Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Members Kallos and
Powers Call on the BSA to Prohibit the Creation of Unbuildable, Gerrymandered
Lots Used by Developers to Evade Zoning Rules
Elected Officials were joined by Representatives from Friends of the Upper East Side
Historic Districts, Landmark West!, Carnegie Hill Neighbors, the Committee for
Environmentally Sound Development, and the East River Fifties Alliance
New York, NY- On Monday, July 16 elected officials from Manhattan came together to urge the Board
of Standards and Appeals (BSA) to consider the citywide implications that its upcoming hearings and
rulings will carry if they rule in favor of the developers. On July 17 the BSA is set to consider
community appeals against development projects in Council Member Kallos’ district at 180 East 88th
Street and at 200 Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
As New York City gets set to regulate the use of excessive mechanical voids this year, elected officials
and community groups are calling on the BSA and the de Blasio administration to stick to the Mayor’s
word from a June 27th, 2018 town hall where he acknowledged that the City should study all the
loopholes used by developers, not only voids and added that the City should come back with a decision
on the matter.
By creating a tiny ten-foot unbuildable lot between the development site and the street and claiming the
property no longer fronts on 88th Street, so that it does not have to comply with zoning rules, 180 East
88th Street Side violates two zoning rules that would apply to any building at this location: the sliver
building rule, which prohibits tall towers on narrow lots, and the “tower-on-a-base” rule, which requires
any tower on the Upper East Side to have a base along the street line that roughly matches the height of
its neighbors, so as to preserve the continuity of the block. If construction is allowed pursuant to current
permits, the tactics used at 180 East 88th Street would provide a roadmap to any developer who doesn’t
want to comply with the sliver building and “tower-on-a-base” rules. By giving developers the ability to
sculpt a zoning lot at will to evade the City’s zoning rules, this precedent will lead to other abuses
and overdevelopment citywide.
In the case of 200 Amsterdam Avenue, those opposed to the project argue that the permit to build was
granted in error by the Department of Buildings and that you should not compound a mistake with an
even larger one. Furthermore, activists claim that the project carves up portions of several neighboring
tax lots, in effect gerrymandering them into a zoning lot that skirts both the letter and intent of the
Zoning Resolution, similar to the case on the Upper East Side.
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