UES Condo Tower Development Draws More Scrutiny Opponents Claim the Developer Is Circumventing Zoning Rules

UES Condo Tower Development Draws More Scrutiny
The site of DDG's new condo development on 1558 Third Avenue/180 East 88th Street (David Chiu).

Opponents of an Upper East Side condo project are asking the city to squash the developer’s plans to build it, claiming that the developer is trying to circumvent zoning rules so it could make the luxury tower higher.

Developer DDG is building an L-shaped building at 180 East 88th Street, and as reported in DNAinfo, local Councilman Ben Kallos along with residents and members of the Carnegie Hill Neighbors group have filed an appeal. They say the developer is trying to build outside the original boundaries on the site, extending the plans to Third Avenue, where the zoning is different than on East 88th Street.

According to DNAinfo, plans show a second “unbuildable” 10-by-22-foot lot on the property, which would allow the building to reach 521 feet, reportedly making it one of the largest structures in the neighborhood,

"If you own a piece of land where the zoning says you can't build a skyscraper in this part of the district, you don’t get to draw an imaginary line in the sand," said Kallos, as quoted in DNAinfo.

DDG did not respond to DNAinfo’s requests for a comment.

This isn’t the first time the city has intervened in the construction. Back in May 2016, a stop work order was issued at the site for a similar, yet smaller unbuildable lot. DDG amended its plans in which a 4-foot-wide portion of the lot nearest East 88th Street was removed so that they could therefore claim they didn’t have to comply with zoning rules on that street, according to officials.

"Our audit found that the developer created an unbuildable lot for the sole purpose of evading zoning restrictions," said Rick Chandler, commissioner of the city’s Department of Buildings at the time, DNAinfo reported. "Accordingly, we stopped work on the site and are requiring the developer to submit new plans.”

At the time,  George M. Janes, a planning expert working with opponents of the tower, told The New York Times: “This is novel; this is new; this is a very aggressive strategy.”

This particular development could create a precedent for how residential towers are constructed in the city going forward. The issue is: Can developers skirt zoning rules by creating smaller footprints so that they can build taller? As reported by the Times, that is the question being posed by experts and residents alike.

According to the Times, Janes said that the “developers appeared to be seeking to avoid building a bigger base for the tower, which would be required if the lot touched 88th Street … The square footage that would have had to go into that extra base could be used instead to add additional height to the 521-foot tower.”

While this is all happening, units in the building are for sale. According to Curbed, they range in price so far from $3.45 million for a two-bedroom/two-bath unit to $6.875 million for a four-bedroom apartment on the 24th floor. Among the tower’s amenities include 24/7 concierge and doorman service; a private fitness center; a private landscaped roof; and a private wine room.

The construction is set to be completed sometime next year.

Georgia Kral is a staff writer at The Cooperator.

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