In May 2016 with the help of our elected officials, Carnegie Hill Neighbors filed a challenge to the developer’s plans for a 550-foot tall tower proposed for 180 East 88th Street. The developer, DDG,  had used an artificial device to allow it to build a taller building than would have been possible under New York CIty zoning rules.

The lot is L-shaped that surrounds (but does not include) two small corner lots.  It therefore connects with the sidewalks of both 88th Street and Third Avenue. The device was the creation of a tiny, separate zoning lot 4 feet by 22 feet along East 88th Street. This device allowed the developer to claim that the actual building’s zoning lot did not front on 88th Street.

This zoning device was discovered by the zoning expert, George M. Janes, hired by Carnegie Hill Neighbors. Based on his arguments the challenge was filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB) in May 2016 by City Council Member Ben Kallos and Manhattan Borough PresidentGale Brewer. This was reported in the New York Times.  Within days the Department of Buildings issued a Stop-Work order, and again this wascovered by the New York Times.

However, in November the developers filed a new plan: This time the depth of the tiny lot was expanded by 6 feet to a depth of 10 feet, with the developers filing essentially the same building plans.

In early December, Carnegie Hill Neighbors again filed a challenge with the backing of Council Member Ben Kallos, the Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Senator Liz Krueger.  This challenge, essentially based on the same arguments made earlier, was covered in the Wall Street Journal.  We are awaiting word from the DOB.

CHN submitted two more challenges. The DOB agreed with some issues and required DDG to reform its zoning lit, but in the end it ruled that it is legal for developers to sculpt their lot so they can avoid zoning regulations. This finding is an attack on the integrity of the zoning law and will be challenged further. CHN, in partnership with Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, is mounting a legal challenge with the goal of ending this practice.