The development at 180 East 88th Street employs a number of zoning loopholes in order to build an out-of-scale tower rising to 524 feet tall. These include a manipulation of the mechanical exemption in the city’s zoning rules to create a 3-story intra-building void and use of ultra-luxury 16 foot floor-to-floor heights on the upper stories. Both of these tactics raise the overall height of the building hundreds of feet beyond the typical scale of development seen on the Upper East Side, which is usually limited to 300-350 feet thanks to contextual “tower-on-base” zoning rules.
The lawsuit centers on the City’s approval of a tactic by the developer devised specifically to circumvent the “tower-on-base” rule which requires any tower on the Upper East Side to have a base along the street line that roughly matches the height of its neighbors, so as to preserve the continuity of the block and the sliver building rule, which prohibits tall towers on narrow lots.
In order to skirt the rules, the developer created a tiny new unbuildable, 10-foot micro-lot fronting East 88th Street, claiming that the company did not own the lot, and therefore, that the building did not have frontage along this side street. In reality, this sham lot can be traced to the same owner, and the new development will utilize this area as access to the building’s primary entrance.
Not only does this case impact the Upper East Side, but it will have citywide implications, setting a precedent to allow developers to sculpt a zoning lot to evade the City’s zoning rules, paving the way for other abuses and exacerbating overdevelopment across the entire city.
“An unbuildable lot is an unbiddable lot and it must not be the reason this 524-foot skyscraper gets to go up,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.
“Maintaining livable communities requires rational development where everyone plays by the rules. The idea that illegally slicing off a tiny sliver lot should enable a developer to completely ignore zoning requirements is simply outrageous,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “We need to stand up for a thoughtful, community-based approach to development. Ignoring what rules we already have is a recipe for chaos.”