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Gamma Real Estate, East Midtown locals trade barbs over 3 Sutton Place project

Gamma Real Estate is moving forward with its plan to build a 700-foot tall condo tower at 3 Sutton Place in East Midtown.

The company, which filed plans for the site in December, told the Real Deal at the time that it submitted the permit application to “safeguard the project” as it explored a possible sale or the inclusion of a joint venture partner.

Those options are no longer in play, according to a representative for the developer. After completing bankruptcy and foreclosure procedures for the site, the company has decided to build the tower on its own. Gamma’s plans for the site, located at 430 East 58th Street, call for a 262,069 s/f property that’s 67 stories tall. The company is looking to build 125 apartment units, with amenities such as a yoga room, a gym, a party room and bike storage.

The plan has been met with opposition from residents and local officials. The East River 50s Alliance, a group composed of 1,900 East Midtown residents, recently submitted a rezoning proposal that would cap the height for any new Sutton Place development at 260 feet. The proposal provides an exception for “community use” projects such as hospitals, and has the backing of local officials such as State Senator Liz Kreuger, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council members Dan Garodnick and Ben Kallos.

Jonathan Kalikow, the president of Gamma Real Estate, criticized the proposal. “Gamma Real Estate’s Sutton 58 Project will add to the rich legacy of exquisite architecture and design that first gave rise to the Sutton Place neighborhood, all while helping to grow the local economy, increase affordable housing stock and support to the ongoing redevelopment of Midtown East,” he told Real Estate Weekly.

“The East River 50s Alliance is obstructing all of these benefits for the community. Their self-serving proposal will set a dangerous precedent that threatens to hamper the progress of not only our project, but also our City as a whole. For the sake of our City’s future, their proposal must be rejected.”

The firm recently found an ally in the city’s Planning Commission. According to a previous report from Politico, the agency criticized ERFA’s revised proposal for not taking into account the area’s affordable housing needs.

Gamma said that the proposal only served the interests of the “ultra-rich residents” of nearby luxury building The Sovereign. The firm also accused the group of using “questionable tactics” to preserve their views.

“ERFA’s actions seem to rationalize any means necessary to achieve their selfish end, including circumventing well-established processes to apply for a zoning change. Not only have they yet to submit an Environmental Impact Survey, but they have also used a technicality to bypass the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. And perhaps in its most brazen act, ERFA has sent a letter to the Department of Buildings asking them to deny Sutton 58’s request for a permit to begin construction, directly undermining the integrity of a historically rigorous and defined permitting system,” the company said.

ERFA responded by saying that they are merely trying to prevent the construction of a building that does not fit in the neighborhood. “I don’t think our tactics are questionable at all. We’re trying to protect our neighborhood from an out-of-context development,” said Robert Shepler, who is part of ERFA’s Leadership Committee. “We’re not anti-development. We just want it to be reasonable and contextual growth.”

Shepler also disputed Gamma’s depiction of their members as self-centered aristocrats. “We’re a neighborhood of families, senior citizens and people with strollers,” he said. “I would turn it around and say that, fundamentally, (Gamma’s project) represents safety deposit boxes in the sky.”

Gamma won the site at a foreclosure auction last December, paying $98 million for the property and its air rights. The previous developer, Bauhaus, Group, filed plans for a 950-foot tall building designed by Norman Foster.

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