tower on the base” requirement for the area covering First Avenue between East 51st and East 59th Street. If approved, it would require developers to build 45 to 50 percent of their Sutton Place projects below 150 feet.

The plan was submitted by neighborhood group East River Fifties Alliance, which previously sought to cap building heights in the neighborhood at 260 feet. The organization has the backing of public officials such as State Senator Liz Krueger and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

While the ERFA gained a victory with the approval, it lost its battle to block Gamma Real Estate’s planned 700-foot tall Sutton 58 condo tower. City Planning grandfathered the project under the area’s current zoning rules, allowing it to move forward as planned. Gamma is looking to build a 67-story, 125-unit tower at 426-432 East 58th Street. It gained approval without finishing foundation work at the site, according to a company representative. Gamma was previously targeting finishing foundation work before Thanksgiving to ensure that the site would be subject to current zoning rules. The company declined to provide a timeline on when it would complete the foundation.

“While we wish that the City Planning Commission had rejected ERFA’s application outright, we appreciate that they have decided to grandfather our project, which will not only ensure that our as-of-right development can move forward, but also protect the jobs of the hundreds of workers who are relying on construction of our building to move forward. Their decision recognizes first and foremost that ERFA’s effort are, without a doubt, a blatant attempt at illegal spot zoning, and working families should not have to pay as a result,” said Jonathan Kalikow, president of Gamma Real Estate.

The ERFA’s proposal now moves forward to the City Council. The group has two backers in the chamber: Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick. The ERFA is looking to the chamber to reverse the grandfathering of Gamma’s project.

“Make no mistake, we are still in the fight for the future of East 58th Street,” said Alan Kersh, the president of the ERFA. “The City Council has the power to remove the Planning Commission’s grandfathering of the Gamma project from the zoning text amendment. We are very optimistic that the City Council will see the wisdom of reversing the grandfather provision.”

The dispute between Gamma and local residents have persisted for about a year. The ERFA first submitted a proposal to rezone the area in January of 2016, when the site was still owned by Bauhaus Group. The ERFA’s initial proposal aimed to replace Sutton Place’s R10 zoning designation, which imposes no height restrictions. Gamma acquired the site in a foreclosure auction in December of last year. Gamma scaled down plans for the site, scrapping Bauhaus’ proposal for a 950-foot tall tower designed by Norman Foster.

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