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Deals & Dealmakers

Planning Commission allows Sutton Place zoning proposal to move forward

The New York City Planning Commission has certified a multi-block zoning plan in Midtown that may block the construction of Gamma Real Estate’s planned 700-foot tall Sutton 58 condo tower.

The proposal came from the East River 50s Alliance, a group of Midtown residents that have the backing of public officials such as State Senator Liz Kreuger and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. The coalition’s proposal aims to prevent the construction of supertall buildings, setting the height limit of future buildings to 260 feet.

The ERFA said that 86 percent of the buildings in the proposed rezoning area are under the height limit, thereby making their proposal contextual. They also claim that their proposal would lead to the creation of 823 housing units, almost as many under the area’s existing zoning rules.

Certification means that the Planning Commission has deemed the application complete. It clears the way for a formal public review similar to the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The proposal will now be reviewed by Community Board 6 and the Manhattan Borough President for up to 60 days. If the plan gains approval from both parties, the proposal would be returned to the City Planning Commission. The last step for the proposal would be City Council approval. The legislative body would have 50 days to evaluate the plan.

“The certification of ERFA’s zoning proposal is an important step toward rational, community-based planning for the East Side. This ‘people’s’ proposal is a truly grassroots effort that makes clear that the East Side wants thoughtful development and affordable housing, not super towers filled with empty apartments,” Senator Kruger said.

The proposal was criticized by Gamma Real Estate, which described it as a campaign by rich residents to preserve their views.

“ERFA’s application is nothing more than a gimmick to protect the special interests of a group of Sutton Place residents, many of whom reside at The Sovereign, a 485-foot tall luxury residential building directly adjacent to our project,” said Gamma’s Jonathan Kalikow. “Look no further than ERFA’s proposed height limit of 260 feet, which has no precedent in existing zoning regulations and would conflict with many existing buildings within the proposed zoned area – including the Sovereign. It can hardly be a coincidence that this proposed height limited is about 10 feet below the apartment of the founder-leader of ERFA, whose views would be obstructed by the Sutton 58 project.

The ERFA has disputed this characterization, saying that they are merely trying to prevent the construction of a building that does not fit in the neighborhood. “We’re trying to protect our neighborhood from an out-of-context development,” said ERFA’s Robert Shepler in an earlier interview. “We’re not anti-development. We just want it to be reasonable and contextual growth.”

Gamma has already started construction on the project. If the plan gains approval, the firm would have to halt construction on the development.

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