Author Archives: FRIENDS

Next Tuesday: East and West Side Megatowers to be Heard at Board of Standards and Appeals

180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam Avenue Head to the BSA

(Left) L-Shaped building lot pre-construction (Right) Rendering by DDG
Next Tuesday, July 17th, will be a big day for New Yorkers concerned with the impact of megatowers on our city as two high profile projects on the Upper East and Upper West Sides will have their day at the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The project at 180 East 88th Street has been making headlines since its zoning gymnastics were covered in the New York Times, involving the creation of a tiny new lot carved out of the development site for no other purpose than to evade zoning rules applying to that location (see graphic to the left). Under the improper approval of the Buildings Department, this building explicitly violates the intent of zoning rules meant to foster livable neighborhoods and good urban design.
The Department of Buildings itself acknowledged the intention behind the micro-lot when it issued a Stop Work Order in May 2016, noting that “a zoning lot cannot be subdivided into a 4-foot lot for the sole purpose of avoiding a zoning requirement.” The Department later reversed itself when the size of the lot was increased by six feet, and allowed work to continue.

FRIENDS joined our colleagues at Carnegie Hill Neighbors in 2017 to challenge the Department’s approval of 180 East 88th Street at the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), with a hearing scheduled for July 17th. At the same hearing, a final decision will be announced regarding 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the gerrymandered “jigsaw puzzle” zoning lot (pictured, right) on the Upper West Side.
Both projects use tactics that undermine the predictability of development in New York, nullify zoning provisions that were designed to promote livability and thoughtful urban design, and threaten our residential neighborhoods. We urge the Board of Standards and Appeals to uphold the integrity of our Zoning Resolution and prohibit the sculpting of lots to evade the City’s own rules.
YOUR PRESENCE MATTERS! Show your support through attendance or public testimony.
JOIN US at the Board of Standards and Appeals
Tuesday, July 17th
Beginning at 10:00 a.m.
22 Reade Street, Spector Hall
Agenda available HERE.

Manhattan Electeds and Advocates Call on City for Immediate Reform

Manhattan Electeds and Advocates Call on City for Immediate Reform

In advance of Tuesday’s hearing, FRIENDS will join with elected officials and colleagues on the steps of City Hall to raise these issues to the citywide stage. The ability to freely sculpt zoning lots, as at 180 East 88th Street and 200 Amsterdam Avenue, that serve no purpose beyond circumventing zoning requirements has serious policy implications for New York City. But these are only two examples of the loopholes, which also include exempt mechanical voids and disproportionate floor-to-ceiling heights, being exploited citywide to game the system for excess height.

The Mayor has acknowledged that zoning loopholes, and specifically oversized mechanical voids as at 249 East 62nd Street, are a problem. Now, we ask for a comprehensive policy solution to address the many tactics leading to out of scale development in residential neighborhoods.
Join, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger (rep.), and Council Member Ben Kallos, together with FRIENDSCarnegie Hill NeighborsLandmark West! and others in calling for a comprehensive solution now, not six months from now.
 x   x
Monday, July 16th
11:15 a.m.
City Hall Steps
Media advisory HERE

Save the Date! 2018 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award Dinner

Photo by Malcom Brown Photography


will proudly present




Monday, October 1st
6:30 p.m. Cocktails
7:30 p.m. Dinner

The Metropolitan Club
1 East 60th Street
New York City

Click HERE to purchase tickets or make a contribution.

Carol and Richard J. Miller, Jr., Chairs
Ann Ziff, Vice Chair
Judith-Ann Corrente and Willem Kooyker, Vice Chairs
Carole and John French III, Vice Chairs
Patricia Begley and George Beane, Vice Chairs
Sanford W. Morhouse, Vice Chair
Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla, Vice Chairs
Dotty and Lionel Goldfrank III, Vice Chairs
Barbara and James Reibel, Vice Chairs

Arete Warren came to preservation when the National Trust asked her in 1974 to establish the Royal Oak Foundation in New York to help preserve historic English houses and open spaces. Still in her 20s, she was already a seasoned art and architectural historian, having studied art history at Northwestern and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked at the Victoria and Albert Museum under John Pope-Hennessy, and then at the Cooper-Hewitt. “I never studied preservation,” she says, “But I love history and I learned how to look and understand what I see.”

Since then, we have all benefited from Arete’s passion and trained eye. She is a scholar of decorative arts and architecture and a garden-design expert. She is co-author of Glasshouses: An Architectural History of Greenhouses, Conservatories, and Orangeries (Rizzoli International, 1988) and author of Gardening by the Book, published in 2013 to accompany the major Grolier Club exhibition she curated.

There is hardly an aspect of civic life in New York that Arete hasn’t touched. Her commitment to protecting what makes New York livable is demonstrated by her leadership roles on the New York State Board for Historic Preservation, the Empire State Plaza Art Commission, the Preservation League of New York State, the Metropolitan Opera and The Garden Club of America.

Arete has made the Upper East Side her home since she arrived in 1973. She still lives in the Charles A. Platt building she moved to in 1985 with her late husband William B. Warren.

Arete is a firm believer in grassroots preservation and a long-time friend and supporter of the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. We are delighted to salute her with the 2018 Ambassador to the Upper East Side Award.

Making Strides Toward Common Sense Zoning Reform

Making Strides Toward Common Sense Zoning Reform
Image: Michael Korfhage, Crain’s New York Business
by Joe Anuta, Crain’s New York Business
This week at a town hall meeting with Mayor de Blasio on the Upper West Side, the Department of City Planning followed up on its initial commitment to address the mechanical void loophole made at a January town hall in response to FRIENDS.
When asked about their progress since January, a representative from the Manhattan office of City Planning explained that they are studying the issue and are on track to announce a solution by the end of 2018. They are investigating “the extraneous and even egregious voids that are really unnecessary for a building except to loft it taller,” and will deliver a solution this year.
So far it is unclear the route DCP’s solution will take, and whether it will provide an effective cure to the mechanical void exemption. FRIENDS will continue discussions with the administration, our elected officials, and our neighbors and colleagues to push actively for a zoning solution that rationalizes mechanical space, and also addresses the full scope of loopholes in our zoning that are being exploited including unlimited ceiling heights and gerrymandered zoning lots.
Despite lingering questions, this is a major step forward in FRIENDS’ campaign to “lose the loopholes” contributing to overdevelopment in our community and citywide. FRIENDS is proud to be at the forefront on this issue impacting buildings in our neighborhood, shining a light on these tactics, and actively challenging egregious buildings, like the “periscope” at 249 East 62nd Street and 180 East 88th Street, that abuse  zoning loopholes to maximize height. Stay tuned for future updates!



Last spring FRIENDS led the effort of local and national preservation groups, along with elected officials, to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the City of New York in the ongoing battle to stop the demolition of two historic buildings, part of the City and Suburban Homes First Avenue Estate. The full block complex of tenement buildings was constructed in 1915 by the City and Suburban Homes Company, and designated as an individual landmark for the significance of its design and pioneering role in social housing reform. Home to longtime tenants of modest income, these buildings continue to be a source of affordable housing on the Upper East Side.
This week the New York State Appellate Division ruled in favor of the City and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), upholding the lower court’s ruling and the LPC’s denial of the hardship application in 2014. Once again, the decision refutes Stahl’s arguments that it could not make a viable profit from the two buildings in the complex along York Avenue. Stahl had also attempted to appeal the case at the federal level, but was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2016. Like the groundbreaking Penn Central case of 1978, this opinion affirms the City’s right to regulate landmark-designated properties as a benefit to “all New York citizens… and quality of life in the city as a whole.”
FRIENDS is proud of its longstanding leadership role in this issue, and we are grateful to the many partners who joined us in filing the
latest amicus brief and contributing to this victory!
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney
State Senator Liz Krueger
State Asssembly Member Rebecca Seawright
City Council Member Benjamin Kallos
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preservation League of New York State
The Municipal Art Society of New York
New York Landmarks Conservancy
Historic Districts Council
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Landmark West!
Friends of the First Avenue Estate
We are also enormously grateful to the tenants, neighbors, advocates, and elected officials who have worked tirelessly over many years on this hardship case. Thanks especially to those who contributed financially to our effort.
For more information, visit FRIENDS’  First Avenue Estate web page 
for a timeline of this ongoing case and links to additional articles about this site.

2018 Community Overdevelopment Forum: Community Initiatives, Closing Loopholes, and our Fight Against Overdevelopment

2018 Community Overdevelopment Forum

Community Initiatives, Closing Loopholes, and Our Fight Against Overdevelopment

Proposed superscrapers, with 180 East 88th Street shown in the foreground (photo from 6sqft.)

Check out the event flyer HERE.
Hosted by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer,  State Senator Liz Krueger, and Council Member Ben Kallos, this forum will feature expert speakers  on the topic of how the community can get involved in closing loopholes and stopping overdevelopment. Participants in the forum include Rachel Levy, Executive Director of FRIENDS, as well as representatives from the Municipal Art Society,  the East River Fifties AllianceManhattan Community Board 8, and CIVITAS.
Thursday, June 14th
6:00 p.m.
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House
331 East 70th Street
Free to the public
To register: Click HERE or
Call (212) 860-1950

Thoughtful Preservation Advocacy WORKS! LPC Announces Plans to Amend Initial Proposal for Rules Changes!

LPC Announces Plans to Amend Initial Proposal for Rules Changes!

This week’s public hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission included an update regarding the agency’s proposed rules amendments, which were reviewed at a public hearing on March 27, 2018. Members of the LPC staff summarized its responses and resulting recommendations based on extensive public comments on the proposal, which ranged from fierce opposition to enthusiastic support, with many shades of nuanced critique in between. Read FRIENDS’ full statement HERE.
This briefing followed outcry from the city’s preservation community, Community Boards, elected officials, and the public who felt that the rules, as proposed, would diminish the LPC’s transparency, and would not uphold the high standards for stewardship to individual landmarks and buildings in historic districts outlined in New York City’s pioneering Landmarks Preservation Law. Click HERE to read a joint letter of opposition penned by FRIENDS and our preservation colleagues. 


The LPC has significantly revised the proposed Rules Amendments. In response to public comment, many of the most controversial elements of the plan are being reconsidered, including  staff-level material selection for restoration work, oversight of vault light removal, and authorization of certain rear yard and rooftop additions. In addition, potentially harmful language regarding the treatment of  so-called  “no-style” and  “non-contributing” buildings has been removed outright from the proposed rules. A  draft of the revised text is forthcoming. The LPC has shared a document containing all of the feedback from the extended comment period on its website, as well as the full presentation describing the revisions shown at the public meeting on Tuesday. 

Last week the LPC also launched an improved permit application search tool on its website, as well as a brand new interactive web map containing up to date permit information for all designated buildings. These enhanced search tools allow users to refine permit application searches by work type, historic district, and Community Board boundaries, which will allow for greater transparency for applications being handled at staff level.
This course change from the LPC is evidence that our thoughtful advocacy makes a difference! FRIENDS wishes to thank all of those who spoke out on the proposal. Your collective comments have resulted in the LPC taking a critical second look at the proposed rules changes and altering them to better serve our city’s tremendous historic building stock and the public who so dearly cares for it.
No date or timeline for the completion of the new draft or a Commission vote have been announced, but in the meantime, the presentation shared at the hearing may be accessed HERE. FRIENDS will send out an update as soon as more information has been made public.

The Frick Collection Expansion: Upcoming Opportunities to Learn More and Weigh In

The Frick Collection Expansion: Upcoming Opportunities to Learn More and Weigh In

Courtesy of Selldorf Architects

In April, the Frick Collection announced new designs by Selldorf Architects to upgrade and expand the museum’s facilities. The proposed plans include a series of alterations to both the French Louis XVI-style limestone mansion on Fifth Avenue and East 70th Street designed by Carrere and Hastings in 1914, as well as the 1935 museum addition and art reference library by John Russell Pope.

In 2014, the Frick proposed an expansion that would have built upon the 1977 viewing garden designed by acclaimed landscape architect Russell Page. FRIENDS and colleagues, including Unite to Save the Frick, opposed the plans and the Frick withdrew its proposal in 2015. FRIENDS’ Board and Preservation Committee remain hopeful that the new plans are considerate to community input and will be actively commenting during the public review process.

After a two year process, the current proposal is intended to provide additional gallery space, create new spaces for public and educational programs, improve accessibility and visitor amenities, expand facilities for collections conservation, and update infrastructure. Selected renderings are available here, and a detailed information packet compiled by The Frick Collection is available here.

The Frick’s Director Ian Wardropper will be hosting a public information session alongside architect Annabelle Selldorf at the Frick at 1 East 70th Street on June 5th. The presentation, “Honoring the Past and Enhancing the Future” will be held at 6:30 p.m. Members of the public may RSVP by May 29th to or (646) 783-5815.

Want to learn more?
Community Board 8 reviewed the proposal at its Landmarks Committee meeting on May 14th, and at the Full Board on May 16th. The Frick’s full presentations have been posted on the CB8 website here.

The Frick proposal is also scheduled for a Public Hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, May 29th to begin at 9:50 a.m. Presentation materials are available on the LPC website, and members of the public may provide testimony up to three minutes in length.

Can’t make the hearing? Comments may be submitted until 4 p.m. on Monday, May 28th through the LPC’s  online portal, or by mail to:

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
David N. Dinkins Municipal Building
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007


Check out FRIENDS’ Summer Events!

Grand Acquisitors: A Walking Tour

For more than a century, New York City’s most prominent art collectors have made the Upper East Side home. Architectural historian Matt Postal will lead a walking tour of some of the historic district’s finest and most memorable blocks, viewing distinguished early 20th century town houses and apartment buildings where many a masterpiece has hung. Artistic patronage and philanthropy associated with major museums will be discussed, as well as the history of leading commercial art galleries in the area. Highlights include sites related to George Blumenthal, Leo Castelli, Dorothy Norman, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and (possibly) Michelangelo.

Sunday, June 3rd
10:30 a.m.
Meeting location will be provided upon registration.

Rain or Shine.

$10 members, $20 non-members
To verify your current membership status, please call 212-535-2526 or email us at

Click HERE to register 


Roosevelt Island: Past Present and Future

Photo Credit: Iwan Baan and Cornell Tech

Curious about our neighbors across the East River-new and old? Join us on Thursday, June 14th for an evening exploring Roosevelt Island!  First, Kyle Johnson, AIA will lead a tour of the island’s Modern and Brutalist gems constructed during Roosevelt Island’s transition from an enclave of prisons and welfare services into a middle class residential community. This jaunt down Main Street will culminate in an exclusive tour of Cornell Tech, New York City’s first tech-centered university. Director of Design and Construction Diana Allegretti will lead this walking tour of the newly completed first phase of Cornell Tech’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and James Corner Field Operation designed masterplan, which includes buildings by acclaimed firms Morphosis, Weiss/Manfredi, and Handel Architects. Take this opportunity to explore these sustainably designed eco-friendly buildings on the lush green campus in the Upper East Side’s backyard.

Thursday, June 14th
5:00 p.m.
Meeting location will be provided upon registration.

Rain or shine.

$10 members, $20 non-members

To verify your current membership status, please call 212-535-2526 or email us at 

Click HERE to register


The Hunt: Yorkville/East Harlem

Yorkville and East Harlem’s history in the palm of your hand? You bet! FRIENDS has partnered with the Historic Districts Council and Urban Archive in creating “The Hunt,” a mobile app-based scavenger hunt. Create a team of 1-4 people and download the Urban Archive app on your phone, lace up your sneakers, and race around East Harlem and Yorkville to see who can identify the most traces of the past–hidden in plain sight. Prizes will be awarded to the top teams! Roughly two miles of walking.

Saturday, June 16th
2:00 p.m.
Starting Location: Church of the Holy Trinity
316 East 88th Street (Between First and Second Avenues)

Rain or Shine.

Free to the public, registration required.

Click HERE to register


Tenement Chic on the Upper East Side: A Walking Tour

The architecture of the Upper East Side evokes mini mansions and extravagant townhouses along the “Fifth Avenue Gold Coast,” but it is the richly ornamented side street tenements that housed the working and middle class residents of the neighborhood. Join FRIENDS of the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy for a closer look at Yorkville’s not-so-humble tenement architecture with urban historian Barry Feldman. Admire the beautiful botanicals, mythical beasts, garish grotesques and ornate cornices that richly adorn 19th century tenements. Learn more about the anonymous artisans that created these treasures, and what motivated the building developers to employ them. Trace the development of the typical tenement from the mid-19th century to more contemporary housing styles and explore a middle class area which pre-dates the Civil War, and learn how building ornamentation influenced residential architecture in this ever-evolving immigrant enclave.

Co-sponsored by Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts and The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy.

Tuesday, June 26th
5:00 p.m.
Registrants will be informed of the starting point upon registration.

Rain or Shine.

$18 members and seniors, $22 non-members
There is an additional $2 charge for tickets purchased on the day of the tour.

To verify your current membership status, please call 212-535-2526 or email us at

Click HERE to register


Along the Avenue: Fifth Avenue

This early evening walk celebrates sites that border Fifth Avenue, both within leafy Central Park and inside the Upper East Side Historic District. Led by architectural historian Matt Postal, we’ll amble east and west, discussing the history of our beloved park and the development of the stately blocks that border it. From Gothic Revival to mid-20th century Modern, we’ll view a varied selection of structures that illustrate and exemplify specific eras and styles, including such notable works as the Arsenal, the Ernesto & Edith Fabbri Mansion, Temple Emanu-el, and the recently-restored 72nd Street Playground. This walk, will follow East Meets West: CPWow!, an accompanying walk hosted by LANDMARK WEST!. At 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 12th, join Sean Khorsandi of LW! to take a stroll down Central Park West to learn about its parallel development on the West Side.

Thursday, July 19th
6:00 p.m.
Meeting point will be provided upon registration.

Rain or shine.

$10 FRIENDS and Landmark West! members, $20 non-members
To verify your current membership status, please call 212-535-2526 or email us at

Click HERE to register for Along the Avenue: Fifth Avenue

Click HERE to register for East Meets West: CPWOW!


These programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Advocacy Alert: New York State Tries AGAIN to Remove Building Density Cap

Advocacy Alert: New York State Tries AGAIN to Remove Building Density Cap

Photo From 6sqft.
This week, the New York State Senate Rules Committee passed a bill including language that would remove the statewide cap on the density of residential buildings that has been in place for nearly 60 years. This bill, titled S.6760, is backed heavily by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) who have lobbied for this amendment that could “explode New York City’s skyline“.
Supporters of this bill including REBNY, Mayor DeBlasio, and the Regional Plan Association (RPA) claim that lifting the cap would create more affordable housing, but there is nothing in the language of the bill to guarantee that. When a similar proposal was defeated at the State Legislature in 2016, Senator Liz Krueger was a key voice of opposition. In a June 2016 Community Bulletin, Senator Krueger stated that mega-towers are “the opposite of affordable, and there is nothing in this legislation that will change that.” This is yet another tactic for creating ultra-luxury megatowers that pad developers’ pockets.
In reality, it would allow for nearly unrestrained development that would open the door for developers to introduce excessive density into urban neighborhoods already burdened with strains on infrastructure and neighborhood necessities like city parks. Furthermore, this bill would create even more routes for the exploitation of zoning loopholes in New York City construction.
This bill could come to a vote on the Senate floor any time between now and the end of the session in June. It is essential to contact all of our elected officials in Albany to ensure that this dangerous and precedent-setting bill is not passed.
Here’s how YOU can help:
Contact Governor Cuomo, and your State Senator and Assembly Member:
Urge them NOT to support measures to eliminate the 12 FAR cap.
Don’t see your Assembly District listed? Use the
New York Assembly Member search engine to find your local representative.
Don’t Know your State Senator? Use the
Find My Senator search engine to identify yours.
Contact your City Council Member:
Let them know that your neighborhoods will only be further
vulnerable to overdevelopment if this passes.