Watch this short film which celebrates the diversity of the Upper East Side, while also introducing the challenges our neighborhood may face going forward.

On October 7, 2015 FRIENDS released The Upper East Side-A Framework for the Future of Five Neighborhoods, a planning and zoning study that identifies specific development risks threatening community integrity in the neighborhoods of Lenox Hill, Yorkville, East Harlem, Carnegie Hill, and the Upper East Side in the wake of inappropriately scaled, poorly sited, and non-contextual high density development on the horizon as the Second Avenue Subway’s opening draws near.  Risks include the loss of existing small businesses and a diverse range of housing options, including a vast stock of stabilized and regulated housing (38 percent of all parcels in the Study Area include affordable units).

The report, prepared with the assistance of BFJ Planning, addresses the impact of the irreversible transformation that will happen rapidly without a measured approach by the City for sustainable and contextual development and offers 12 recommendations for balanced growth.

Among the findings:

  • The Upper East Side has relied on hard-won contextual zoning regulations to help maintain the area’s human-scale character in the mid-blocks, while limiting higher-density development to the wider streets and avenues. This has contributed to the preservation of the area’s affordable housing stock. Any zoning changes would shift this intricate balance.
  • These neighborhoods, especially Yorkville, Lenox Hill, and East Harlem, are characterized by great income diversity and high population density of people aged 62 years and older, while at the same time they are the locus of the largest proposed development projects in the area. Unmitigated change in these neighborhoods has the potential to displace the most vulnerable populations who reside in this community in large numbers.
  • Less than one percent of the Upper East Side land area is devoted to parks and open space. Much of the open space below East 96th Street bears no parks or playgrounds, but is a patchwork of “privately owned public spaces” (POPS), which are often poorly maintained and habitually used exclusively for private uses.

“Our community has witnessed the ongoing transformation of neighboring 57th Street with great concern. We are not opposed to change, but with development pressures arising from the new Second Avenue Subway, the displacement of local businesses and longtime residents by luxury supertowers is a real threat. But, it is not inevitable,” said Franny Eberhart, President of FRIENDS. “Our report offers an antidote — a comprehensive vision of smart growth for our neighborhood. We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration to achieve this goal.”

In order to plan for appropriate development, control the consumption of public  services by increased density, and ensure that the Upper East Side remains home to people from diverse income levels, FRIENDS makes 12 recommendations. To read the recommendations and the rest of the report, please click on the thumbnail to the left.


To read a summary of the report, click the thumbnail on the left for a digest version.