180 East 88th Street

Building Name: 180 East 88th Street

Architect: HTO Architects

Developer: DDG Partnerts

Building Height (to roof):  469 feet

Number of Stories: 31

Number of Units: 48

DOB Information: Click here.


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Project Information:
DDG Partners’ condominium tower on the corner of Third Avenue and East 88th Street is well underway towards completion, having passed the 14-story mark in late 2017. When this 31-story, 524 foot tall tower tops out it will be the tallest building north of 67th  Street.

The developers of 180 East 88th Street have utilized multiple loopholes in the Zoning Resolution to increase the height of the building, including 16-foot floor-to-floor heights for residential units in the upper floors of the building, and a 34 foot void in the middle to further boost the overall building height. Current zoning regulations provides floor area exemptions for mechanical and other spaces, and lack a mechanism to account for interior floor-to-floor heights. The developers further skirted zoning regulations by annexing a small portion of the lot’s 88th street frontage into a separate, unbuildable micro-lot just ten feet deep (originally four feet, but later enlarged to ten).  This allowed for DDG evade zoning regulations which would have required the building to conform to tower-on-base zoning requirements to produce a tower with a more contextual base that is built out to the sidewalk to match the existing uniformity of East 88th Street. By slicing off the 88th Street micro-lot, the developers claim no street frontage on 88th Street and have shifted that square footage to the tower, raising the overall height of the building.

FRIENDS and CHN also recently joined forces with State Senator Liz Krueger and Council Member Ben Kallos to file an Article 78 lawsuit in New York County Supreme County. The brief for the lawsuit is available here.

FRIENDS is currently challenging the Department of Building’s approval of this building to the Board of Standards and Appeals, along with co-applicant Carnegie Hill Neighbors. The first BSA hearing to appeal the D.O.B.’s decision to permit the construction of 180 East 88th Street despite it’s avoidance of zoning regulation was on July 17, 2018. Read FRIENDS’ full testimony is available here.

In a vote of 4-1 on December 11, 2018, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted to deny our appeal of 180 East 88th Street, conceding that the Department of Buildings (DOB) acted within its right to approve the subdivision of the zoning lot that created the micro-lot. In their comments, Commissioners acknowledged the deficiency of the Zoning Resolution’s text regarding this issue. Because the text does not prescribe a minimum lot size in this zoning district, the Commissioners therefore determined that DOB was reasonable in approving the 10 foot lot. Significantly, several Commissioners suggested that a legislative solution would be needed to disallow use of this loophole in future projects. Specifically, the Department of City Planning (DCP) could specify a minimum lot size for commercial districts within the text of the Zoning Resolution. Commissioner Salvatore Scibetta cast the sole vote in support of our appeal, stating in his verbal comments that the subdivision was a violation of the spirit of the Zoning Resolution. Further information on the BSA’s reasoning will be available when the written decision is released in the next several weeks.

FRIENDS maintains that the micro-lot, positioned between the building’s façade and the sidewalk, serves only to insulate the building from its frontage on East 88th Street. As Commissioner Scibetta pointed out, the subdivision of the zoning lot that created this annexed micro-lot was improper because it served no legitimate land use purpose other than to permit blatant evasion of zoning requirements intended to regulate the building’s height and form. Our challenge endeavored to hold the DOB accountable for upholding the spirit and intent of the Zoning Resolution and we intend to continue our efforts to strengthen the City’s adherence to contextual zoning. These zoning requirements, known as the tower-on-base envelope and the sliver law, were hard-won following community advocacy over twenty years ago in response to buildings that were at odds with neighborhood context.FRIENDS would like to thank the members, elected officials, and neighborhood residents who supported our challenge at the BSA.

Press releases:
“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”   July 17, 2018

“Lawsuit Filed by Upper East Side Elected Officials and Community Leader Challenges Proposed Skyscraper that Mocks Area Zoning Laws,” February 5, 2018.

“Upper East Side’s Tallest Planned Skyscraper Opposed by Council Members Kallos and Borough President Brewer: Four Foot Lot Allowed Developer to Skirt Law,” May 23, 2016.

Media:
“UES tower dispute heads to appeal.” by Michael Garofolo, Our Town, July 17, 2018.
“Manhattan elected officials call on the city to crack down on zoning workarounds.” by Sam Raskin, Politico, July 16, 2018.
“Construction on 180 East 88th Street Nears Topping Out, Upper East Side, Manhattan.” by Andrew Nelson, New York YIMBY, June 26,2018.
“Community groups launch lawsuit to block in-progress Upper East Side tower,” by Joe Anuta, Crain’s New York Business, February 9, 2018.
“Upper East Side residents sue over 524-foot-tall development,” by Sarina Trangle, AMNY, February 8, 2018.
“88th St. Developer Using ‘Unbuildable’ Lot to Skirt Zoning Rules, Foes Say,”
by Shaye Weaver, DNAinfo, April 28, 2017.
“City lifts stop-work order at DDG’s UES condo project,” by E.B. Solomont, The Real Deal, December 22, 2016.
“DDG faces scrutiny over UES zoning ‘gymnastics,” The Real Deal, December 15, 2016.
“Developer Ordered to Stop Work on Upper East Side Luxury Apartment Tower,” by J. David Goodman, The New York Times, May 25, 2016.
“4-Foot-Wide Lot, Carved Out by Developers, Causes Big Stir in Manhattan,” by J. David Goodman, The New York Times, May 22, 2106.

Page updated: 12/17/18